Perception, a Wade Wofford film
About the Film
With Perception, Writer/Director Wade Wofford comments on a fundamental of human experience; individuals are divided by a breach of experience.
Clarissa moved to New York City at 21 to be a photographer. Three months ago, her mother confessed to the truth; Clarissa was adopted. Angered at her family and disappointed in her "career," Clarissa decided to abandon her "sell out" lifestyle; she left behind her clothes, her apartment, and her job. Today, Clarissa lives as a homeless person on the streets of New York, supporting herself meal by meal by selling her photography from a blanket in Central Park.
Her brother Ralph, a successful real estate salesman, lives in a swanky apartment overlooking the very bridge that Clarissa seeps under. Ralph struggles for balance against the cut-throat nature of his business, and struggles even harder to understand his sister's naive choices.
Tobias has taken night classes for close to ten years, but refuses to take the required core classes to garner a degree. He earns his wage waiting tables, sneaking off to the bathroom pretending to have gas so he can read a chapter of his latest book, getting fired every few months.
The lives of these three collide...become intertwined. Romance, resentment, miscommunication. Journeying through the same season of time from each point of view, Perception details how presumption and mistaken intention can lead to great misunderstanding. A moment, revisited from another point of view, takes new dimension - and the line between protagonist and antagonist blurs.
Cast and Crew
Perception was shot in a very unconventional manner, especially for its time:
- The entire cast & crew of the film worked for free.
- Rather than shooting in uninterrupted succession, Perception was filmed part-time over the course of nearly four months - so the change of seasons could be an character in the film, and so its cast & crew could maintain their dayjobs.
- Whereas even the lowest-budget independent films have dozens of crew, Perception often shot with a crew of only three or four.
- The following production notes provide a glimpse of the struggle to make a truly independent film.
Concept & Script
In the fall of 2005, writer/director Wade Wofford was gearing up to begin his fifth feature-length screenplay. He had recently completed production of his production company's (Dedalus Films) first work, a short entitled Assailable. Nearing thirty and frustrated by the rat-race of trying to get screenplays into the hands of producers and agents, Wofford decided to produce his next script himself. To make this possible on his limited resources, he structured Perception around locations and a cast he had access to.
The idea for a script based on the breach of human perception had always fascinated Wofford. He had formed a theory that there are three primary "modes" of perception: aesthetic, social, intellectual - and decided the story would be best split into three distinct pieces, with each character representing one of the modes. The characters immediately revealed themselves: an artist (aesthetic), a businessman (social), and a student/thinker (intellectual). Conflict was immediately birthed, as history dictates that the artist is at odds with the businessman, and the thinker is at odds with the entire world.
Being set against the backdrop of New York City automatically gave the story texture, and Wofford wanted the film to be hyper-realistic. He scripted the majority of the story to take place during winter, when equipment rentals and crew would be less expensive - and decided that the brutality of winter would be an actual character in the story.
In order to afford the project, Wofford had to hold down a full-time job during the shoot, so he would need to shoot most of the film on nights and weekends. He used this to his advantage as well, deciding that rather than battle the change of seasons, the story would span a similar period of time - winter's transition into spring.
Wofford's experience as a gaffer and light designer had taught him that indoor shoots require complex light setups, and lighting can stretch out a production. Therefore, he wanted most of the action of the film to take place outdoors. "Who spends a lot of time outdoors in New York City in the winter?" The answer was a simple one - and the principle character was decided to lead a homeless life, which enriched the story further, and added great complexity to the artist's struggle.
Even more of the characters' personalities and lifestyles within the story were born from similar logistical/budgetary necessity. Acquiring locations within New York City on a shoestring budget is no simple task. "A friend manages this restaurant on Chelsea Piers," Wofford reasoned, "so there's a key location. And another friend's parents own this great apartment overlooking central park, so there's another location." Tobias became the struggling thinker waiting tables for a living, and Ralph found a home overlooking Central Park - one that suited a successful real estate salesman.
Once Wofford had the outline, the script was finished in less than a month, then workshopped over the next four months while working on pre-production. It was during these workshops that Wofford found Lauren Gleason, an actress who attended his screenwriting workshop. Her cold reading of Clarissa was gutteral and complex.
Robert DiScalfani was the next to sign on. An old acquaintance of Wofford's and a talented still photographer, he loved the script and signed on immediately to direct photography. Robert's colleague within the world of photography then introduced John Loughlin to the project, whose care-free charisma as our only gaffer helped maintain the family vibe Wofford was striving to create.
Wesley Wofford, Wade's elder brother, was a shoe-in for make-up effects from the very start. As a matter of fact, were it not for access to Wesley's abilities, the script likely wouldn't have taken the course of climax that it does.
Wofford acquired all of the 90+ locations himself, with the help of his wife and Executive Producer, Catarina Costa - whose roles were numerous.
One of the greatest challenges of the shoot was acquiring an art gallery for the scene where Tobias and Clarissa meet. At the time of authoring, Wofford had access to a gallery through an acquaintance's boyfriend - but the relationship ended shortly after production started and the bridge was burnt. It took the film nearly a year after principle photography wrapped to locate the location and finally shoot the gallery scenes.
Perception shot its first frame at first light (before work) on February 15th, 2006 - on the 21st floor of an apartment overlooking Central Park. When viewing the few shots captured that day, one would never know that only 3 people were present... It was a humble beginning that was representative of the entire shoot.
The film's first full day began on a desolate street in Soho a week later. It was twelve degrees and windy. When the cast and crew packed into a tiny Honda Civic to drive to the next location, shudders and calls for hot coffee were heard by all. Such sentiments would be common throughout the entire shoot, which some days shot for 14 solid hours in the freezing cold with no trailers to warm up in, and no bathrooms within a 15 minutes of walking.
The entire cast and crew worked for free, with the exception of production sound recordists. Ironically, the paid crew created more problems during production than any of the other collaborators. The production went through three recordists in the course of the shoot before finally finding Dan Izen - whose passion for sound and eagerness to laugh became an asset to the film.
The final day of shooting was also eventful. Clarissa and Ralph's fight in the streets of Manhattan was written to take place in the pouring rain. It floated on the schedule from February to May - to be scheduled on short notice during a storm, when cast & crew could be assembled. Through the fifteen weeks of scattered shoot dates, the opportunity never presented itself. In late May, a torrential storm hit, and the scene was finally shot, with a crew of three (sound, director/camera, umbrella-holder Executive Producer). Cheers to Lauren Gleason for surviving hours in the soaking wet cold with no place to warm up!
Editing began while still in production. Eight months after principle photography wrapped, our first editor vanished. Wofford promptly replaced her with a new editor, who then started over from scratch.
This proved to be a blessing in disguise, because through this setback we found Matt Ludvino, whose vision with the edit actually re-structured the narrative, and improved the film immensely.
Aaron Meicht, whom Wofford had collaborated with whilst designing sets for an off-Broadway play (Meicht was doing Sound Design), was brought on to compose the score, and Chuck Previtire - a friend of a friend and radio DJ in LA - signed on as music supervisor.
In its final months, David Gladstone came on as colourist and Jim Rieder brought his talents to sound design.
Post-Production dragged on for three solid years, picking up when Wofford saved enough to pay the next collaborator.
Perception was completed in the summer of 2010, . In the time it took to complete the film, the film industry had lept forward from standard definition to high definition, and many film festivals were not open to standard-def submissions. Having been shot on the Canon XL2 (in theatrical 24 frames per second, but at standard def), this closed many doors for our film.
Perception went on to win The Royal Reel Award in Filmmaking at Canada International Film Festival and Best Drama at DIY Film Fest in Hollywood.