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First of May Title on White


Chris and Paul with Camera
Chris's Photo Journal
The Making of The First of May

SHO Entertainment's Founders
on the set of The First of May

Paul Sirmons (Producer and Director)
and Chris Haviland (Co-Producer and
Location Manager)

We founded SHO Entertainment together in 1990 and held offices at Universal Studios Florida for a number of years before moving it to the Pyramax Studios in Lake Helen Florida.

The First of May was SHO Entertainment's first feature film. As I lived in New York in 1997 when the film was suddenly funded and went into preproduction, I negotiated a month off from work at the dot-com job I had at the time - The Mining Company - to participate in the shoot, giving them a back-porch credit on the picture. Unfortunately The Mining Company later changed its name to About.com, so now the credit is "wrong," but oh well.

I was an investor in the film through SHO Entertainment and Gary Rogers, who joined SHO Entertainment in 1993, gave me the role of Location Manager. Not having done this before, I only had my experience in other productions to draw from and knew superficially what I needed to do. That hardly prepared me for the grueling job ahead. Since I would be working with very experienced Teamsters, this would be both a salvation and a source of hardship. They knew what to do, but they relied on me (as they should) to tell them where to park and how to get to location, and it wasn't a walk in the park.

But I got through it, even though I had to leave the production a couple weeks ahead of wrap to return to my "real job" and leave my team to run things in my absence.

So this is my photo-journal of our production. I hope you enjoy it! --Chris Haviland

Paul in the Office Paul doing some last minute office work on the night before our first day of shooting.
Gary writing Producer / Writer Gary Rogers touches up the script on the night before the first day of shooting.

With Paul, Gary was the major driving force behind the movie. His exceptional creative talent and hard work were not the least of his contributions - but his strong connections with the politics and people of the DeLand area was one of the primary reasons the movie was shot on its very strict budget.
First shot Our very first shot on the first day of shooting! (I called it the First of Mayhem.) This was a person's yard that Gary and I secured not far from the studio. We arrived so early in the morning that it was still dark out, and the Location Manager always has to be the first on the set to show the Teamsters where to park. I arrived and parked, but I didn't realize these people had set loose a couple of enormous black dogs (Great Danes I think) to run about their fenced in yard, and when the Teamsters arrived and we all got out of our vehicles we froze to this curious galloping sound and black furry bodies coming out of the darkness straight at us. A little terrifying. But the dogs were very friendly. "I thought it was a horse!" said one of the shocked Teamsters.

They day dawned and the rest of the crew arrived. It was very exciting for Paul to call "Action" on his first feature film! But the windmill refused to rotate when we did the crane shot. It was spinning in later shots that morning because the wind picked up. So when Paul edited the scene, he added sound effects of the windmill starting to turn - and it added to the meaning of the scene as a happy coincidence.
Reza Executive Producer Reza Badiyi looks over the script. Reza is one of the most prolific directors in the Television world, having directed episodes of Star Trek Deep Space Nine, S.W.A.T., Baretta, The Rockford Files, The Incredible Hulk, Falcon Crest, Mission Impossible, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and many others. Remember the famous wave surfer in the opening shots of Hawaii 5-0? that's Reza's. He began his directing career on Get Smart in 1965 - the year I was born!

Reza is one of our Executive Producers on the movie, and Paul's mentor.

That's our Set Medic Dr. R. "Doc" Klonel in the background.
Dolly shot A dolly shot. We filmed in some beautiful locations around the scenic residential area of Lake Helen.
Julie and Dan The stars of The First of May! Julie Harris ("Carlotta") and Dan Byrd ("Cory") together carry almost the entire film. They were both very good natured and professional, and quickly loved by everyone.

Dan can later be spotted in a scene in the movie 28 Days, starring Sandra Bullock.
Gary walking out dock (gater) We were filming a scene near a small lake where Dan ("Cory") falls from his bike and discovers a turtle. But a city worker had driven down to the opposite shore and began pumping water from the lake and using a very loud machine that was disrupting our shoot. While a couple of our P.A.'s took a car ride around to the pasture to attempt to make contact, Gary walked out to the end of the dock and tried to get the man's attention...
Gary looking at gater ...But Gary got the attention of a resident of the lake instead: a Florida 'Gater!

Pictured here, the alligator pokes his eyes up out of the water and glares at Gary and Prop Master Joe Stone with some distaste. (See bump in the water to their right.)
Gater Everyone wants to be in movies!
Dan with clowns One of my jobs as a Location Manager was to arrange for a full-blown circus to be shown to an audience of hundreds (actual public was invited, not extras) at a location near the studio, which was a large cow pasture.

