The Ground that Sinks
The Ground that Sinks is Living Proof Pictures fourth feature film. Even though Principle photography started on October 2nd 2016, the majority of the film was shot through the month of November ending principle photography on 19th.
While The Ground that Sinks had the shortest Principle Photography phase of any Living Proof Pictures' feature it also boasts the longest Pre-Production phase, which had it's first read through in November of 2014.
The Ground that Sinks Premiered at the Marietta International Film Festival on September 9th 2017 where it was nominated for Best Domestic Feature and Best Lead in a Feature (Valynn Turkovich). Since it went on to be and went on to be nominated for awards bodies Maverick Movie Awards and Top Indie Film Awards where it won Best No Budget Spirit for being made under 5000$. The Ground that Sinks also screened at The Reading Film Festival to a packed house and nearly the entire cast in attendance on November 10th 2017. The film was released on Amazon Prime in the summer of 2018.
Behind the Scenes
The Ground that Sinks was first written as a family drama centering around a woman's inability to connect with her grief after the loss of her husband. The part was originally written for Kate Scuffle of Selkie Theatre.
Shannon Wednesday (Kate Scuffle), a retired event coordinator loses her husband (David Oswald) of over thirty five years. Spontaneously she takes off on a road trip with her mysterious new friend Elias (Jack Armstrong) in an attempt reconnect with her her three children (played by Valynn Turkovich, Nicole Anderson, Brandon C. Lay).
The Ground that Sinks is a story exploring grief but also the internal struggle between empathy and intellectualism. In many ways it's also a critic of the cliché idea that "coming of age" stories are only for the young.
The process traces back to November of 2014 when we had a first reading of the script at Anam Cara. but didn't truly begin until holding open auditions at Lehigh University in the summer of 2015.
It was at The Ground that Sinks auditions that Living Proof Pictures founder Brandon C. Lay was introduced to two of his most frequent collaborators: Ryan MacNamara pictured left auditioning for the part of Elias along with Kate Scuffle and Valynn Turkovich who would not only star in the later rewrite of The Ground that Sinks but would also become the face of Living Proof Pictures for most of 2016 & 2017 with back to back starring roles in Binge ∞ Purge, A Hole to China and finally The Ground that Sinks.
Valynn Turkovich and Pete Sanchez reading for Paige and Jonathan, the roles they would later portray in the film.
Pre Production & Rehearsals
The original cast of The Ground that Sinks contained a far larger cast of both actors new to Living Proof Pictures' productions and the the company's regular players as pictured above from the first read through. Unfortunately the original film was not meant to be. Due to such a large cast scheduling made for a very slow rehearsal process to the point that during a break in production writer/director Brandon C. Lay completed an entire film. That film was Binge ∞ Purge starring Valynn Turkovich, Kate Hughes and Orianna Nerino.
Valynn and Kate Hughes in Living Proof Pictures Binge ∞ Purge
Valynn Turkovich at the crowd funding shoot at
Bethlehem House Gallery.
Soon after the production break ended The Ground that Sinks team resumed rehearsals, began their crowd funding campaign but it wasn't long before a second production break occurred. Kate Scuffle who portrayed the central character was gravely injured from falling off a stage breaking nearly all her ribs. Kate has since recovered and is since back to running her theatre company Selkie with her husband George Miller.
However at the time this brought the production of The Ground that Sinks to a screeching halt. At the time both Kate and Brandon still wanted to pursue the project and planned to await Kate's recovery process during the summer and pick back up again in fall. However upon the arrival of Fall both decided it best to make other arrangements.
After this decision production on The Ground that Sinks went into overdrive.
The first production still marking the start of Principal Photography for The Ground that Sinks on October 2nd 2016
After over two years of Pre-Production for writer/director Brandon C. Lay and over a year of on and off rehearsals for much of the cast, the team was determined to not let The Ground that Sinks come to an end. Brandon decided to do an extensive rewrite of the script refocusing the story on the eldest sister's point of view instead of the mother. After two very successful collaborations with Valynn Turkovich on Binge ∞ Purge and A Hole to China, Brandon retooled the story putting making her the central character.
