First-time narrative writer/director Gregory Caruso expanded his 2016 short film Flock of Four into a feature that transports the audience to the 1950s during the height of the Jazz era, on Central Avenue, in Los Angeles. The story follows four teenage friends who make their way to Central Avenue from Pasadena, in pursuit of a legendary jazz musician. Along the journey, the teenagers come across African American siblings (a sister and brother), who have contrasting racial perceptions that through circumstances assist the boys in tracking down the iconic performer.
The concept for the film stemmed from the director’s passion for Jazz and the 1950s. Caruso reflected, “I’ve always felt a connection to the music and listen to Jazz every day. My interest naturally aligned with wanting to learn more about the history. I wanted to craft a story that took place for a duration of one night, while also celebrating a less known aspect of L.A. I wish I could have been around in the 40s and 50s to witness Central Avenue, because it’s all unrecognizable today from what it once was.”
Casting any film involves a considerable amount of time. “It’s a fascinating process, because you have a certain idea of the character and sometimes someone comes in and nails it. Sometimes they come in and maybe we rethink certain aspects of the character, because we really connect with the actor. You’re auditioning a lot of actors to make sure you’re getting the right person for the role,” expounded Caruso. With any ensemble piece, chemistry is of the utmost importance. The four main characters consists of Joey (Braeden Lemasters), Archie (Uriah Shelton), Bud (Isaac Jay), and Louie (Dylan Riley Snyder). The director noted, “We really wanted to make sure we had the right four and then the right four had the right chemistry. They all connected off the bat, really bought into their roles, and the time period. It was amazing to work with young actors at this stage of my career.”
Fabricating the 1950s look is an undertaking in itself. “The challenges of it are not looking or feeling believable. If you don’t get it right, then you run the risk of it being obviously a recreation. The whole point was to really take the audience back in time and immerse them in the time period and the music. It was making sure every single detail was right; whether that was costuming, production design, or the way an actor’s hair was combed. If there’s one thing sticking out, that’s going to take the audience away from it and that’s the last thing you want,” Caruso highlighted.
Collaboration is another component that bolstered the time period’s style as the director relied on familiar faces working together with experienced crew members. Caruso, the co-writer, cinematographer, and two producers were all close acquaintances prior to filming. The additional team included a few veterans. The filmmaker praised the crew, “Our production designer had worked on “Mad Men” as well as our costume designer; they truly were masters at their craft of understanding the 50s and 60s and what we were going for.”
“The message was one, go after your dreams. It’s also about meeting different people in different circumstances; it’s about understanding and going to different places. The core is sticking with what you believe. There’s always going to be a deterrence, people challenging your interests, and your belief in yourself,” said the director.
This inspirational, 1950s period Jazz film known as Flock of Four opens in theaters on April 13, 2018.