(Carry On) Screaming

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A year ago I was doing this –

 

and this –

And it’s hard to believe how much time has flown since then.

I still remember how I felt the first time I saw the Manor House in West Bromwich. It was a majestic, imposing building and walking around I could see the potential for using it as a filming location. I was snapping photos on my phone and all the time I was thinking about shots and framing and how to bring my part of the film to life.

The months between our first visit to the Manor House and filming there flew by at an alarming rate. At first we had all the time in the world and then time seemed to speed up as we raced towards principal photography. We gathered crew and cast around us and sorted out the million and one things that were required when you film something as huge as “The House of Screaming Death”.

Bringing my own story to life was an interesting challenge for me. I’d lived with the broad strokes of “The Lady in Grey” since I first came up with the story all the way back in 2004. The version that we made was far more refined than that original comic but it still retained the essence of the story.

Part of the fun of directing LIG was the opportunity to work with my daughter, who played Lady Sarah – the eponymous Lady in Grey herself. And there was also the challenge of bringing each of the many eras my story crossed (The Elizabethan era, World War 1, World War 2) to life.

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Including pick-up and additional photography we spent three and a half days filming “The Lady in Grey”. It was an absolute pleasure to edit the footage and see the story taking shape as the actors brought my characters to life in such a wonderful way. The entire film is currently in the final stages of post production where it undergoes VFX editing, audio recording and the myriad of other steps a film requires before it is released. Our amazing composer Matthew Calvert is working hard on the score and I can’t wait to be able to screen the feature film for an audience late this year.

In total it has taken four years to bring “The House of Screaming Death” to life and it’s still hard to wrap my head around just how much time has passed. I’ve made some good friends and great memories working on this film and when we finally get to share it with you I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed making it.

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Sustain

What do you do when you find yourself with one award winning movie under your belt and a highly anticipated one featuring a well known actor due for release later this year?

You make another movie of course!

Trio

Sustain is a hard hitting, gritty British drama that follows the aftermath of a brutal racially motivated attack that ends in tragedy. It explores tolerance, grief, family and the lengths people are driven to to find justice.

The creative team behind Checking In and The House of Screaming Death are now turning their hand to something the UK does well – down to earth, character driven drama that challenges and entertains. Sustain draws inspiration from classic British films such as Get Carter, Harry Brown, Dead Man’s Shoes, and even Eden Lake, as well as being influenced by the writing of such celebrated home grown talent as Jimmy McGovern (The Street, Accused).

Production begins in early 2017 with a fantastic ensemble cast, the majority of who originate from the Midlands, a tradition the team were very conscious of wanting to continue while also welcoming new talent to the project, both in front of and behind the camera.

Producer Keiran Bowers calls on people to help support the film, either by donating to the campaign or simply by sharing it, and all the new content that is posted through social networking avenues, to help get it out there, because, as he states, “I read the screenplay and I was floored by how well written the characters are. This alone should get people excited!”

“I’m very excited about SUSTAIN”, concludes writer/director Dave Hastings. “It has lots of depth, unique and intense conflict throughout and deals with very universal themes. And it’s as far away from ghouls and ghosts as I could ever have wished for on my next project. I cannot wait for you to see what this amazing cast and crew have in store for audiences. It will completely surprise you and you’ll remember it long after the final credits have rolled for sure!”

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Sustain is currently in pre-production and crowdfunding is taking place vie Indiegogo –

Sustain Crowdfunder

You can also follow them on:

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Further into Darkness

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“I confess, I do love telling a good, scary story….” – The Architect13122842_580772145416376_6941029755860405396_o.jpg

The Architect, a purveyor of dark dreams who crafts his tales of terror from the torn fabric of nightmares. This intriguing character has been given life by gifted actor Ian McNeice who adds a touch of charm to the horrors The Architect speaks about. The character is shrouded in mystery and nothing will prepare you for the surprises he has in store in The House of Screaming Death. Ian McNeice is known for such genre films as ‘From Hell’ and ‘White Noise’, as well as starring in ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘Dune’. He joined the massive ensemble cast for the film, a project that lovingly pays homage to the style, tone and content from the classic heyday of Hammer Horror and Amicus Studios.

