Dear fellow filmmakers, viewers, and fans,
As I reflect on the years that led up to the completion of "The Ghost-Eye Tree," I am reminded of when I was a young boy, and my father would come home from work and tell me about his day and his trip on the train home. He would dramatize the stories to make them more exciting. He told me about the owl that followed him on the train from Manhattan and how it told him things and watched over him. The stories changed daily, and the details are difficult for me to remember, but I am certain that the thrill I got from hearing about his day with the owl is something that sparked an interest in my need to tell stories.
I believe that it's important for children to be read to, and told stories to, and should be encouraged to use their imagination. Today, with technology consuming so much of the average child's day, it's hard for them to explore their own thoughts. So what does this have to do with my film? My mother read the "The Ghost-Eye Tree" book to me as a boy and the influence that the words and illustration had on me, stayed with me. In 2006, when I was looking for ideas, I asked my mother if she still had the book. She found it for me and I was immediately transported back to the times I had as a boy with the book. I began drafting the script and thinking about how I would shoot it. It was important to me to share the story with others, and I've done it the only way I know how: through film.
In spring 2007, I presented the idea to James P. McEvoy, the films cinematographer, and we began brainstorming shots, color schemes, and soon after decided to use 35mm film. Over the following months, we had meetings between myself, James, and Brian T. Baker, the films production designer and assistant director, where we came up with ambitious shot lists and I told them how important the design was to stay true to the book. In fall 2007, I met with Amanda Rocco, the films casting director, who helped me to find the best cast I ever worked with. We held auditions in Manhattan and found talent on Internet casting sites. She stayed with me throughout all of preproduction, and on set, she stepped in as 2nd assistant director.
Finding locations on Long Island to match the time period of the story (1940's) and also be accurate to the way I interpret the book was a challenge. We needed to shoot at night, and finding a location that would offer staff at late hours was difficult. We scouted many state parks, historical sites, and farms, before I finally found what I was looking for. We needed a historic house, an old dairy barn, and wooded trails. Queens County Farm Museum in Floral Park had the house and trails, Suffolk County Farm and Education Center had the big barn and cows necessary for the story, and Belmont Lake State Park offered a wooden bridge and trails to suit the film nicely. After obtaining permits, filing for insurance, and a lot of waiting, the locations were locked. Now all we needed was a 35mm camera and a crew.
Five Towns College assisted us in getting the camera and film stock, provided most of the grip and electric equipment, and the crew was entirely made up of the college's students and alumni. The story takes place in autumn, and it was important to me that the leaves have the autumn colors. We shot some of the film in December 2007 and the rest in February 2008. The cold weather and winter nights were not the best conditions to work in, but the schedule worked best for the film to be shot at those times. We battled rain, snow, and sometimes temperatures in the low 20's, but we never gave up.
Working with scenes taking place at night, outdoors, in cold weather, with animals and children was a challenge, but I knew that going in, and I was prepared for it. In the end, everything flowed together and I could not be happier with the final product. The Ghost-Eye Tree is a story that has a certain sentiment to me because my mother read it to me as a boy. It has been a dream of mine to make the book into a film for a long time, and that makes every long day and night of planning and production well worth it. I hope you enjoy the film as much as I do.
The Ghost-Eye Tree