A daughter believes her mother is a real life superhero — and she might be right.
“Supermom” began as “Superdad” two years ago when LAFD Captain Nick Pellegrini and Jason Honeycutt got talking at their school, where their children both attended. Jason had a film in festivals and Nick said he should create one based around the world of firefighting and that he would love to help. Jason starting thinking of writing a film around a family trying to balance their dangerous work with being a ‘regular’ parent, something Jason saw with Nick as well as his wife, both firefighters.
An avid comic fan growing up, Jason also wanted the film to have a super hero element it, where the parent was also a super hero for their job. Nick put Jason in touch with various people at the Los Angeles Fire Department and Commander Alicia Welch saw potential in the project but had one note – could he make it the mother who was the hero? It was the best, most obvious note. As a parent of two girls, Jason loved the idea and quickly rewrote the script to reflect the mother being the hero.
While the script and idea were going up the ladder downtown, Jason got to work drawing the design of the costume. He wanted to create something with the exact colors of a fire engine as well as having a name starting with “S” to double as a character name, as well as “Supermom,” the film’s title. After weeks of trial and error, he found a name that wasn’t be used – “Skyfire.” The hero ‘flies into’ a scene where she is needed and controls the elements of water nearby, whether it be a lake, rain, water hose, etc. She also have super speed but is very much still human and could be hurt.
With Jason worked with her before, immediately, Justine Herron came to mind for the lead role of Skyfire. She is talented, athletic, and a great actor. The hardest part, though, would be dressing her ‘down’ for the mother sections of the film.
Originally the role of the daughter was written for Olivia Honeycutt, Jason’s daughter, when it was going to be called “Superdad.” To match Justine’s look, Olivia would no longer work and the casting search began for Addison. Olivia was moved to the “bully” role. After going through over 1,000 submissions for Addison, it was narrowed down to five girls but then Jason thought, “What if Olivia’s best friend, Kaylee, could do the part?” They would have immediate chemistry and they would be easier to direct with that familiarity. After a camera test, Kaylee won the part. However, Olivia and Kaylee, on different days, both said, “We cannot possibly act like we’re enemies – ever, because we are best friends and it would be impossible.”
The father role was vastly important as he is “every man” who tries to balance a ‘normal’ household with the realities of what his wife does for a living; something he struggles with daily, always afraid for her. Again, the casting search went out for the father role, over 800 people applied but nobody was quite right. Over a year ago, Jason’s other daughter had a birthday party where one of her friends came with her father. Working at FX Network, Jason immediately recognized him as John Hensley, the actor who played the starring role of Matt McNamara on “Nip/Tuck,” one of the network’s best shows of all time. They got talking about work and got to know each other better at other birthday parties. Eventually “Supermom” came up, Jason was talking about how casting was going when John asked if he could help out. No-brainer. He was absolutely perfect for the role, finding the middle ground of being vulnerable with his wife, yet, strong for his daughter.
DAY ONE – SCHOOL
In Los Angeles, we had been experiencing record-setting heat, hadn’t rained in about a month. However, the day we chose to film? Pouring rain all day. We made due with the situation, shooting inside the classroom first. The hardest part wasn’t lighting – it was wrangling hyper kids. They weren’t listening too well to the director but A Leslie, who obviously was convincing at the teacher, got them to focus on the scene.
After the classroom scene, we shifted to the playground scene. It was originally written as a sunny, ‘warm’ scene – but it was still pouring. We rented a 12′ x 12′ frame for scrim (to cut down the amount of sunlight on the actors) but instead, the crew attempted to repurpose it as an awning to keep people out of the rain. However, the rental house provided a mismatched set and it didn’t fit together. While rigging it, the frame tipped over, slamming into the Jason’s head, blood pouring from a one inch gash. Fortunately, Austin (the Gaffer/AC) is also an EMT and had a kit with him. He patched up Jason and he waited to go to the ER until after filming.
We moved onto the final scene in the courtyard of the school and it stopped raining just long enough for us to wrap on time. Jason immediately went to the ER.
DAY TWO – HOUSE
Our star, Kaylee was a little tired this morning and wasn’t really in the mood to do scene talking to her “dad,” played by John Hensley. We improvised and John was amazing, speaking his lines to an ‘invisible’ Kaylee. Then, Kaylee came in and did the same, to an invisible John. Fortunately, we were able to convince Kaylee to just stand there for a couple takes while John did his lines. With that said, the scene still cuts together well and nobody will know the difference.
DAY THREE – FIRE RESCUE
This was the biggest, most important shoot day for the film. We were having trouble coordinating a day where everyone was available. Finally, one day opened up where the location was available, the key cast and crew, etc., but Justine was supposed to fly out in the afternoon. However, being the team player she is, she canceled the flight to finish this film.
The LAFD was amazing to let us film at one of their training facilities, spearheaded by Nick Pellegrini. Nick also rallied the Explorers (soon to be firefighters) to be extras in the film, as well as some of his other firefighter friends. We wanted it to look as authentic as possible. In order to get through the massive amount of coverage, Jason couldn’t shoot it all by himself so he enlisted the help of Bryan Nguyen, to double up on the shots, which made it all possible.
There was one looming variable – the scene where seven year old Olivia gets rescued out of a window, three stories up. Jason spent days building a dummy with a moveable ‘skeleton’ to the exact size of Olivia. On the day of filming, Olivia and Garret (playing her father) were already up in the window for the other shots. With it time for the her to be rescued, I said, “Okay, time for the dummy.” Nick was helping to rig the everyone up there. From above, we hear Nick say, “She wants to do it herself!” The director in Jason knew, “Well, it ‘would’ look a lot better with her,” but the dad in him said, “You idiot, it’s your DAUGHTER.” It was a battle of dad vs. director. Olivia talked him into it and we had a group of eight firefighters underneath just in case. We did it in one take and that is actually Olivia climbing out of a three story window.
With having limited budget to rent a green screen studio with harness (about $3,500 a day), Jason brought in a 12′ x 12′ frame with a chroma silk to shoot the flying scenes between fire takes. We draped another green chroma blanket on a table, where Justine laid with fishing wire pulling the cape but it worked really well.
Later in the day, it was time for the hallway rescue scene of Isabella’s (the school bully) father. Garret completely went for it, getting into character, laying down face first on a soot-covered floor, as Justine (dressed in 60 pounds of gear) rescued him. Nick was on-hand for every step of the shoot, making sure the rescue looked authentic, such as having Justine crawl and feel for rescues instead of walking in.
Jason got to work putting everything together in Avid. The amazing composer, Benjamin Squires, gave him some sample music to temp in until picture was locked. Shortly, Jason had a basic cut in place and Benjamin started sending music in. It is truly amazing what one person can do. It sounds like a Hans Zimmer level of score. Jason found Benjamin after seeing another short he scored and reached out to him in England.
There is only so many video effects one can do in Avid and some of them weren’t looking realistic so Jason reached out to his friend, Nick Green, from Disney and Wildcard Multimedia. Nick (whose daughter is one of the kids in the opening montage) generously donated his time for the project, cranking out a dozen shots for the film, primarily focusing on the flying shots.