‘Dakota Skye’ Behind-the-Scenes Pic(s)-of-the-Week #6
The Skye family.
Mom, six year old Dakota, and Dad.
A lot of filmmaking is about details. Details that, if done in the right way, shouldn’t even register in the minds of the audience. Every bit of wardrobe, piece of set dressing, note of music, is carefully picked out by the director and his team to fit the vision of the film he wants.
The above Skye family portrait is one detail that never made it into the film, but goes to show all the thought that goes into what is hopefully for the viewer a seamless experience.
If you look in Dakota’s room, nothing is there by accident. The posters, the pictures, the clothing strewn about. There are a few little stick figure drawings done by Eileen herself (one of which I stole as a keepsake), which relates directly to the doodling on her binder that we see throughout the film. There is a sticker for Brookhaven3, Kevin’s band, that we see before we ever see the band itself. There are flyers for local rock shows and on her dresser there’s a trophy, indicating that sometime in the past she was good at/proud of something. Unless, of course, it’s a participatory trophy. Who knows? There are Polaroids of Beth and Kevin, taken by Eileen during rehearsals. When she’s not wearing her jacket, it’s hanging on her closet door, always ready to grab. But, if you notice, in the opening, she walks past the jacket to get to her graduation gown. There are remnants of what were probably things in her room when she was a little girl that she has never bothered to remove.
And then there’s that amazing mirror. It has words scribbled on it, floating in front of the gazer, much like the lies that Dakota sees every day. And it is in this mirror that Dakota has to look past those words to see herself and realize that maybe she’s a ‘little cuter than medium’.
(By the way, I’m well aware that if we really wanted a girl who was ‘medium-cute’, we did a piss-poor job by casting Eileen, who is both adorable and beautiful. But it’s all about her perception of herself. So trust me, we know she’s gorgeous. You don’t have to keep pointing that out to me.)
Every one of these things in Dakota’s room was placed there by director John Humber and production designer Carl Hawke. I wish I could tell you that hours of thought went into every tiny piece, but that’s not true. Some of them are just thrown in there in order to make the room look like a lived-in place; others are there with very pointed intent. One of them (the Mercy Kiss poster) is just a blatant shout-out to Bay Dariz, our friend who played ‘Jabob’ and who wrote the two original songs for the film.
But they all come together to create what we hope is a realistic looking bedroom that tells you a little bit about the person who sleeps in it.
We don’t want the viewer to notice this, though. So many jobs in filmmaking, when done correctly, are invisible and uncelebrated. If the room is wrong, you’ll notice. It will feel off, unrealistic. If it’s right, you won’t even take note.
Just like editing, lighting, music, and wardrobe, most people only notice set dressing when it’s done poorly.
The Skye family photo was shot after we had finished the table read. Carol Woodburn, who played Dakota’s mom, had brought her grown daughter with her to the read. I really, really, apologize for not knowing the young lady’s name. She was very sweet but I only met her once. But she really does look like a younger version of her mom.
I don’t know whose idea it was (John’s, Carl’s, Shaun’s, photographer Katie’s), but someone thought it would be cool to take littlest Dakota, Kassidy Muller, outside with Carol’s daughter and a man of appropriate age to shoot a family photo.
So Shaun O’Banion, our producer, volunteered. The thought was, take the photo, print it, frame it, and put it up in the Skye house hallway and make sure we saw it in the back of a shot. That way her deceased father (“Cancer. It happens.”) would remain a force in Dakota’s life, in Dakota’s house, and wouldn’t be forgotten. Plus, the picture shows Dakota as a happy little girl, something we really don’t get to see any other time in the film.
I don’t remember if the picture ever got framed and put up, but I do know it never made it into the film. It may have been a matter of never getting the right camera angle to see it. It may have been that we just plum forgot about it. Either way, it went by the wayside.
That happens a lot, but it doesn’t make it a waste.
We spend a lot of time thinking up backstory to characters that never comes out in the story. Of working in details and camera moves and color schemes and music queues that the viewer may never catch on to. A lot of the work that happens when creating a world for you film to take place in never actually reaches the screen.
At least, not literally. But that is there in the hearts and minds of the people making the film. We bring it to set every day. Backstory helps the actors portray their characters as real people with pasts. Having a visual plan helps the director, cinematographer, and the rest of the crew get on the same page and create something that is coherent. These things, these hidden things, they are important parts of the film, whether the viewer ever sees them or not.
It’s part of the fun that is making movies. You should try it sometime. It’s a blast.
Anyway, I just thought I’d share the picture because I KNOW it is something no one has ever seen before. The Skye family, in its entirety, happy.
By the way, I am kind of glad the picture didn’t make it into the…well…picture. Because as much as I love it, I’m not 100% convinced that a Shaun O’Banion plus a Miss Woodburn equals an Eileen Boylan.