Producer Dave Hastings, who wrote the Architect scenes, remarks that “after reading through the script with Ian in early January, he immediately got what we were attempting to do, as well as being very impressed with the first trailer we’d released last Halloween. We discussed the role, what it meant to us as all, as well as his own ideas, which were thrilling to hear. From the first take we did on set, everyone just watched him, spellbound and you could have heard a pin drop!

Kaush Patel, who directed The Architect segments over the course of two days in mid-February this year, observes that “when the concept of The Architect character started developing in the script we knew straight away that our film needed someone who would bring a sense of appreciation and esteem to the classic Hammer/British Gothic Horror genre that we loved. We approached Ian directly for the role and showed him the trailer and the pre-production work we had done beforehand. He was very impressed with how hard we had worked with the film so far but he also looked at our previous feature “Checking-In”, which won BEST BRITISH FILM at the London Film Awards in 2014.

The film is currently in post production with an anticipated release in late October – just in time for Halloween.

Click here to see the Band new trailer

 

The House of Screaming Death – filming

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A long, long time ago in the early September of 2012…

The “Checking In” team gathered to talk about what we’d do next. Antholgies seem to work for us, so that was the way we were going to go. We also had a collective love of horror movies, especially the old films from Hammer. From this madness came “The House of The Screaming Death” (we dropped the second “the” shortly after).  Four stories; ghosts, witches, vampyres, demons all woven together by our very own master of the macabre, The Architect. Such a simple idea, but it took on a life of its own and grew beyond our expectations.

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Casting was undertaken and location scouting began. As part of the process we produced a series of mini prequels to each of the films’ main stories which would give people their first look at the world we were creating. There was a modestly successful crowdfunding campaign and we built up a core team of crew who would be with us throughout the shoot.

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Production design went into full swing with props, make-up and costume being created alongside storyboards and concept art. At the same time we documented the process with a series of videos – “The Blog of Screaming Death”. In August 2015 principal photography began on “The Witch in the Mirror”.

This was followed by “The Lady in Grey”.

And then “The Vampyre”.

And “The Diabolique”.

Once principal photography wrapped we went away (to recover) and the process of assembling the first edit began. In february 2016 a week of pick-up shots and additional footage was undertaken. During this week we also filmed all of the linking sequences for the film featuring The Architect.

“The House of Screaming Death” is currently in post production, where it is being edited prior to scoring and the million other things that a film requires before it is released. We’re also busy promoting the film at comic conventions on radio and television.

I hope you stick with us as our little film (that grew slightly out of hand) draws close to completion. It’s been a long, amazing ride filled with fantastic people, brilliant locations and more than a few surprises. Our next big surprise will come later today with the release of a brand new trailer where we finally reveal the answer to the question we have been asking for so long now – “Who is The Architect?”.

 

The House of Screaming Death

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In September 2012, a group of slightly crazy people were putting the finishing touches to the award winning “Checking In” and talking about what to do next. From that came the anthology horror film “The House of Screaming Death” featuring four tales of terror related to a group of very special guests by a collector of the macabre known only as The Architect.

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This is how we began our indie film, with a teaser trailer before our crowdfunding campaign – youtu.be/XcBwYa5JVVE just a little something for the curious. A tiny tidbit to whet your appetites for the scares that were yet to come…

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Then we introduced special teasers for the stories from the film begining with “The Lady in Grey” – youtu.be/blLzGG42HOg

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“The Witch in the Mirror” came next and gave us our first glimpse of the dark menace of the Necromancers – https://youtu.be/euvud9Rc3bA

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A doomed attempt to track “The Vampyre” followed and the earth ran red with the blood of his victims – https://youtu.be/XblQFTZmEGo

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A summoning of dark forces in “The Diabolique” teaser may open the gateway to the destruction of everything you know and love – https://youtu.be/aImCAy2t5Oo

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In August 2015 an intensive shoot was undertaken using a variety of stunning locations and featuring some fantastic actors. The first full trailer gave us a taste of what was yet to come – https://youtu.be/OiUdB_BpbEQ in our little anthology and begins to show the wonderful locations, high production values and amazing cast.

