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The Lemon Tree — First Pilot Episode
A half-hour comedy series, created by Gene Cartwright, 1994. Gene is an
author/screenwriter/inventor, and former engineer. https://genecartwright.com —
with no experience, the help of my best friend, and armed only with an idea, a clunky
home-style, S-VHS camcorder, and boundless determination, we set about to write, cast,
produce, and direct a sitcom.
In many ways, we benefitted from having no idea of how difficult this was supposed to be;
and so it never seemed impossible. I’m told we were ahead of our time. This was long
before any such programs on TV or in films. The truth is, there still aren’t, really.
The Lemon Tree was once a real salon, located on Myrtle Avenue, Monrovia California.
Black, white and Hispanic operators, who call themselves ‘The Crew’, staff our fictional
LEMON TREE, with its eclectic clientele. It is much more than a beauty salon—more like a
shrink’s office with a Salon. It’s a social club, an information exchange (house of gossip)
Nothing is off-limits; no subject and no one is sacred. Its patrons are young and old, and
mostly—but not exclusively—female. They reflect the tenor and pulse of the neighborhood
and society in every way. If it happens in real life, it happens at The Lemon Tree.
Twenty-two years ago, I was fortunate to have the indispensable assistance of my late,
best friend, Lance Brown, and Kelly Choi—Gene’s no-nonsense, chief assistant. We
finalized a script for three episodes, created the so-called 13 episode “bible,” ran
Hollywood trade paper ads, cast, auditioned, rehearsed, and shot the first episode in one
19 hour shooting day. One amazing cast member, Kate McIntyre, was a principal cast
member who remains a friend to this day. Her friendship is one of the greatest results of
Having no money, it wasn’t hard figuring out what to pay some truly great actors and
wonderful people: nothing. What we made clear was that, if the project was successful,
they would reap the rewards. What we did provide was a dream, and some great home-
cooked food, catered by Lance’s wife, Patricia.
Oh, we also had no equipment, at least not the professional kind. I had a clunky, home-
style, semi-pro Panasonic AG-400P Super-VHS camcorder (which I have in my old tech
collection). Lighting was purchased from “Home Depot,” and we created reflectors using
large picture frames covered in lamé fabric.
Our location: the beauty salon, “The Lemon Tree” was owned by a wonderful friend, Clara
Banks. When I told of her of my idea, she excitedly said yes, “use the place as you wish.
Just clean up, and don’t break anything,” she smiled.
All the heavily mirrored stations were kept in place, and were used to provide reflective
angles while not reflecting our very “professional” lighting. Still, we had challenges. A
principal cast member had an afternoon flight home to Ohio that could not be missed. Her
part was filmed out of sequence. Another “operator” could not come to the set until late,
so I changed the script to reflect her being “late for work.” We got it all done.
Although, the final production could have been more slick and polished, considering our
home camcorder, Home Depot lights, and a crew made up of anyone standing around with
a free hand, the impossible was made possible. Take a look and see for yourself. The
project is now 18 years old. Wow.
Unfortunately, no one in Hollywood gave us a minute of “pitch” time, and no agent gave
us the time of day. We did approach Fox Television on our own, but never heard back.
That’s Hollywood. However, this experience remains foundational in our determination to
not only revive this project but bring our first feature film, “Shadows in The Mist” to
fruition. And we will. Giving up is never an option.
With a growing body of work: eight novels now, seven screenplays—more in progress, we
are hoping to involve newly discovered talent, everyday people like you, in the casting,
financing, and production of our future projects.