Preproduction

Now that we have our funding, Cooper and I are moving on to the next phase in the filmmaking process for MY SPIRITED SISTER, preproduction. This is a vital stage in the process, where we will make sure we have everything we need to shoot this film when principal photography starts.

Those of you who were reading my blog last year may remember many of the steps in the preparation of ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? We will be once again using the standard eight week time frame. Preproduction officially starts this Tuesday, September 3rd when we meet with our Line Producer/Unit Production Manager and Director of Photography, but we’ve already started the work. I actually began the day after the crowd funding campaign ended.

Although production is my favorite part of filmmaking, I really enjoy every phase. There are many chores in preproduction that are not necessarily difficult or tedious, they’re just not especially fun. For example, the first chore is putting together the budget. Last year, I hired someone to do it, but I’ve learned a lot since then, so Cooper and I are doing it ourselves. It’s really not that hard, just a necessary task. It’s one of what I call the “paperwork” tasks, along with obtaining insurance, setting up the contract with SAG/AFTRA and creating the many documents needed.

My favorite part of preproduction is casting. I really like meeting new people and I love actors, so it’s natural that I would enjoy casting. It’s also fun because that’s when the characters we created start to come to life. As we did last year in ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?we already have our leads cast, but we do have other roles to fill. We’ll take our time doing it and run a professional casting session. I’ll discuss it in greater detail when we get there, but it really is fun.

Location scouting is another task I really enjoy. Much like casting, we get to see the environments of the movie take shape. We also get to meet more new people. We do have one location already chosen, We’ll be shooting a scene at Jimmy and Cooper’s house. This week, Cooper and I were doing some polishing on the script and it was pretty cool when we were working on that scene, while sitting in the location where we’ll shoot it. Things like that amuse me!

Analyzing the script is also great fun. It’s hard work but it’s a chance to be very creative. We’ll go over it with a microscope, visualizing the entire film and planning the shots, as well as preparing notes for our actors. With the help of floor plans and photos of the locations, we’ll create our shot lists. Our DP wants storyboards. You may remember my frustration last year with my failed attempts to draw stick figure storyboards. I’m not even going to attempt it this time. There is software for storyboard creation and that’s how we plan to do it. I have many talents, but drawing is not one of them. I will be better able to hold on to my sanity.

Filling out the crew is another fun task. Again, we get to meet people. I always chat with anyone that we consider bringing on to the team. I need to get a feel for their personalities to make sure we can work together even after long, tiring hours. There were a couple of personality conflicts last year that were very distracting. This time, we’re going to put together a more experienced and dedicated crew. 

Time for me to get back to work on the budget. Stay tuned, boys and girls. This is where the fun starts. The making of MY SPIRITED SISTER. I’ll be bringing it to you as it happens.

Success!

It was incredible. Absolutely amazing. A thrilling nail biter. There aren’t enough adjectives in the English language to describe it. It honestly felt to me, much like Game 6 of the 1986 World Series when my Mets rallied from two runs down, two out, nobody on in the tenth inning to beat Boston. The event: the Kickstarter campaign for MY SPIRITED SISTER. (Notice, just text, no link.)

We did it! We reached our goal, raising $10,170, so the film is green lit and preproduction begins on September 3. I gotta tell you, ladies and gentlemen, it wasn’t easy.

The campaign ended this past Friday. At the start of the day, we were only 44% funded. It didn’t look good. Cooper and I talked on the phone Monday, discussing our back up plan in the event we missed, which looked very likely. We consoled ourselves with the fact that we had learned so much and made a huge improvement over the feeble campaign we ran last year for ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? that only hit 10%. We knew that applying what we learned this time, we would make it if we tried again. We didn’t have to.

It was a phenomenal rally, $5685 for the day, more than six times the amount of our prior high for one day. It began in the afternoon when we got two $1000 pledges. We were close to two thirds of the way there and although it would take a hell of a rally, it suddenly looked possible. We got down to business, not only Cooper and I, but also her fiancé Jimmy, the true star of the campaign team. The campaign end time was 7:59. I arrived at their home around 6, with us just over 67%. It was getting really exciting. The countdown on the campaign page had switched from hours to minutes and there was that great feel all sports fans know of the clock ticking down while their team mounts a comeback.