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A week of pick-ups and additional scenes followed in February 2016 and then the film was turned over to the editors – the footage is spectacular! Tomorrow will see the release of a brand new trailer which finally reveals the identity of the film’s lead actor, something we’ve been keeping to ourselves for long months now (most of the cast and some crew have no idea yet who he is!). I’m pretty sure the internet will explode at 2pm on saturday and I’m looking forward to seeing how people react to our little film.

 

 

Checking In – Looking back (a behind the scenes special)

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UntitldggdgedAlmost a year ago an ambitious independent film project was screened for the first time to an enthusiastic audience. Checking In has gone on to be featured in film festivals across the world and won Best British Film at the London Film Awards 2014. The movie is now available on VOD for the first time and in celebration of its continued success we’re going to be visiting some of the cast and reflecting upon the film in a series of special blogs.

This particular post is a little different as we take a peek behind the scenes of what goes into making an independent movie in a real life hotel on a shoestring budget.

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Director Leah Green talks to actor Michelle Cox (Sally) and musician Adrian Harvey prior to filming a scene for story #2 Sally & Tim.

Director Troy Dennison with DOP Ben Thompson preparing to film Nici Preston (Radka) in a scene from story # Ted & Mary.

Director Troy Dennison with DOP Ben Thompson preparing to film Nici Preston (Radka) in a scene from story #1 Ted & Mary.

Director Mark Adams talks to Laura Evenson (Jenessa) on story #3 Ed & Jenessa.

Director Mark Adams talks to Laura Evenson (Jenessa) between scenes.

Reynah Rita Oppal (Kalpna) in make-up during the filming of story #4 Ren & Kalpna.

Katey Wilkins (Lady of the Night) in make-up during the filming of story #4 Ren & Kalpna.

Actors Conner McKenzy (Pete) and Tony Gibbons (Aaron) rehears one of the intense scenes for stoy #5 Pete & Aaron.

Actors Conner McKenzy (Pete) and Tony Gibbons (Aaron) rehears one of the intense scenes for stoy #5 Pete & Aaron.

All of our amazing extras (and a couple of the directors) line up after shooting the intricate wedding scene for story #4.

All of our amazing extras (and a couple of the directors) line up after shooting the intricate wedding scene for story #4.

Once filming is copleted the long and arduous process of editing takes place.

Once filming is completed the long and arduous process of editing takes place.

Phil Stanley (Ren), Reynah Rita Oppal (Kalpna) and Katie Wilkins (the lady of negotiable affection) at the films' premier at the Lighthouse cinema.

Phil Stanley (Ren), Reynah Rita Oppal (Kalpna) and Katie Wilkins (the lady of negotiable affection) at the films’ premier at the Lighthouse cinema.

Some of the team gathered outside the hotel for a newspaper photoshoot.

Some of the team gathered outside the hotel for a newspaper photoshoot.

Tony Gibbons (Aaron) being interviewed by Satnam Rana for BBC Midlands Today.

Tony Gibbons (Aaron) being interviewed by Satnam Rana for BBC Midlands Today.

Rebecca Harris-Smith, Roger David Francis and Troy Dennison being interviewed by Carl Jones for Bigcentre TV.

Rebecca Harris-Smith, Roger David Francis and Troy Dennison being interviewed by Carl Jones for Bigcentre TV.

A Q&A session with the audience following one if the films' special screenings.

A Q&A session with the audience following one if the films’ special screenings.

