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Abbey 2
A Tale Of Two Abbeys
Eight days into production on Inheritance, Jen Taylor was hired to play the lead role of Abbey. The problem is that 30% of her scenes had already been filmed.
Taylor was not the first actor to tackle the part of Abbey, the role was initially played by another actress. But 8 days into the shoot director Kris Kristensen decided that the actress was not working out, and the difficult step to recast the part was taken.
"I had a really hard time sleeping," said Kristensen. "I had a conversation with our lead earlier in the day about my concerns, but we had a lot invested in her, and I wanted to stick with my initial decision to cast her." The prospect of reshooting 8 days out of a 24 day schedule on a low budget was nothing that anyone wanted to do. Reshooting would mean spending tens of thousands of dollars that were not going to be easy to recover. The film had gone into preproduction without all of its funding in place, and just days before they started filming enough funding rolled in to get the film in the can.
At 4:00 in the morning Kristensen called coproducer Brian McDonald and woke him up, "I think we have to recast Abbey." Despite the time of day, McDonald was still able to think clearly. He told Kristensen that they couldn't let their lead actress go, without a replacement. There was only one person that could take on the role on such short notice.
At 5am Taylor got the call from Kristensen. "We were very fortunate on several fronts," recalls Kristensen. "Right off the bat we were lucky that Jen is a light sleeper and that she picked up the phone. If someone calls me at 5 in the morning, they're gonna get the answering machine."
Taylor had twice read the part of Abbey at live stage readings for writers Kristensen and McDonald. Taylor's acting abilities were never in question, but Kristensen felt she was too old for the part. "We were making a story about two women at oppostie ends of the age spectrum; one who is at the end of her line, and one who's life as a young woman is just beginning. I needed to cast the role of Abbey with someone as young as possible without casting a teenager." For Kristensen, Taylor seemed too mature for the part. The producers auditioned Taylor for the supporting role of Kendra, but Kristensen thought she was wrong for that part. "Jen's leading role material." The producers wanted so badly to work with Taylor that they even offered her a tiny part as a day player, but she turned it down. "I told Jen that we would work together some day, but it wouldn't be on Inheritance."
Through a groggy haze that morning, Taylor told Kristensen that she had two other commitments. If they could work their schedule around the play that she was currently doing, and if she could get out her upcoming role as a day player on another local film then she would do it. The production really had no choice; Taylor was the only actor who knew the part well enough to do on such short notice.
After calling the entire crew to tell them that shooting was temporarily postponed, coproducer Lisa Halpern and Kristensen were faced with the undesireable task of releasing their actress. "It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do," said Kristensen. All of the producers liked their actress, and agree that it was nothing personal. "As hard a decision as it was to make, and as tough as it was to break the news to her, in my gut I knew it was the right thing to do for the film."
By noon the producers met with their department heads to fill them in on the film's status. The crew was very understanding, and except for a few minor scheduling conflicts everyone was willing to repeat the first week of the shoot. The only concern came from production coordinator Kathy Ramos and Line Producer/1st A.D. Roy Wilson. They privately approached Kristensen and McDonald and suggested that maybe it would be better to shut down production for a few months, regroup and start over in the fall; take off some of the pressure and stress. McDonald countered, "We've got the money to do this now. Who knows what the economy is gonna be like in 3 or 4 months?" The film was funded by private investors and the filmmakers had a limited window to get the film into production or risk the funders retracting their investment. McDonald's remark became prophetic after the tragedy of 9/11.
Within 24 hours of making the decision to replace their lead, Inheritance was shooting again with Taylor now in the lead role of Abbey. Many of the shoot days were limited to 8 hours since Taylor would have to dash off to be in her play. Because her part in the play was somewhat limited, this allowed Taylor the opportunity to learn her lines for Inheritance while she was off stage.
Despite all of these setbacks Inheritance still came in under budget, and only filmed for 24 days with Taylor; the length of the originally scheduled shoot.
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