The Pointe is an upcoming television show following a rebellious teenager becomes the first Indian lifeguard in the exclusive all-American beach town Pointe Bay while forming some unusual friendships. Based on real life experiences in Rowayton, CT, the pilot was recently filmed in Fairfield County. We spoke with the creators behind the series:
CJ, Paulina, David, and Vishnu thank you so much for answering some questions for Nutmeg Institute. If you wouldn’t mind, please introduce yourselves, your role on the project, and what The Pointe is.
Vishnu: I’m Vishnu Prasad, I’m an Indian-born director/ writer and the co-creator of The Pointe. I also directed, acted and edited the pilot episode.
Paulina: I’m Paulina Simkin, an actress/pianist/producer based in New York. I produced and acted in the pilot episode and was also its casting director.
David: I’m David White, Stamford, CT born producer (family is from Jamaica). I produced the pilot episode.
CJ: Im Clay Morsey Jr or CJ as my friends would say. I’m an actor, writer, producer and co-creator of The Pointe born and raised in Norwalk CT.
What inspired you to tell this story and why was now the time to tell it?
Vishnu: This show is a mixture of the absurd experiences and conversations I had with people while growing up in Connecticut as well CJ’s experience growing up in an upscale beach town. I think now is a great time to tell this story because of the current presidency, xenophobia, and with immigration being one of the hottest topic in the news.
CJ: This story really hits close to home for me because growing up, I always felt that I didn't belong. Growing up movies and television shows would always inspire me, they would pick me up when I was feeling down and give me the strength to keep going on days when I felt like I couldn’t. My goal in creating this show is to provide the same inspiration and feeling for others, that you're not alone out there. I think everyone can relate to this show on some level, that we have something for everyone. In many ways I feel like this story is timeless so why not tell it now. No time like the present!
What kind of filmmaking experiences did you have prior to The Pointe and what did you learn on set?
Vishnu: Almost none. I shot a short film 2 years ago with David. We also worked on his student film back in 2015.
Paulina: I’ve acted in a lot of things prior to The Pointe and also scored some films with my background as a musician. Then I got into producing through some short films and a feature that CJ and I worked on. But producing The Pointe was a whole other level. Having had to wear many hats during production is an understatement. We could’ve opened a hat store with the amount of hats we were wearing. I’m a perfectionist at heart and had to learn quickly on set that it isn’t about the most perfect scene, take, etc., it’s about making the best out of any circumstance e.g. rain, heat and a missing actor. After all, Spielberg didn’t quit Jaws when his motor-shark broke, he made the best out of the circumstance - a music and anticipation-driven blockbuster.
David: Like Vishnu, close to nothing. Vishnu and I made various short films, basically student projects. Nothing close to what we were able to manage making with The Pointe. The biggest thing I learned was filmmaking is all about trust. You need to trust a lot of people in order to get something like this off the ground. You need to have strong bonds, or you will make them, when things don’t go as planned (THINGS WILL NOT GO AS PLANNED).
CJ: I’ve been a stage actor since I was in elementary school, acting in several plays and musicals. It wasn't until high school that I had the opportunity to intern on the Television show Gossip Girl that my love for film really took off. There I learned the inner workings of a set and the various positions that went along with it. Shortly after, I worked with Director Gary Donatelli on the set of ABC’s One Life to Live. There I discovered the art of directing and producing as well as reconnecting with my roots as an actor.
All three of you acted in the pilot, can you share some details about your characters? How were you able to balance your on-set roles (writers, director, producer) with your in-front of the camera roles?
Vishnu: My character is pretty much a fish out of water. He’s dropped off in this unfamiliar town and is trying to figure out what on earth is going on. It’s definitely a juggling act working on an indie-project. You’re putting on multiple hats just to see the project through. I think the biggest thing is to have a good team that you can trust. We all helped each other out and it was a very collaborative process. Paulina was a great casting director and helped bring onboard strong actors, many who do improv as well. This made directing that much easier for me because they were all professionals and could easily adapt if there were any changes. CJ is a great actor which made it easy for me to play off of him during our scenes together. David was pivotal in helping me direct while I was on screen and gave me acting notes. This made the shooting move much smoother since I didn’t have to look at the playback after every take.
