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An Augmented Euphony in Paradise
A Film Adaptation of
Eugene O'Neill's
Before Breakfast

Dale and Yvonne Sims
Langley, British Columbia, Canada

 

On October 07, 2007 Yvonne and I celebrated our first anniversary. Yvonne and I love adventure; however we seem to enjoy it in smaller packets these days. So you can well imagine my surprise when, upon asking Yvonne to make a movie with me as the composer, and depending on the script, perhaps play a part, without hesitation she said yes.

My surprise comes from the fact that Yvonne has never acted in any sort of play, skit or joke before in her entire experience. Yvonne spent most of her school years taking music, and by the end of high school had played her way to a Grade Eight Level, Classical Pianist. After graduation she married almost immediately and spent the next twenty odd years raising her children and not chasing her musical directions.

I, on the other hand, found my way west during the hippy migration in the late sixties into the seventies, spending a couple of years living on a beach on the west coast of Vancouver Island. I soon stumbled upon the Vancouver film industry and jumped right in, up to my neck, fifteen to eighteen hours a day, wind, rain, hot sun, dark tunnels, tied up traffic and the rest. I spent eight years on the sets of films and series as a production assistant, learning from directors everything I could learn from seeing, as talking to directors without being spoken to was against strict set etiquette rules. I never became more than a production assistant, taking out the garbage around the set. I spent my time rigging up rain shelters for the actors, actresses, and background performers, and cleaning up the locations before we moved on. Working on these sets did give me the opportunity to see what was going on and that was enough; it is in my blood. I can feel it when I read a script; I can see it when read a scene. I managed to squeak out three credits before I left, promising myself I would direct a film of my own one day of an independent nature.

In the last couple of years, I gained my own DVD camera and began shooting short music videos of nature. I would use my DVD camera to capture extreme close up video of animals, flowers, bugs and things, then cut the film to music. I soon learned about copyright (because of the music I used) and that’s when Yvonne and I decided we would make a movie of our own.  So I went looking for a suitable script for us to shoot and Yvonne began composing.

Before Breakfast by Eugene O’Neill was a perfect choice. One actress, one cameraman, and one apartment. Our apartment was close to the set provided by Mr. O’Neill, although the hallway was an obstacle. A seamstress was difficult for us to portray, where a waitress was much simpler. The direction the film was to take was not decided until a conversation we were having while shopping at a thrift store for an apron for Mrs. Rowland. We had begun to notice, as we broke down the set, that symbolism, as always, was on the peripheral. That’s when the picture “Families are for Ever” caught our eye; what an irony. The introduction was formed by a series of images of country, city and home.

Spending a week with a kitchen full of stacked dishes and cigarette butts made eating out a daily routine. We both knew continuity would be an issue when we took on this project, with only the two of us. We found a lot of things we had to just let go and let the story line carry the audience. We did not take a lot of stills and we did not prepare ourselves for the path ahead. We first attempted to shoot from the original script and that was a great learning experience. I then took the next two days to break down the script and rewrite some of the lines to suit our needs. Yvonne and I are both extremely guilty for pushing Yvonne into a situation she had no frame of reference for. She had not spent her life as a nagging house wife, and we had had the script for only two days before we started shooting. Composing the piece "Happy Home" came natural for Yvonne, a simplistic tune structured to the lifestyle they had wrapped around themselves. A rousing melody helps the audience keep alive the hope for a brighter future, while the minor keys of a "Happy Home" set the mood for how low these two had sunk.

We have gained so much from putting this short film together. Seeing how we have been married for such a short time, putting this together showed to us the levels of communication, love, compassion and respect we have for each other in the very beginning of our relationship, that is profoundly based in the experiences that have brought us to this point in time.

Yvonne and I can only hope that all of you will enjoy our modest reproduction of a work by such a loved and respected writer as Mr. Eugene O’Neill.


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