This is a picture by Stephanie Wince of Dan surrounded by our genuine clowns, hired for the Circus scenes.
This was a genuine circus performance arranged so that we could film, complete with acrobats, tigers, the works. The unusual nature of this event made news all over Central Florida, and in fact Governor Chiles himself was expected to attend. (He cancelled at literally the last minute.)

The circus, which we shot in 1 day flat, was a very long and difficult day, and preparation for it was challenging, as I had very little budget to work with.

We chose a fenced in pasture owned by a lady who leased it to a guy who kept his horses on it. So I had two parties to deal with - the owner and the renter. The owner had to agree to let us use it for a circus, which included insurance security. The renter had to agree to remove his horses for a day.

The circus people said the entire pasture had to be mowed down so that the grass was very short. Otherwise, in the hot Florida sun, it would be a fire hazard. However the renter said if we mow all the grass down then his horses would have no food. So I arranged to have some of the field bailed. A truck went in and rolled up the hay and stacked it aside for the horse owner... But I ran out of money and could not afford to mow the whole property that way, nor did the renter get all the hay he wanted to last him the winter (as this was in November). So I wound up having to pay the renter money to buy the rest of the hay he would need, and hire someone with a large mower to take down the rest of the field - which cost less than the bailer.

The mower turned out to be a local - Mr. Butler, who kindly took care of the job. But it was a heck of a lot bigger than he and I anticipated and it took him a lot of time. There were other problems, such as dew on the grass making it too wet to mow, and other things. In the end, I barely got the field mowed in time for the circus - within a day before the trucks rolled in.

Then there was the matter of the police. They did not like us having a circus there, because the roads leading out to the pasture were just small, thin, country roads. Not built for heavy traffic. And where would they park? Was the pasture big enough to handle the public plus the film crew plus the circus and its village of trucks? I had not nearly enough experience to guess that, so I relied on my contact with the circus, the head Teamster on our own crew, the Volusia County Film Commissioner, and a fire marshall to help me figure it out.

And who would direct the public to park in the right places? These are just open pastures, there are no signs or ropes or tape. I had to create make-shift parking lots and signs for the public and the crew of both the movie and the circus so that everyone knew where they were going. There are other rules that make things tricky - for instance the electric generator that powers the lights has to be close enough to string cables but far enough that the sound doesn't interfere with the sound crew. There has to be a restroom facility for the crew. There has to be a place for them to break for lunch. And then there's garbage control. The Location Manager is responsible for the property the crew is using - which in this case also included a circus! I had to make sure every scrap of garbage was removed from that field after the circus was over - and I had NO money left.

The circus crew arrived the day before and parked their trailers, then on the big morning they prepared to raise the tent before the film crew was even on site. I had to run around and stop the action until we were ready, because we intended to get shots of them raising the tent. This was the last time, we were told, that they would be raising a tent with elephants (the old fashioned way). Hydraulics are used in modern circus tents.

My friend Don was a high school teacher and he helped me wrangle together some of his students to help me direct cars on the big day. These students were my biggest God-send of them all, as they stood out there all day directing traffic for no pay. They also helped me spot fires and stomp them out - caused by people throwing their cigarette butts into the dry recently cut grass.

The days before the circus I had Location Manager nightmares of a headline reading, "Florida Governor Chiles dies as Circus tent goes up in flames - hundreds of people dead - - Elephants and Tigers continue stampeding through the town of Lake Helen, killing children - Location Manager facing charges..." Well, I always wanted to be famous, but that isn't quite what I had in mind. ;-) Anyway, I really felt that this could turn into a major disaster for me, the film, the circus, and the town if I didn't watch out. The Volunteer Fire Department was also around that day, and the cops helped me with the traffic out on the road.

We were still shooting well into the night, and the circus starting breaking down their tent right around us. In fact, unexpectedly, they packed up and took the toilets with them. Did I mention the Location Manager is also responsible for bathroom facilities for the crew? With everything else on my mind, I wasn't paying much attention to that fact, especially since the circus had its own toilet facilities, but after night fall I was swarmed with people asking me where to find the toilets, and I looked and pointed at the toilet trailer pulling away down the street and suddenly realized my error. So I scheduled a shuttle van to take people back to the studio which was only a few minutes drive away.

It was a very successful day of shooting, when the dust settled. The public had fun, the crew did a great job, and the circus workers cleaned up most of the circus trash (although they took my Locations dept. trash barrels in the process). Still, there were lots of small pieces of garbage in the field the next day, and I invested some time out there by myself with a pair of gloves and a bunch of trash bags. In one spot I even had to clean up a pile of used toilet paper someone left.

