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The Making of San Francisco Stories

Or how five friends and a cow found the spirit of a city

November 2017. As Tony Jonick, Dana Moe, and Alisha McCutcheon sat at Philz cafe in San Francisco, waiting for their films to screen at the film festival at Castro Theater, Tony said, “We know how to make short films. Let’s figure out how to do a bunch of short ones that go together, and make a feature.” Dana immediately loved the idea, “Let’s do something like New York Stories, or Paris, je t’aime, only about San Francisco.” 

Next it was time to “crew up,” so the team drew from the ranks of their talented friends in Scary Cow, the San Francisco-based filmmaking collective they’d been involved with for years. They decided to bring in writer/directors Scotty Cornfield, a retired police detective with a pathological need to make puns, and Chapman Screenwriting graduate Donna Mae Foronda. Each of the five filmmakers would direct a segment; Tony, Scotty, Dana, and Donna would handle the screenwriting, and Alisha would be director of photography for the entire feature. The group decided to make the project official by forming a production company called Phase 4 Films. 

Once the scripts were complete, the five filmmakers organized a table read, featuring professional actors. Casting came next with auditions held in the basement of the Tenderloin Police Department, a location that resulted in a high no-show rate. Still, the five Phase 4 partners found the talent they needed to tell their stories, including many SAG actors. 

Dozens of Scary Cow friends worked on the film, running cameras, recording sound, prepping extras, art design, and the hundred other tasks need to make a films. Principal photography was completed between May and September of 2018 on the five short films that would make up the feature: Sign of the Times, Moonwalker, Deepwater, Flowers in Her Hair; and finally Left Heart. Pick-up shots came later and finally, the feature’s epilogue, which ties the stories together, was shot in October, 2019. With everything in the can, it was time to hand over the project to Academy Award-nominated editor, Robert Dalva to weave the shorts together in a way that would resonate with audiences.

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