Click the image below to see the film’s trailer –

checkingindeskChecking in is now currently available on VOD at the following sites –

10868278_10154976281070241_1462151664844279540_nVimeo Link (click image)

575683_10152730868360241_891512957_n

VHX Link (click image)

The Lighthouse

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lighthouse

The light always burned.

There were other rules, but that was really the only one that counted. The light burned and everything we did was dedicated to that end. There was a time when I was a boy that the light only burned at night. It was a warning, keeping ships away from the vicious rocks that surrounded The Point. For almost two hundred years the lighthouse had been a signal warding off vessels. That changed as all things do and now the lighthouse serves as a beacon of hope; a last glimmer of salvation in the heart of the all consuming darkness.

The Point was connected by a thin causeway to Shandau Island and it sat like a finger pointing out into the deep grey waters of the Atlantic. The road was poorly maintained and it was only passable at low tide when the weather was favourable. I remember an entire fortnight when I was ten years old where the provisions ran perilously low because the weather was so bad that there was no way to reach us. We persevered; we always do out at The Point.

Sometimes I look back on my childhood and I barely recognise the boy I once was. He is a stranger to me, separated by the distance of far too much time. He had bright blue eyes and the curliest blonde hair. My hair is grey, my eyes dimmed by age and sadness. I seem to recall his unending thirst for answers to even the most trivial of questions and an absolute exuberance that only youth may hold. I miss those days, that innocence and the promise of limitless tomorrows.

My father was the keeper back then and it was his job to maintain the light and keep it running. He was good at what he did and I learned well under his tutelage. I remember his gravel filled voice and hands that seemed the size of shovels but were capable of the most delicate of electrical work. My father’s personality filled the rooms of the lighthouse and his spirit and enthusiasm carried us through the darkest nights.

For some I think the solitude of The Point would have been too much, but my father loved it here and I developed similar feelings over the years. I never resented not having others around because I never knew another life. The views from The Point were always breathtaking come fair weather or foul. And it was never quiet here; there was always the percussive rumble of the waves beating a rhythm against the bedrock we stood upon.

I can reach out my hand to touch the cold concrete wall and feel the vibrations from the swell of the ocean. I have always imagined that this background noise is what people in the city felt. Of course I have no way of really knowing because I never had cause to visit a city when I was young and now, well things are different. The waves are percussion, the cry of the gulls are strings; there is exquisite music here if you know how to listen.

After my father passed I stayed at The Point, maintaining the light and tending the radio. Supplies came across the causeway twice a week (weather permitting) and my life was a simple, fulfilling one. I helped to save lives each and every day and that feeling of duty carried me through dark days and bleak winters. Even with my father gone I never truly felt alone, or perhaps I just became used to the solitude, hardened to the isolation.

After The Collapse everything changed. The dark dust clouds took away the sun, and the electromagnetic storms destroyed just about every form of communication we had. The electricity stopped flowing and eventually the fuel reservoir ran empty. The light went out and in the absolute darkness that wrapped itself around me I almost lost all hope; almost.

I remember as a child I would hold my hand up towards the sun and feel its warmth upon my skin. I used to marvel at how far that heat had travelled; ninety three million miles. I could vaguely grasp the incredible distance but I struggled with just how hot it would feel to be closer to the sun than I was. We took the sun for granted, and why not? After all it had always been a constant in our world. We had worshipped it, sacrificed to it and loved and feared it in equal measure. We could barely imagine an existence without it and when that world arrived we were unprepared.

I nearly died in the Fimbulwinter that followed The Collapse, countless millions more did perish. I fear that the afterlife or Heaven or whatever else awaits us beyond this world was ill prepared for such multitudes of souls. My food ran out days after my fuel and I braved the causeway in the depths of a howling storm. I remember the dust and the darkness and the journey to Shandau that seemed to take an eternity. My lungs burned, my legs ached, my exposed skin was savaged by the dust storm, but somehow I made my way to land.