From that day forth I have profound respect for professional Location Managers.
Tigers in circus Circus Audience Hoola Hoops Circus Interior 1
Train Mr. Butler's train car for carrying our circus audience between the parking area and our bigtop on the day we shot the circus scenes. Unfortunately, some last minute parking decisions and other complications elliminated the need for a train, so he parked outside the front where people could take pictures.
Tiger Ride Elephants in Circus
Gary, Julie and Dan with Elephant Carlotta Hannah-Belle Dance 1
Hannah-Belle the elephant under the Big Top at the Circus set with Gary, Julie and Dan. This was when we shot a scene where Julie ("Carlotta") dances with the elephant (whose real name is Conti), having been reunited with her old friend from many years past. Carlotta Hannah-Belle Dance 2
Paul Director Paul contemplates his next shot.

Paul's extensive background as an Assistant Director for many years, with credits on shows ranging from The Waltons to Quantum Leap to Falcon Crest, was a basis for bringing a group of professionals together to make a high quality film on a low budget. He inspired people to work for the movie, not for him, because the movie is personal to all of us.

A director's job is not just creative with the camera but creative with how to market the production. In the spirit of the movie which supports Foster Child Adoption, Paul invited actual Foster Kids and families looking for Foster Kids to join in the fun, and hopefully connect.
Stephanie Wince Stephanie Wince was one of my intrepid Location Assistants, seen here after a lot of hard work in the rain. One of the many jobs of a Location Assistant is to "lock up traffic" - which in some cases is quite literal. She would have to stand out in the road with red cones and stop cars from passing by when she heard on the walkie-talkie that cameras were rolling nearby, and politely redirect the cars another way so that their noise did not interrupt an important dialog scene. And if it's raining, it's raining. (It rained the day we shot the Joe DiMaggio scene - who unbeknownst to the passing motorists was sitting right there in the bleachers of an empty DeLand ball park.)

Stephanie, as a student photographer, also took some production photos for me.
April That's April on the left, one of the Location Assistants working for me, hanging out with one of our Production Assistants.

During the production I was staying at my friend Don Brunning's house... Since we wrapped the picture, Don and April married and now have twin boys.
Crowd with baby Julie and Dan look at the baby we used in the film, who played the newborn to Cory's foster parents (Robin O'Dell holding baby and Tom Nowicki on right). That's Charles Nelson Reilly on the left and Hannah-Belle in back.
Kurt Movies are the epitome of "hurry up and wait." You are either running around under high stress or waiting around with boredom.

This is a rare shot of our 2nd A.D. Kurt actually sitting down (right), with one of our extras (left).
Reza, Paul, Gary, Doc Reza, Paul and Gary go over their options while Doc (far right) keeps an eye on things. Doc was our set medic. You may have seen his cameo in the retirement home scene if you have viewed the movie!
Gary and me at the tracks Me and Gary Rogers at Amtrack. That's Reza in the front right. I was out of shape and exhausted during the entire production, walking around mostly on my empty (but still pouching!) stomach with a bottle of Mountain Dew to keep me from passing out in one hand and a walkie talkie in the other.

Amtrack was a very tough location to get, and Gary had to pull strings with the Mayer of DeLand to get permission to shoot here. Amtrack was not cooperative, but they agreed at the last minute to let us use their DeLand station.
Me with Mickey Rooney We spent a week at the Winter Quarters of the Clyde Beatty Cole Brothers circus, where we erected half of the big top to match with the circus set I had prepared out at the Lake Helen cow pasture. By now we had already shot the circus, the hospital scenes, the foster home scenes, and the retirement home scenes.

It was a rainy, muddy week, so cast and crew used the tent as a dry place to sit and talk at break time. Pictured here is Mickey Rooney ("Boss Ed"), me and Derek Bedini (Asst. to Gary Rogers).
Me with Dan Dan Byrd ("Cory") and me at the Circus Winter Quarters.
Me and Kurt 2nd A.D. Kurt Kulhanek and me watching a shot.
Jillian and Liana Script Supervisor Jillian Amburgey (right) was among my very first contacts in the movie business. She poses here with her assistant Liana Sutton (left).

Paul and I worked with Jillian on The New Leave it To Beaver TV series in Orlando, which was my first gig - I had worked as a Production Assistant there at the studio lot at Universal Studios Florida in 1989 before the theme park was even built around it.
Micky, Dan, Julie, Paul Paul directs Mickey, Dan and Julie in a scene at the Circus Winter Quarters. We parked camera trucks in angles to serve as a backdrop to an otherwise uninteresting clearing in the woods.

