So here's the second of the two films we produced to accompany "Cancelled." Aaaaand the director's notes: It's important to note that the show "Cop Force" itself wasn't responsible for "Police Department's" cancellation. That's part of the joke of the cop drama. The Cancelled guy just *blames* "Cop Force" for "Police Department's" demise. I don't recall an instance in TV history where one cop show was cancelled because another one did better. That's part of the point of "Cancelled"--the misplaced anger.
Cop Force was meant to be really "now," which is a hard thing to capture since again, none of us really watch cop dramas on the regular. So Derek was smart enough to do some research after I threw out "I dunno, like CSI and stuff" and he watched a few episodes of "Person of Interest" and encouraged me to do the same. "Person of Interest" was a good one because their whole thing is technology and they use a lot of transparent computer screens or something just to do math. It's over-the-top and everything, but I was able to get through two episodes of it without wanting to die or go to sleep so I guess that makes it an above-average cop drama as far as I'm concerned.
Initially, we had planned to cast Paul Tsiaperas and Mason Shelby in the lead roles as the two asshole cops. We were aware that they didn't look alike, but thought there might be humor in hiring best friends show don't look alike to play twin brothers. We were probably wrong, but didn't have a chance to test that theory because when I made a general casting call on Facebook to try and find people to play parts in the larger "Cop Force" cast, Javier Diaz was one of the first to volunteer. So I told him the plot and he was like "wait, you want twins?" I'd forgotten up until that point that he was an actual twin. So Javi contacted Nestor Diaz and convinced him to work with us. I'm so grateful for this because not only did they look great, but my affection for their mannerisms and line delivery is so special. Pete and I are known to throw out portions of their dialog at home (AND STOP THAT JACKED UP MACHINE). They truly are Terry and Barry and we even got some feedback from showing the films on the road that they were right for the parts because they were so hot and sexy. :)
Unlike "Police Department," the casting of which was easy because we were able to get a lot of close friends to do it (close friends for whom it is much easier to get to commit two full weekend days to shoot), "Cop Force" was cast mostly with people we just recently met or in some cases, hadn't met at all. Akosua Johnson played the nurse and actually filled in at the last minute (well, I think they agreed to do it two weeks before we started filming). The nurse's role is a big one because they have a lot of dialog and kind of ties the whole plot together. It's also a role that requires a 3rod or 4th layer of irony that's not so easy to pull off, but Akosua was perfect and looked FANTASTIC on screen. They even brought their own wig!
Winston Psmith showed interest when I made the general casting call and I was thrilled he did because the word "CHIEF" popped immediately into my head and I've actually gotten more feedback on his great performance than anyone else's. I'm also really proud of his costume. He provided the shirt and pants, but I thought he really needed a pair of red suspenders, too. I loved everything about his performance.
Fun fact here. We intentionally did a lot of product placement in "Cop Force" and there was supposed to be more but we couldn't get an angle in the office we were using as Chief Winston's to make the THREE Apple monitors on the desk visible. Part of the gag was supposed to be that although he had three Apple monitors on the desk, he pulled out a Mac laptop for a 4th view of the logo. Oh well.
Winston recommended to me that I approach Kris Ruff (Shortstaxx) for a part in this film and again, my immediate thought was that she play Gabby. Kris has a ton of performancy clothes from her work in burlesque, as a performance artist, for a number of other creative endeavors. On the morning of shooting she tried on a few things for me to the point where I was just like "I don't know! They all look great!" Kris was amazing overall. Great combination of energetic and super professional.
The very last scene we filmed was actually the first one we storyboarded, which featured Eric Randall and Alana McGinty as the "teenage" couple. These two are hard to track down because they go on so many amazing vacations together, but were also delightful as the teenage couple from the cold open. I think it's safe to say that that scene co-starred Eric's hat. WHAT'S THAT LIGHT. It was filmed in a little park near our place in North Cleveland park near a lot of the embassies in that area. Pete and I have enjoyed taking walks there together and it meant a lot to me to film part of the show in such a nice place (despite the mosquitos the night we filmed).
When I first got the script, penned also by Derek Stewart, I said to myself "What the fuck, Derek? What do you think, we have unlimited resources and money?" He had explosions, blood, guts, exotic dancers, a bar scene, robots, and giant computer screens. We were able to pull everything off but the blood and guts, so huge ups to Derek again, for pushing us to make something more complicated than my instincts would have told me to do. And also for creating the Terry and Barry characters and for writing the line "I hate this stupid job." I did a lot of rewriting of "Police Department," but "Cop Force" was able to go practically right out of the box.
That said, it wasn't easy. We had a really hard time finding a bar in which to shoot the "break room" scene, which featured dancers Emily Crovellaand Dana Tannin, again, experienced members of the burlesque community. Thankfully, Akosua also had connections at The Looking Glass Lounge in Petworth, and the bar agreed to let us shoot, which we did on a Sunday shortly after it opened in the late afternoon (everyone in the background of that scene were actual patrons and bartenders). It was super stressful but I think it ended up looking great.
A lot of those interior shots, including Gabby's flashback scene, the hospital waiting room scene, and the chief's office scene were filmed at Mason's work on the Mount Vernon campus. I have NO idea what we would have done without his connections and know-how. He again also coordinated the amazing camera work of Eric Randall and did all the editing himself. There were a ton of times when we question Mason's motivation for putting so much work in and he would just tell us "I don't want it to suck." Thanks for not letting it suck. <3
"Cop Force" was literally the first film I ever worked on. The days were long and we were all kind of angry, but in retrospect it was SO fun and so awesome and I'll never forget those days. Especially the day we did the outdoor scenes, were all ready to film the scene where Paul Tsiaperas's nameless "hipster" character gets thrown out of a bar when a band started practicing upstairs from the bar and we couldn't hear ourselves over the bad jam-band stylings of whomever-they-were. So we relocated from Adams Morgan to Petworth. It was the right move. In any case, I have a deep appreciation for everyone who worked on "Cop Force" and remind you again not to be mad at it because "Police Department" was cancelled.