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Raspberry Makes Magic in Oakland
by Reynard Seifert
When Megha Kadakia and Leena Pendharkar set out to find a location for their feature-length film Raspberry Magic, they wanted to find a location that could provide the outdoor setting called for in their script (a redwood forest) as well as more ordinary urban settings, without being too far removed from a major city. They chose Oakland.
"We couldn't have done this in Los Angeles," said producer Megha Kadakia. Although the film is set in the Pacific Northwest, Megha and Leena found Oakland's variety of locations, all in remarkably close proximity to each other, to be ideal for their production. Rather than simply shoot exteriors in the Pacific Northwest and interiors in Los Angeles, where they are from, they decided that it would make more economic sense, and lend more authenticity, if they shot the whole film in the same place.
The coming-of-age story is described by writer/director Leena Pendharkar as, "Little Miss Sunshine meets The Squid and the Whale." Shot in 2008, they filmed in the Joaquin Miller Park, Montclair, Redwood Elementary, and Montera Middle School, among other locations, including a strip mall. Oakland's diversity and beauty helped make the film possible, especially after their funding was significantly cut right before going into production.
While Megha Kadakia doesn't think their decision to go forward with a lower budget hurt the film, they did have to make some sacrifices. "It was worth it," said Kadakia. "We had to move forward and nothing was creatively jeopardized by the budget."
Raspberry Magic was made for less than a million dollars. According to Megha, the Oakland Film Office was instrumental in making the film happen, working to leverage contracts and find solutions, and saving their production a great deal of time and money. She and her team had a great time shooting in Oakland. They found people to be very film-friendly, and would recommend shooting in the East Bay to other filmmakers.
But Megha does think the Bay Area could do a better job providing better incentives and cheaper production goods and services. As she said, "The little things can make a big difference." Megha agreed that the more incentives the city can provide, the more independent productions we will see come to the Bay Area.
Additionally, Megha had some concerns that should certainly be addressed by the Bay Area filmmaking industry at large. While they didn't have a problem hiring local crew, they did find it difficult to hire enough people with the feature-length experience one would easily find in Los Angeles. Perhaps this is to be expected in an area with many more commercials than features, but if we want L.A. filmmakers shooting in Oakland to continue hiring local crew - and we most certainly do - we will need more people with an understanding of the hierarchical on-set rules those acclimated to L.A. filmmaking have come to expect. "I hate to say it, but the rules exist for a reason," Megha said. "It can be very distracting when they are broken."
Of course, having some inexperienced crewmembers is perhaps a small price to pay for the money saved by filming in Oakland. Hopefully, as more films decide to locate here, and as the city provides more incentives, we can cultivate a deeper talent pool which producers like Megha can dip into. In the meantime, let us hope they will have the patience to continue making art and bringing business to the city.
As of press time Raspberry Magic was still in postproduction, about a month from picture lock. A trailer will be coming out soon, and they will begin submitting to the film festival circuit in May and June, seeking distribution. Check out their website (raspberrymagic.com) for further updates.
Posted on Apr 06, 2009 - 11:40 PM