Script Supervisor Jillian listens closely on the right... And I mean VERY closely, because Mickey liked to try changing details in the scenes. "The script is just a guide," he said once, "you should improvise." Unfortunately if you do this willy-nilly you can really mess up the continuity of the story. Ah well, I'm not an actor, what do I know? :-)
Sandy and Dan Dan goofs around with Supervising Producer and Production Manager Sandy Watterson.
Jan Co-Producer Jan Rhees also has a cameo as a nurse near the end of the picture, which you can see on the right. Jan as Nurse
Charles with gifts Gary Rogers and Paul Sirmons laugh at Charles Nelson Reilly's antics on the set.
Reza, Dan and Julie Executive Producer Reza Badiyi shares some time with Julie and Dan at the "Kepperman House" set.
Julie in Orange Grove A beautiful scene with Julie in the Orange Groves in Lake Helen.
Me and Julie Me with Julie on the day we filmed Joe DiMaggio.

Years later, in 2000, Julie and I spoke at the Film Fest New Haven festival where The First of May won the Audience Choice Award, and she signed my rare movie poster The Haunting (directed by Robert Wise, shot in the early 60's) in which she carried the lead role of Eleanor. Anyone who has seen the lousy remake of The Haunting that came out in 1999 should make an effort at seeing the original adaptation of Shirley Jackson's novel with Julie Harris, it is one of the most creepy films ever made.

Julie also starred in East of Eden with James Dean, Gorillas in the Mist with Sigourney Weaver, and in Stephen King's The Dark Half, but she is most well known for her work in Broadway. Below are a couple of her head shots, one from her Haunting days.
Julie Headshot 1 Julie Headshot 2
Waiting with camera assist Setting up at the baseball diamond for the Joe DiMaggio scene with Dan. Dan and Robin wait at the Video Assist with Jillian (in the middle) and Stephanie (on left).

It was pouring rain that day, unexpectedly, so we just worked it into the mood of the scene.
Reza with Paul and Gary rehearsing Reza with Paul and Gary going over the dialog to take place between Dan and Joe DiMaggio. Since Joe doesn't have any training as an actor, and since Dan is a young actor himself, this scene took a lot of thought and preparation. As it turned out, Joe can not only play ball, he can act! He and Dan have an excellent scene together.
Joe D with Dan by circus truck Joe D. with Dan right after we wrapped Joe's last shot. Crew wasn't allowed to take pictures of Joe until after wrap, so the second Paul yelled "cut" on our last shot cameras appeared all over the place and film started rolling.

Entertainment Tonight and other media were among the attendees.
Joe D with Kids On his way back to the car after the last scene, Joe D. says hello with some kids - some of whom were actual foster kids we invited to the set.
Joe D Another shot of Joe. On the right is a clip from his scene in the movie with Dan ("Cory"). Joe D and Cory in the movie
Gary with his son Gary on the set with his son.
Video assist How we ever got along in the film business without Video Assist I'll never know. This is the best way for essential crew members (Director, Producers, Script Supervisor, Director of Photography, etc.) to see how a shot is framed up while filming.
Elephant in the yard Hannah-Belle the elephant arrives at the "Kepperman" house set for the final scene of the film.
Sherri on an Elephant Sherry, our Accountant, takes a ride on Hannah-Belle!

As of Jan. 1, 2001, she is Sheryl Sirmons, Paul's wife!

(Not that this has anything to do with her ride on the elephant.)
Of course since Paul and I are "First Cousins Once Removed" we had a lot of family in cameo shots in the movie. My Mom (Paul's First Cousin) and my sister were in the circus audience (seen below left) buying cotton candy from Dan's character. Paul's parents and other family also had shots in the audience, as did my friend Don and his kids. Paul's brother (below middle) played a hotdog vendor. Paul himself played "Peter John" - Carlotta's long lost love, seen only in this "old" black and white war photo (below right).
Mom in movie Paul's brother Peter John shot
One of the locations I prepared but was unable to participate in was the Civil War scene, from Cory's daydream. I had to fly back to New York on the day they shot this scene. We used the same field used for the circus. Our prop master and other enthusiastic crew members wrangled together auhtentic Civil War guns, costumes, and the like, and they assembled out in the pasture and, well, went to war. The resulting footage looks great, and I really wish I could have been there on that shoot because I hear they all had great fun. But alas, I had a "day job" to return to. Below are some clips from the scene.
Civil War 11 Civil War 5 Civil War 3 Civil War 8
Civil War 11 Civil War 11 Civil War 11 Civil War 11
Hannah-Belle lifting her leg

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