Brian with the cast and director of Back To One

(Pictured above: the day 2 cast of ‘Back To One’ with Sarah, Brian and director Alexander DeSouza)

Exactly one year ago today, I was sitting with production assistants and a couple dozen “background extras” in a very hot second floor room at the Linsmore Tavern located on the Danforth in Toronto. The occasion was day two of a pilot episode shoot for ‘Back To One’. The second floor room was being used as a staging area for the background extras, wardrobe, makeup and craft services.

‘Back To One’ is a five episode series, conceived, written and produced by Toronto-based actress/writer Sarah DeSouza-Coelho. Her self-described logline reads: “On the verge of abandoning her dreams, an ambitious mid-20’s Guyanese-Canadian actress must find the strength to navigate the film industry, romance and find solace in her imperfect immigrant family.”

It was Sarah’s admirable goal to have the series not only highlight the values and culture of the often-overlooked Indo-Caribbean community, but to inspire young creatives of colour to go after their dreams. In Sarah’s interviews she has consistantly expressed that while growing up, she never saw anyone that looked like her or represented her culture on screen. This often left her feeling invisible, ashamed of her identity and skeptical of her goals. I felt for Sarah and her disappointments, but also felt inspired by her aspirations, and wanted to do something to help. My financial support (and additional funds mere weeks before the shoot dates to cover a budget shortfall) contributed to getting the project before the camera, and was a meaningful contribution that I am very proud of. As I stated to Sarah (whose stomach was in knots) during a particular production zoom meeting, “don’t worry, I’ll cover it.”

The pilot shoot was an ambitious endeavor with a number of locations and sets comprising of a kitchen, waiting room, an audition office, a bedroom, bts makeup area, the darkened bar interior, a car interior, and an exterior moving vehicle shot. There was no rear screen projection trickery with the vehicle shots btw. An automobile camera mount was used to shoot Sarah’s image through an automobile side rear window, as the vehicle travelled down a busy nighttime Toronto street with surrounding staging vehicles driving nearby to control the unsupervised traffic flow. The resultant shot was beautiful, and it was the final shot in the pilot as Sarah looks out into the world contemplating her future, with the reflections of the passing building/street lights reflected on the window glass. For the bar dialogue scenes, the Linsmore had been rented by the production team for the day. The team had researched, visited and photographed a number of Toronto area bars before this one was selected, and a day long rental fee was negotiated. Interesting side note, an unnamed U.S. streaming series had also used this location, and when their team could not have regular on-going access for shooting, they built a recreation of the interior on a sound stage. Our set decoration team brought in props, table lamps, etc. and did a magnificient job redressing the setting. A production crew set up fabric and lights on the exterior windows, filtering out the daylight and simulated nighttime lighting aesthetics. The scenes in the bar with Sarah and her friend Preti resulted with a cinematic quality, comprised of a beautiful depth of field, nice colour tone and intimate lighting.

For this day 2 shoot, our call sheet had 31 crew, 4 cast, and 19 background extras for a total of 54 individuals on the location. Overall, I was impressed by the final edit, a job well done by all. I was also impressed by a cast and crew representing a wonderful racial mix, all coming together and working for a positive creative goal. Representation matters.

It was a memorable day, a hot day, and one I look back on fondly as one of the executive producers. I was very pleased to have contributed to a special 10 year old Guyanese-Canadian youngster’s dream, whose “heart was full” as an adult seeing her dream project become a reality.

Cheers to you Sarah.

To acquaint yourself with actress/writer Sarah DeSouza-Coelho, and to appreciate her philosophy please take the time to visit and read:

The Absent Casting Call for West Indians

Sarah, 365 Days, 365 Women

Back To One: Reflections One Year Later
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