I was crawling on my knees, sobbing with agony when hands drew me from despair into warmth and light once more. I was half blind and delirious with pain but I still remember how sweet and fresh the sips of water I was given tasted. The commune on Shandau had been mocked for years. They were called hippies and dropouts, their quest for alternative power and naturally produced food was only met with derision. They were our salvation.

The towering wind farm provided power to the small community and now that the wind never ceased the power was constant. It generated light and heat and sustained the insulated tunnels that the crops grew in. The commune had everything it needed to survive The Collapse; almost everything. The only thing the community truly lacked was people. I would have joined them but I am too old and set in my ways and far too used to being alone. Even though I was grateful to them I did not wish to join them. But there was something that I could do and I could do it far better than anyone else.

It took some time as such things do, but we restored power to the lighthouse and I returned home. Now though, instead of shining only at night The Point was ablaze with light all the time. My home became a shimmering beacon of hope in the vast darkness that threatened to swallow our world. I showed the way and people came. There are seventeen families at the commune now, and even though I still live alone I am part of their community.

It feels good to be surrounded by warmth and light, conversation and companionship. I like belonging and I still have my duty to perform, and while I am isolated I am never truly alone. The storm endures, but so does the lighthouse at The Point. Even in the darkness of Fimbulwinter my heart is as light as the beacon I tend. We may never see the sun again, but we have our own ray of hope; the human spirit will endure, and that light will never be extinguished.

T. Dennison 14/06/2015

Inspired by the work of Andy Simon – Darkslide Photography

Checking In – Looking back with Aaron #8 in a limited series

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UntitldggdgedAlmost a year ago an ambitious independent film project was screened for the first time to an enthusiastic audience. Checking In has gone on to be featured in film festivals across the world and won Best British Film at the London Film Awards 2014. The movie is now available on VOD for the first time and in celebration of its continued success we’re going to be visiting some of the cast and reflecting upon the film in a series of special blogs.

In this continuing series of interviews we have the extraordinary Tony Gibbons.

Tony being interviewed by Satnam Rana for BBC Midlands Today

Tony being interviewed by Satnam Rana for BBC Midlands Today

Can you tell us a little bit about your character in Checking In?

My character Aaron is a young gay man who on first appearance seems to be totally happy in his skin, and much more comfortable with his lifestyle than Pete, who is still struggling with his sexuality. As the story plays out though we see that it hasn’t always been that way for Aaron, that he had to deal with bullying and other problems that come with being ‘different’, and although he appears outwardly happy meeting men for a bit of fun here and there, what he’s really searching for is a place, and a person, to belong.

What aspects of your character did you enjoy portraying most?547345_10151031065187409_714681489_n

Although I am a straight man myself, I have a good number of friends who are gay, and so I am all too familiar with some of the issues they have to deal with from ignorant individuals. What I liked about Aaron was the mix of emotions, and the fact that as the story progressed I got to let his mask slip and reveal more than what first meets the eye.

What sort of preparation did you have to do for this role?

I generally just try to find and play the truth in a text, and live in those circumstances as if they were real. I thought the story was so well written that that made it an easy job!

482382_10152743749050241_1231987474_nWhat was it like working in a real life hotel?

It definitely added a sense of realism to the imagined circumstances.

What type of movie do you enjoy watching and why?

It depends! On my mood, my company… I like any genre as long as its well done… I actually really like a well done rom-com with some drama to them – indie romance… something like the film ‘Jesse and Celeste Forever’. And then there’s always those nights where a good (or REALLY bad!) action film is needed!

What was the most challenging aspect of the production for you?

I love my sleep and we shot through the night… depriving me of my beloved sleep. It was worth it though!

Click the image below to see the film’s trailer –

checkingindeskChecking in is now currently available on VOD at the following sites –

10868278_10154976281070241_1462151664844279540_nVimeo Link (click image)

575683_10152730868360241_891512957_n

VHX Link (click image)

Check back soon for another interview with the cast of Checking In.

