I accidentally posted this along with last week’s Munger Monday. Here is the updated, on-schedule post.
During college, I watched the movie Princess Cut for the first time. The film brought me to tears and the Lord has used it as an instrumental influence in the way I think about romantic relationships. Since that time, the film has grown into a trilogy series, and Princess Cut 3 premiered this year on Valentine’s Day. In 2021, I had the opportunity to review Princess Cut 2, and I reached out to director Paul Munger to request an interview. The Lord blessed me with the opportunity to interview Paul, and his wife Sheilah, co-creators of the trilogy.
Throughout the month of July, I have posted a weekly “Munger Monday” feature, beginning with a film review and progressing with a multi-part interview. Today, we are wrapping up Munger Monday with the final interview installment, which is about work on the film set.
Entering the Industry
“I was the first to enter the brave new world of independent Christian filmmaking,” Paul says. He got his start in 2006, working on a Creationist documentary titled Animals in the Bible. Paul describes the film, which he created for his father’s homeschool services company, as a “fun learning experience.” Then, he adds, “a couple years later, when a producer came to town and needed a homeschool liaison for his baseball feature film, I answered the call and became completely enraptured with the craft.”
A day on-set
Sheilah’s first foray into filmmaking occurred years later, with the creation of Princess Cut. “I was hijacked,” she explains. As a wedding and party planner with strong organizational skills and a background in education, Sheilah stepped in to assist the caterer on a George Escobar film project. “Paul stepped into extras casting,” Sheilah says, “and we became his go-to for extras.”
Since that time, both Paul and Sheilah have become active in the industry. “Sheilah… has outstripped me by joining in over a dozen projects for other people, serving as Production Designer, Wardrobe Supervisor, Actress and Props Master, among other things,” Paul says. Sheilah adds that Paul “excels at PR.”
Making a Movie
“There are 5 parts of the filmmaking pipeline: development, pre-production, production, post production and distribution,” Paul says. “In development, Sheilah and I would spend half a year of 4-6 hours daily writing and refining the story.” Paul and Sheilah were both writers on each film, and Sheilah furnished the initial inspiration for the original Princess Cut. “The story began as a monologue of the glut of emotion I went through in high school,” Sheilah recalls. “Paul had his dad read it and he liked it so much he encouraged us to write a story around it.”
Pre-production, like the root word implies, heavily involves the producer. Producers reach out to private investors during this stage, which “can take another 6 months,” according to Paul. “Throughout the movies, Sheilah and I have traded roles/assisted between producer and director,” Paul says. Paul produced and directed the original film, while Sheilah stepped into the role for the second and third movies.
Paul calls production, “the best part,” and this is when the movie is filmed. “On-set life is exciting,” Paul remarks. “There’s always a lot of activity, and being a director puts you right in the middle of the action… and you get to call ‘Action!’ too…. It’s quite an exhilarating experience.” The producer also works behind the scenes– just not behind the camera. “The producer will be more in the office handling day-to-day details making sure things are running smoothly,” Paul says. Sheilah adds, “As a producer, I very much enjoy discussing every nuance of the process.”
As writers, the couple also has the unique opportunity to provide input on-set. “There have been occasional scenes I’ve been so passionate about that I spoke up while Paul was directing to better reflect the intent of the writing,” Sheilah says. “Most writers don’t get that opportunity because they are trying to sell their script and aren’t on set.”
And, most children don’t have the opportunity to participate with their parents on a real-life film set. “God’s blessed us with our own film crew, so to speak,” Paul says. “No job is too small or unimportant.” During the first film’s production, the Munger children served up chicken, offered feedback on early screenings, performed as extras, and helped maintain a household with 37 people under one roof. “Everybody had a part to play in making the film a success,” Paul observes.
After filming, it’s time to edit and package the movie. “Paul is the brains behind post-production editing, and uploading or rendering files,” Sheilah says. “It may last months or extend into years for post production questions and decisions, but I love doing it with Paul.” The current project permeates their conversations and activities. In fact, Sheilah “can hardly be in the same room [with her husband] and not talk with him about some aspect of the film.” They often quote lines from the film. “We have several favorites that get quoted the most,” Sheilah says.
Behind the Scenes with Sheilah
“It was 6:30 or 7 A.M. and I was in bed, quite forgetful of what was supposed to be going on. The lack of sleep was catching up and I almost woke up to the ‘where am I feeling.’ Then I heard rain, and I was confused as to why I was hearing rain. Instead, I jerked awake realizing exactly where I was and exactly what was going on. The film crew was on my roof outside my window with hoses for the apartment scene we lost the day before.”
“Our location fell through and we lost daylight, so they were ingeniously using my basement entrance for the replacement. It was the entrance for the production office and all the departments that were stationed there for the film. We housed 17 additional crew members along with our standard 9 member family back then.”
“The entire house was for the crew, so why not the roof? They were very gracious in trying not to disturb me, but I definitely would have liked for someone to have woken me up beforehand.”
Behind the Scenes with Paul
“A tornado was always something I had dreamed of creating on film, so it became the centerpiece of Princess Cut 2. However, strangely enough, just months before filming was to begin, the property from Princess Cut 1 where we had planned to film was hit by a tornado and we could no longer film there. Bummed, we started looking for a new farm property to relocate to — a daunting search as the clock was ticking.
“We were also looking all over for a below-ground tornado cellar that could be used for the family to hide in during the storm, but were having little success finding that, either. Then God provided an amazing farm to film, where the owners were Christians. And, on the property they had an incredible tornado cellar!”