Little Diva Rising

It’s a Wrap!

One of the key roles in Little Diva Rising is that of Cadence Hayes, a young hotshot Hollywood producer who calls Ellie‘s parents (Maria and Vic) to discuss a possible movie role.

Andrea Solonge preparing for a take, as producer/actor Tony Nicholas claps the scene.

I had an idea of what I wanted for Cadence: somebody loud and bombastic. In my head, she sounded like Fran Dreschner’s on-screen mother, Sylvia (Renée Taylor), in The Nanny. I don’t know why I heard it like that given I always thought she was going to be young.

Casting discussions with Maria yielded the name of Andrea Solonge, a talented young actress capable of an American accent  I was wary. A lot of Australian actors adopt a Brooklyn-like US accent, sounding like they should be starring in black and white gangster flicks.

Andrea sent in her audition as a recording. Nope. She nailed the accent. But the audition itself? Maria liked it. I didn’t initially. I didn’t dislike it. It just wasn’t what I’d imagined Cadence sounded like.

But as the days went by the audition grew on my subconscious, then infiltrated my conscious. It’s like that song you hear for the first time, only to realise two days later you love it. I think my biggest problem was moving away from my preconception of this loud, bombastic producer. Once I’d done that, my outlook was unimpeded.

In most of the drafts of the script, Cadence is only heard. Smarter people than me pointed out this phone conversation – which is a pivotal plot development both for the pilot, and the season arc – is a long conversation, and it doesn’t exactly make for riveting viewing to watch two people standing over a phone (the call is on speaker) chatting.

So Cadence’s role went from off-screen to on-screen.

Now it was a case of working out how exactly we were going to incorporate her into the story. We wanted to do something different to what we’d already done and came up with Cadence talking on a hands-free as she’s getting a massage.

Bil wired a microphone to me, and gave Andrea an earpiece so I could feed her the other side of the phone conversation from down the hall – I had to find distance from the actual shooting location so I wouldn’t impede on the quality of their sound. Maria took care of directorial duties.

The highlight of the morning was when Maria pulled me aside to give me some feedback on one particular take (before I watched it back) – we’d forgotten I was wired, so everything we said was transmitted straight back to Andrea’s earpiece. When we came back to give her instruction, she already had it.

Cadence is another character whose bio was rewritten once the role was cast. Andrea brought a lyricism to the way Cadence spoke that was a combination of eloquence and engagement and car salesperson (which was the intention). Whereas originally, Cadence (in early drafts known as ‘Rina’) was young but experienced, she was now young, driven, and unscrupulous.

The awesome thing about Andrea’s performance was the nuance. She had to deliver this whole conversation while she was lying on a massage table. It didn’t give her a lot of scope for physical action. But her emoting was perfect, showcasing that what she was telling Maria and Vic, and what she was thinking, didn’t always correlate. That’s important for where the story goes.

After Andrea’s scene was shot, we retreated to the Angelos house for a simple shot of the Maria and the kids running out to the car so they could head to school. Then it was an exchange between Maria and Audrey (Candice Leask) – two on-screen rivals who’ve regularly gone for the same roles over the years. The two oozed cattiness.

These last two (outdoor) shots had been repeatedly postponed due to weather. Approaching the Sunday, I kept checking the forecast to make sure it remained clear. Come Sunday morning, I checked the hourly forecast. Still no rain, although the way the morning remained dark and grey, I thought Melbourne might pull a twist. Well, it did. Come mid-afternoon, the clouds had cleared and we were now sweating to complete this final scene.

But we got it. And that was it: the close of filming!

We’ll be moving into editing in coming weeks. I’ll talk more about that and other stuff as it happens.

Next week (upon request) I’m going to offer the same dark bleak reboot for the 1980s’ comedy ALF (just as I did for Gilligan’s Island last week).