This course of action unfortunately led to several actors of the original production having to be cut from the film. Including Living Proof Pictures regulars Jen Santos, Maria Sole, Elizabeth Shumway and Josh Faturos. Brandon himself was original slated for a role as was Jack Armstrong, Kathy Patterson, Jeanie Olah, Ryan MacNamara and Steve Posivak. Steve even remained in the cast during the rewrite however his scene unfortunately ended up on the cutting room floor.
With the returning cast comprised of Valynn, Nicole Anderson, Marcy Repp, Craig Mahlman, Pete Sanchez, James Mason and Diane Bakos the production went back into rehearsal. While mostly roles were cut from the film one part was added, that of a third sister still in high school portrayed by Zena Spratley. Rehearsals brought additional two months of dedicated work most especially for Valynn, Nicole, Marcy, Craig and newcomer Zena.
With the exception of the opening from the film, every scene was shot during the month of November. This was a harrowing process on both the cast and the crew. Tension was kept high both on and off screen. Every character in the film begins the story dealing with some level of grief and emotional trauma and this level of anxiety was maintained during the shooting process. This was paired with Brandon's demand for every scene being done in long, unflinching, continuous takes.
October 2nd was the only shoot during the month of October due to the availability of the location. The house used in the film was Valynn's childhood home that her mother and father (pictured above) where moving out out of. So while it marked the beginning of Principle Photography, it wasn't until November that the filming became truly intense.
Thanks to the long rehearsal process the actors fortunately didn't have to reshoot many of the scenes incredibly raw, intense moments over and over again. However some of the scenes were filmed as many as ten or more times to capture the films unique pacing. The films climax, in particular, was an incredibly emotional and physical drain on the actors not to mention on Brandon who shot the film himself all handheld. This lead to sustaining nerve damage on his left side while shooting the eleven minute scene continuously to perfection.
On November 19th 2016 Principle Photography came to an end in the same house where the reading first happened. While Kate Scuffle could no longer be at the center of the cast her contribution and the essence of her home never left the production. The very short ferocious shoot for The Ground that Sinks finally came to end. A two year production, easily the longest and a most arduous in Living Proof Pictures' history, culminated with the most stressful and exhausting three week shoot. Many of the cast and crew was depressed and exhausted beyond measure, some were sick and injured. However what all of them shared was a level of accomplishment reflected in the time well spent.
Writer/Director Brandon C. Lay also serves as lead editor on Living Proof Pictures films allowing for the post production process on The Ground that Sinks to be rather short as the editing process takes place all throughout Principle Photography. Cast members were brought back for ADR and the scoring was minimal on the film. Two songs had already be selected from Maria Volonte and Kevin Carrel Footer of Blue Tango Project. Check out the video of one of their songs that's featured in The Ground that Sinks.
The Ground that Sinks had it's world premiere at the Marietta International Film Festival on September 9th 2017 where it was nominated for Best Domestic Feature and Best Lead in a Feature (Valynn Turkovich).
The Festival & Awards Circuit
Marietta International Film Festival
Best Domestic Feature
Best Lead in a Feature: Valynn Turkovich
Maverick Movie Awards
Best Actress: Valynn Turkvoich
Best Supporting Actress: Nicole Anderson
Special Achievement: Living Proof Pictures - for the funeral dance sequence
Top Indie Film Awards
No Budget Spirit
Best Director: Brandon C. Lay
Best Writing: Brandon C. Lay
Best Supporting Actress: Nicole Anderson
Local Pennsylvania Premiere
The real triumph for the team was accomplishing the completion of a film after all the hard work and emotional turmoil. Still to have such a strong reception to our labor of love was a truly fulfilling experience for all those involved. Having the film screen at Marietta International Film Festival and getting nominated by two more Independent Film Awards Bodies was incredibly validating to many of the people on the project and for Living Proof Pictures as a whole. Everyone involved created the film for the love of story, characters and journey the process provided. It wasn't until November 10th 2017 that the film finally came back home when it was accepted at the Reading Film Festival.
Cast and crew members from The Ground that Sinks as well as from The Worry Doll and other past Living Proof Pictures films came out to see the film on the big screen-- many of them for the very first time.
Utah Film Festival
The Ground that Sinks was made an official selection at the Utah Film Festival on March 4th 2018 and nominated for Best Film: Budget Under 5000$