Greeting again from shaky Mexico City. Week Two is coming to an end and not a second too soon. This 7.4 earthquake was not the first nor the worst earthquake I've been in, however it's the first one that happened in the middle of a production meeting and caused ten adults to crack up laughing as we ran for cover under wobbly door frames.  The people here remember the devastation of the 1985 earthquake, so anything less than that is just a walk in the park.  Within five minutes we were back at work deciding where we would have our three hour lunch that day.

The three hour lunch is no joke. It's why everyone works until 10 at night. I'm a pizza and coca cola man myself during most preproduction lunches so its extra hard for me to understand the endlessly long lunches that seem to be a way of life here. And they usually don't start until three in the afternoon -- a time when I'm usually just cuddling up to Oprah. Of course lunch at three means dinner at 10pm. Not so bad, except that every food here seems to be laced with so much cheese that by the time we're done with dinner and heading to bed I'm so fat it's scary.  I couldn't imagine being lactose intolerant in this country.

Anyway our hosts, and producing partners, The Zavalla Brothers, continue to take us out to the coolest, hippest restaurants and bars. It's almost like being in New York, except with more cheese.  They didn't, however, take us to the Academy Awards here in Mexico as promised.

And I had my gown dry cleaned and everything.

The awards here are certainly different from back in the states. They call the actors the Friday before the awards to tell them that they're nominated and to show up Monday night for the show. No three month wait from the nomination to the presentation. No excessive trade paper advertisements trumpeting Cuba Gooding Jr's stellar turn in "Instinct", no just good old fashioned, "Hey, what are you doing on Monday? Wanna win an Oscar?"

Anyway, I didn't go to the show, but this actress we cast in a small role won an Academy Award, so now she's probably going to demand a giant trailer -- or at least bus fare to the location.

Speaking of locations, I continue to discover strange and interesting places that I'm sure most Americans haven't seen. It's very odd to leave the Sheraton Hotel where every comfort is available to us at an incredibly inflated price, and head off into barrios that have no plumbing and no paved roads.  To say that it is mind-blowing is an understatement. It's hard to capture in words the true courage and character of these people who live in such intense poverty.  Maybe with moving pictures it will be easier...

Casting on the Mexican front is going very well. After firing our original casting directors, we have moved on and  I think we've found ourselves a most incredible young (29) actor to play the male lead.  He's auditioned twice and will come back one more time, but unless he completely screws up in an intensely fantastic way (which actually might be fun to witness) this guy is going to be cast and have his whole life changed. Very exciting.

As for the female lead, I hear the doctors who perform sex changes down in Mexico are very cheap so I'm seeing if Adrien Brody is available.  No actually things are getting very interesting. I'm flying to NY on Saturday and to LA on Tuesday to interview a bunch of actresses, some famous, some not, who have all expressed serious interest in the film. If the Gods of Independent Movies are smiling we should have a leading lady by this time next week. That, or a Mexican plastic surgeon with his hands full.

Last night was my producing partner Jon's birthday. A large group of us drank a lot of tequila, danced to some amazing live Cuban music and got home just as the sun was deciding to peek it's head over the volcano that looms over the city. By the by, the volcano has been smoking recently, so if the earthquake or cheese doesn't get me, the possibility of being in some lava infested grave just might.

Natural (and casting) disasters aside, I continue to be more excited about this movie than anything else I've ever done. It's already been an eye opening experience and it's only just started.

I miss you all.

Your Man in Mexico,

Richard (El Cheese) Shepard

Back: The Films of Richard Shepard - Mexico City