Paulina: My character, Mrs. Bucci, is a very dubious one. An Italian fashionista she’s described together with her husband as “either a swinger or serial killer”. It was a lot of fun to play with that flamboyant character, which will reveal its true colors in the episodes to come. Juggling many balls behind the camera made me appreciate my scenes on camera much more since I got to just enjoy the moment and (almost) not think of any logistics.
CJ: My character Ryan Blake is definitely a bit of a loner. He is constantly using drugs and alcohol as a means of escape. I really wanted to show that just because you are born into something doesn’t mean you will be accepted or fit in. Playing a character like this is no easy task, especially jumping in and out of character like you have to on an indie. Being a method actor I struggled tremendously with being available to my fellow crew members and relied on the team more than I should have. Without them, this certainly wouldn't have been the success it was.
On a more technical side, how big of a crew did you have? How many days did you film for? And what did you film on?
Vishnu: We filmed for 7 days and we shot on a Sony F55. One of our friends who worked on the project had one so we decided to use that.
David: Our crew was rather large. All together we had about 30 people behind the camera. A lot of these people were friends that wanted to help out. Of course some of the more crucial roles were handled by members with years of experience.
You ran an IndieGoGo to help raise funds for the project, unfortunately it fell short and missed it’s goal, how did you adjust to make sure you were still able to complete the project?
Vishnu: We took money out of our credit cards. I don’t think it was our smartest financial decision but we had no choice. We had a whole lot of passion to tell this story and not enough cash.
David: We knew we would have to spend our own money at some point. It’s just the price you pay in order to make art. If you aren’t willing to put your own skin in the project then you don’t really care about the project.
CJ: Still paying off the credit cards, but totally worth it.
Despite missing the financial goal, you were still able to attract a significant number of backers (~80), how were you able to build that base of support?
Vishnu: I think social media was very helpful. As our friends and family started seeing our progress, our support circle started to grow. Also, word of mouth.
David: Social media was crucial, but asking friends was the biggest factors. You’d be surprised by how many friends are willing to give $5 or even $100.
Speaking of community, you shot the majority of The Pointe in and around Norwalk and Rowayton, CT, you’ve spoken before about the community support you received, can you speak to some of these experiences and how important that support was and will be going forward?
Vishnu: We housed many of the actors and crew at CJ’s house. CJ’s mom, Kathy Morsey (this wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for her!), was nice enough to host our actors and crew members and even cooked everyone dinner the entire week!
David: We were able to use houses and the beach for our project. CJ actually knew a lot of the community which helped immensely.
Paulina: All I can say is, CJ’s mom Kathy is a saint. Really, it wouldn’t have been possible without her. And the Rowaytoners were extremely accommodating with us blocking streets, occupying the beach and always asking for silence around the set. I think Connecticut is a great place to shoot and has a lot of undiscovered potential for filmmakers.
CJ: This show would not have been possible without the support of the Town of Rowayton, they took a huge risk letting us film this show around town. Thankfully growing up and having good relationships with a lot of people in town really went a long way. Also shout out to my Mom for putting up with all the chaos and going above and beyond.
What was your favorite day on set? Least favorite?
Vishnu: My favorite day and the least favorite day was one and the same. It was Day 5 of filming and the first day we were ahead of schedule. I won’t go into to the specifics but we had a last minute scheduling issue with an acting talent who could only be on set for an hour. So we had to think on our feet and rewrite about 10 pages of script to make the story work. If it wasn’t for the amazing team we put together before we started shooting, this project would have never been completed. I’m going to say this again, you need a reliable team!
