In early May of 2007 I was in the coffee shop at my usual table, drinking my usual white chocolate mocha, and eating my usual turkey sandwich (with fruit cup) when I had an epiphany.
The Sundance Film Festival had posted all of the short film entries on their website for the world to see--and they were horrible. Films that were so obviously trying to be "arty" for the sake of "being arty". I figured I could make a crappy short film as well as the next guy and if I could make a somewhat decent short film, then maybe I'd have something.
Sarah was working at the coffee shop that day and had forgotten to put the cheese on my turkey sandwich. To be honest, I didn't even think about it--or even realize it--but she came out to where I was sitting and told me she suspected she forgot to add my slice of cheese.
I checked the sandwich and lo and behold she was right. I told her not to worry about it but she did, and was very adorable as she apologized for the oversight more than a few times.
It was at that moment I got the idea for my short film: A cute girl working at a coffee shop and a guy, not unlike myself, who's not very adept at talking to girls but wants very much to talk to her. Maybe he's there with a buddy of his, talking about how he wants to ask her out and his buddy who of course is much better at it and more confident is trying to show him the ropes.
I named the characters Ed and Paul (Paul, after my roommate in California who not only was very good with the fairer sex but also had a way of bringing home some of the hottest California girls you'd ever find). From there the script pretty much wrote itself.
I knew it would be easy to film and wondered if I'd be able to shoot it at the coffee shop. And for that matter I wondered if Sarah would be willing to play herself. That would be cool.
I went up to the counter for a refill of my coffee and mentioned to Sarah I had written a short film that revolves around a girl who works in a coffee shop and asked if she'd be up for playing the part. Of course, I didn't mention the part about her inspiring the whole thing...I didn't want to creep her out or anything.
I was very happy that not only did she agree to do it but also seemed very eager and excited about it. When I returned to my table and sat down again I realized I'd have to make a revision and change the main character from me to someone else. Mostly because I didn't want to freak her out that I was playing a character hitting on someone (her) 13 years younger than me. Sure, it was just a film, but I didn't want Sarah...or her sister...or her brother-in-law....to think I had less-than-innocent intentions. And I can honestly tell you my intentions were indeed very innocent. I don't know how believable that sounds now, especially since we have since gotten engaged, but believe me it's true. I had not ulterior motives. I just wanted Sarah to be in the film.
I quickly changed my character to "David". Granted, David is her brother and it sounds really weird to cast her brother as someone trying to ask her out but I mean come on, in the story they aren't related. And David has an innocent shyness about him I thought would translate well. He ended up doing a much better job than I ever could have done (I think I would have come across as goofy instead of shy) and he nailed the part brilliantly.
The only other guy I knew who was around their age and could play the confident, good-looking ladies man was Matt, who also hung hung around the coffee shop quite a bit. He is Ken's son, and--that's right--Sarah's step-brother. So yea, I totally made a film about a girl and cast her real-life brother and step-brother as the two guys vying for her attention. If you never met any of them in real-life you'd have no idea of the odd casting choice, but to our friends around town...I think it really confused some of them at first.
We filmed on May 18 and it turned out really well (you can see the film here). The three of them did a great job and to say I was impressed would be an extreme understatement. As we filmed I had Sarah behind the counter and asked her to perform basic actions that I could use as cutaway shots. Simple tasks like working the register, answering the phone, sweeping the floor, etc.
I can still remember reviewing the footage later that night. I was sitting at the kitchen table of my little upstairs apartment and as I watched Sarah, it really hit home: "This girl is beautiful."
I recall rewinding the tape and re-watching a few times. There she was doing everyday mundane tasks and I couldn't keep my eyes off her. I remembered how much fun I had working with her up close and wished I'd written a bigger part so I could work with her more. Her friendliness, her warm smile, her considerate spirit...those weren't things that were merely part of her at-work customer-service mode (not that I ever suspected they were)...but that's truly who she is as a person.
Looking back on it all now I realize that although I'd already known her for about nine months, I already knew how funny, kind, sweet, and beautiful she was...the night we shot that film is the night I fell for Sarah.