Checking In – Looking back with Sally #7 in a limited series

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UntitldggdgedAlmost a year ago an ambitious independent film project was screened for the first time to an enthusiastic audience. Checking In has gone on to be featured in film festivals across the world and won Best British Film at the London Film Awards 2014. The movie is now available on VOD for the first time and in celebration of its continued success we’re going to be visiting some of the cast and reflecting upon the film in a series of special blogs.

In this continuing series of interviews we have the girl with a guitar Michelle Cox.

Can you tell us a little bit about your character in Checking In?

I play a young girl called Sally who has been a struggling musician for many years and is starting to feel overcome with the negative effects that brings. Her agent has just got her this hotel gig, and by the end of it she is ready to throw the towel in.

What aspects of your character did you enjoy portraying most?

I really connected with Sally because, like her, I have been a struggling singer for many years, having to deal with the rejection and hardships. It was a beautiful story that I really could identify with and I hope others will take away a little of her renewed inspiration at the end of the story.

What sort of preparation did you have to do for this role?393778_10151028027452409_1273026880_n

Well actually I had to learn guitar. Funny story, in the audition I was asked if I could play guitar, and I said yes. Having never picked one up before, and me being a cellist, I thought how hard could it be? So after getting cast, I had two weeks to learn enough to look like I knew what I was doing!

What was it like working in a real life hotel?

I worked for Hilton hotels and I could definitely see how events that unfold in a hotel could make very entertaining stories on film. It’s a great, sociable job to have.

What type of movie do you enjoy watching and why?

Tough one. I like a good musical movie, with me being a singer as well as an actress. Things like Phantom of the Opera or Evita. Movies that make you feel something!

On set with writer/director Leah Green

On set with writer/director Leah Green

What was the most challenging aspect of the production for you?

Playing guitar convincingly? No, I guess singing the song live was challenging. We literally did it in one take. What you hear on screen is live as its being shot. No studio production, just that.

Click the image below to see the film’s trailer –

checkingindeskChecking in is now currently available on VOD at the following sites –

10868278_10154976281070241_1462151664844279540_nVimeo Link (click image)

575683_10152730868360241_891512957_n

VHX Link (click image)

Check back soon for another interview with the cast of Checking In.

Checking In – Looking back with Kalpna #6 in a limited series

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UntitldggdgedAlmost a year ago an ambitious independent film project was screened for the first time to an enthusiastic audience. Checking In has gone on to be featured in film festivals across the world and won Best British Film at the London Film Awards 2014. The movie is now available on VOD for the first time and in celebration of its continued success we’re going to be visiting some of the cast and reflecting upon the film in a series of special blogs.

In this continuing series of interviews we have our resident runaway bride Reynah Rita Oppal.

427567_10151013728172409_1268902023_nCan you tell us a little bit about your character in Checking In?

Kalpna is led by her heart and has to remain true to it- this can be mistaken for her being immature and slightly rebellious.

What aspects of your character did you enjoy portraying most?

I loved playing the parts where she came across as rebellious, running from the wedding and then hiding in the hotel!

What sort of preparation did you have to do for this role?

I thought back to times in my own life when I needed to undo a mistake I had made and felt desperate, I remembered that feeling and responded in a way that Kalpna would and not me. Reynah

What was it like working in a real life hotel?

It was fun being in a hotel and made it real for us!

What type of movie do you enjoy watching and why?

I’m an indie film lover. They tend to push a lot more boundaries and challenge me as a film lover. And I also find the acting is better too and with a lot of unknown names it makes the story more believable. The stranger the film the better!

What was the most challenging aspect of the production for you?

For me it was the wedding reception scene. That scene is a personal nightmare of mine so I had to keep focus that Kalpna wanted this so she must enjoy herself! It helped having supporting cast and crew in those moments!

Click the image below to see the film’s trailer –

checkingindeskChecking in is now currently available on VOD at the following sites –

10868278_10154976281070241_1462151664844279540_nVimeo Link (click image)

575683_10152730868360241_891512957_n

VHX Link (click image)

Check back soon for another interview with the cast of Checking In.

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