David: My favorite and least favorite was the same as Vishnu’s. As a team we had to come together and really focus like never before. Like I said, things will not go right. You have to be ready to pivot. During this craziness it was not fun at all, but in hindsight, it’s the days that challenge you the most that you become the most proud of.
CJ: I have to agree with both Vishnu and Dave on this one. Day 5 started out as one of the most exciting and fulfilling experiences on this project. Sadly, soon after it went straight to hell. Thankfully our team was able to stay level headed and think on their feet to keep the ship afloat.
Paulina: Ditto. That day was tough. As a producer I felt a huge responsibility towards our crew and actors. We wanted to create something that we were all proud of. So when we suddenly had to rewrite the script and rely on our actors’ improv talents, no one knew if it all was going to work out. Luckily, our actors were so brilliant that they turned everything around for the better and the result was some of the best scenes of the show. It was also a truly bonding experience for us as a team. If we could make the best out of those circumstances we were basically ready for Jaws.
So, what’s next for the project?
Vishnu: We’re currently finishing up sound design on the pilot. We want to pitch the show to production companies and premiere it in festivals.
CJ: As Vishnu mentioned, we are in the final stages of post production, having a limited budget really put a damper on how quickly we could complete each aspect. As they say “all’s well that ends well.”
Paulina: If you know anyone at Amazon or Netflix let us know! Seriously though, any contacts are welcome and highly appreciated.
Finally, as we always do with our Nutmeg Conversations series, what advice do you have for someone just starting out in this industry or simply someone with that pilot they’ve had sitting on their computer waiting to be filmed?
Vishnu: I think the most important thing is understanding how hard it is to make it in this industry. It’s a sea full of “No’s” and rejections. With that being said, if you have a project that you want to bring to life on your own, make sure it’s doable/ affordable. Which means, you should write for things you already have access to: your car, your parents’ house, your friend’s coffee shop, etc. Listen to filmmakers talk about their movies on Youtube, read books on filmmaking and just be persistent in your work. And if you’re ever in need of inspiration, just read Rebel Without a Crew by Robert Rodriguez. He shot El Mariachi by himself and $7k. Truth is you can make a movie for cheaper nowadays if you’re smart with your writing. You don’t need fancy equipment and a ton of people to make a good film. All you need is a group of like-minded people who wants to tell the story. So if you think the story is great, pitch it to us at Rebel3films!
David: It will be hard, and that’s okay! You just have to get it done and do it. Don’t wait around for someone to come help you. No one is coming with a bag full of money just willing to give it to you. If you have that one dream, that one project that has to be told, GO TELL IT. And please, don’t overthink things. People tend to talk themselves out of it because it’s hard. Just get out there and see what you’re made of!
Paulina: I couldn’t agree more. I believe in building your luck, it doesn’t just fall on your head while sitting at home. None of us had funds to fall back on, all we had was our passion for the project and we used that to literally shoot for the stars aka Amazon and the like. You have to get out and just do it. We learned so much by doing instead of thinking about it. In retrospect it was a crazy undertaking: 50 people cast & crew, 7 straight shoot days, housing, locations, transportation, catering, props, all those things that had to be covered with a tiny budget. Had we thought about it “well enough” in advance, we would’ve just said it’s impossible and leave it. But we are “Rebel”3films for a reason, we had our cause: a great story that needed to be told.
CJ: I believe that the definition of luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Something that wasn't always present on our set. The hardest thing about being in the film industry is allowing yourself to fail. You’re not always going to get it right and you’re not always going to hit a home run. Some things just come with experience, I think a lot of young filmmakers get caught up with the little things. No matter how many times you fall, it's about how you pick yourself back up that counts. It’s important to realize that there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to art. You will always have people that love and hate your work. That most important thing that I can share with you, is that you should make art that is true to yourself. The day you start making films to please others is the day you stop being a true artist. Take chances, never give up and always remember that you are never alone. Dare to be an artist, dare to be a rebel.