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The Making of Trip in a Summer Dress

Janine Turner's debut as a director was a rich, rewarding and vastly stimulating experience. "What I have learned from the whole experience is the immensity of detail", says Janine. "In every aspect of filmmaking the magic is made with minute specificity from pre-production to photography, to acting, to editing, to color timing, to sound design, to the musical score, to the final mix, to marketing."

In 1996, Janine read a short story that captured her heart and imagination, Annette Sanford 's short story, Trip in a Summer Dress. Captivated by the charm that embraced the complicated subject that befell the strong willed mother and her daughter, Janine felt compelled to write the screenplay herself in 2003. "Due to the subject matter, I decided to place the story in the 1950's", says Janine. "It is a timeless issue and in the story there was no mention of time period, but I felt that the 1950's was an era that nurtured duplicity. It was not a time period that always warranted and accepted truths in the social arena. Image was very important"

Janine decided to finance the film herself because she was venturing into the unknown." I wondered if I could actually bring the visions swirling in my head to fruition", reminisces Janine. "I remembered lying in bed one night paralyzed with the fear of being solely responsible for an entire cast and crew. But then I told myself that if I wanted a career as a director/producer I had to rise to the occasion."

Thus began the challenge of producing the film with a budget of under $20,000. Solidifying the camera, equipment, 35 millimeter film, film transferring and crew was make possible with the assistance of Janine's fellow producers Rick and Sher Anderson and the gracious generosity and talent of the North Texas Film community. Of course, the casting of the movie was crucial but due to the low budget, Janine solicited her family and friends for the cast. Sara Jean was portrayed by the sister of Janine's sister-in-law, Kathleen Early, an actress currently living in New York. The Mathews were all sons of Janine's friends and the little girl on the bus was portrayed by Janine's daughter, Juliette. "when I first read the story in 1996, my daughter wasn't even born', says Janine. "I never dreamed that my daughter would be the little girl on the bus. But by the time I finally got around to filming it, she just happened to be the perfect age. She was always with me on sets so I figured why not put her in the movie."

As a director, Janine began taking mental photos of the landscapes that surrounded her in her home state of texas. "I knew that the locations were paramount. I believe they are the canvas for the painting. I rode around with my daughter and hand picked the locations. After choosing them, I would visit them at sunrise and sunset just to see how the light reflected on the images, such as the white tips of the weeds at the church." Working out the logistics of the locations was memorable. "I'll never forget standing in the middle of nowhere on a lonely, dirt, country road with the county commissioner trying to figure out where to put the Porta-potties," says Janine. "I wanted wide masters!" Janine picked two locations with cemeteries. "I loved the texture of the cemeteries and I worked to have the graves prevalent in the shots and edits. I chose the church with the cemetery for the last scene, the phone call, because I felt that the graves symbolized the death for Sara Jean's hope with Mathew."

Co- Executive Producer, Jocelyn White, President and CEO of Jocelyn White Productions, Inc., was amazed at Janine's attention to detail. "Janine knew exactly what she wanted which surprised everybody. She knew exactly what shot she wanted. She knew exactly where she wanted the bow in Sara Jean's hair. It think it is a tribute to her dedication that she has been so hands on in every single aspect of this venture." Janine and Jocelyn have laughed often over the fact that for her first film she chose a story that spanned five years, had five children form the age of newborn to age five, four horsed and a dog, 1950's autos and 1950's costumes."Set on a horse farm the characters in the short story never intermingled with the animals", says Janine, "but I wrote four horsed in the screenplay because I thought that the horses would bring movement to the passing of her pregnancy. Mama is lunging a horse at the end of the pregnancy sequence because I wanted the dizzying effect of Mama's sermons to crescendo with the beginning of pain.

Janine found working with the children to be enjoyable yet challenging. "When filming the scene on the blanket, Mathew was supposed to be happy under the tree", says Janine, "but the little infant actor was fussy. I was in the process of switching scenes when the infant suddenly fell asleep. It was such luck. We rushed to capture the moment and I love the irony it brought to the scene. Sara Jean confides in him unaware he is asleep."

Post-production proves to be fascinating to Janine. As an actress she was always curious why films took so long to be completed after principal photography. Now she knows. "Every aspect of piecing a film together is vital. I believe they all fit together like pieces of a puzzle. Editing was pure exhilaration mixed with awe. I was amazed at how we could manipulate the images and emotions. My co-editor, Bob Coonrod, and I sat for hours upon hours editing on his laptop in my dining room", says Janine. Such intricate detail: from the lift of an eyebrow to the curve of a lip, to the synchronizing of mother and daughter hanging up the phone and wiping away tears."

The short story spans the course of five years and was written with many flashbacks. "My big challenge was to span five years, with flashbacks, in twenty-three minutes", says Janine. Her screenplay was true to the the book in regards to all of the flashbacks. However, in editing she totally revamped the film by combining all the flashbacks into one section. "After the first rough cut I knew the flow could be better. Thus, I restructured the cut by putting it in chronological order. Then, one night at midnight, I had a vision to book-end the flashbacks with the bus scene. I saw Sara Jean's hair spinning in slow motion as she heard "Mama". It was wild to watch my midnight madness manifest on the computer screen."

The intricacy of color timing was followed by the sensation of the sound lab. ADR, Foley and sound design proved to be essential as well. "I remember that I thought one of the moments by the bus needed something", recalls Janine. "We played with wind, then windmill, finally I suggested a bird. We went through six different types of birds before we settled on a crow. Then, of course we had to find the right kind of crow sound: singular, multiple, fast or slow. In the end, it added just the right type of haunt."

Music was one of Janine's favorite processes. She thoroughly enjoyed sitting in on the music sessions watching the composers and musicians at work. "We would add dobro here an take out strings there. At times I wanted solitary instruments such as the lone fiddle or simple mandolin plucks to mirror Sara Jean's loneliness. The mixing of the music to the emotions was mesmerizing."

How would Janine sum up her Trip in a summer Dress? "I am absolutely enthralled with every aspect t of filmmaking form the genesis of the script to going to the printing press to check the color saturation on the movie poster. I look forward to many exciting directorial trips in the future."

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