Coop and I took to social media, tweeting furiously, hitting Facebook, announcing updated totals and counting the minutes. Jimmy basically put the campaign on his back and carried us. He got on the phone and starting calling people, pulling in pledges. We watched the percentage go up as the time went down. It was within reach, but would we make it?

The minutes dropped to single digits and were just over 82%. This one was going to the wire. People were increasing their earlier pledges, coming in from Kickstarter’s “ending soon” listing. With only four minutes left, the number rose past $10,000 and we had it. What a wild ride! We celebrated, hugs all around. I stayed for dinner and celebrated with my friends. Truly one of the most amazing and satisfying days, not only of my filmmaking career, but of my life.

As I drove home, feeling great but exhausted, my mind turned to the next tasks. Putting together the budget, creating the schedule, location scouting, casting the rest of the roles, wardrobe, set dressing, shot lists, equipment rental. I knew I should take a day or two and relax, but it’s so hard to shut it down.

It’s been a fun weekend, we’ve been getting phone calls and emails with congratulations. Preproduction begins on September 3 and we are so excited to make this film. It was such a good feeling to send the email to our stars and their families, letting them know we made it. They’re terrific kids, they’re going to be great in the movie and their video was huge in bringing in pledges.

So there you have it, folks. We’re making a movie. That means you’ve got about six months worth of blogs coming. Stayed tuned. As  the saying goes, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!”

The Rally Begins!

My Spirited Sister -- Kicktraq Mini

 

We are now in the final stretch of MY SPIRITED SISTER’s Kickstarter campaign.  At 7:59 PM EDT tonight, the seventy-two hour countdown begins. This is the most exciting time of any campaign. There is an all out push as Cooper and I will do all we can to get the project funded and our backers, team and friends will work equally hard. No money, no movie. It’s that simple.

It has already started. We picked up three new backers today and we are now 41.75% funded (at this point, the decimals count). That seems like a long way to go and it is, but the crowd funding expert with whom I’ve been consulting informed me that the goal is still within reach. Numerous campaigns have rallied in the last three days from a similar point.

I’m experiencing so many emotions. I’m excited, anxious, energized and close to exhausted. I’ve been on four hours sleep a night since the campaign started and over the last week or so, I often sleep less than that. That’s the amount of effort that must  go into a crowd funding campaign for it to succeed.

I’m not doing it alone. Cooper and her fiance have been amazing. They’ve both been pushing this all over social media and up close and personal, through phone calls and face to face meetings. And they’re doing this while planning their wedding! Talk about above and beyond. We’re also getting great help from our stars and their parents. I’m really moved by how everyone is pulling together. No matter how this turns out, it’s been a great experience and I have learned so much. I’ve taken a huge step forward in my ability to crowd fund. If I can master this aspect of filmmaking, the sky is the limit. Cooper and I have tremendous potential. As long as we can get the money, we can make great films.

Kicktraq has hot lists for Kickstarter projects, as well as individual categories. The lists are based on popularity, backers, updates and social media shares. For the last six days, we have been at the top of the short film hot list and number two on the overall film hot list. We even jumped over Spike Lee’s project. I’m proud of that. It’s the result of a tremendous amount of work and dedication.

Now, the trick is to convert that work into a successful campaign in the final stretch. As much effort as we’re putting in, we still need our fans. So, thank you to all of you who have pledged. We would really appreciate if you would spread the word. For those who haven’t yet pledged, please take a look at the campaign page, check out the rewards and consider doing so. You can donate as little as one dollar.

It’s always fun to win a game in the final minutes, have that ninth inning rally, snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Let’s do that together.

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

Those of you have followed my blog since the beginning. (I know, that’s a very small number. It’s probably zero) know that I suffer with dysthymia, or neurotic depression. I’ve had it since childhood but was not aware of it until it was diagnosed about seven years ago. Since that time. I’ve been able to recognize the symptoms and learned to pull my self out of it. It’s not easy and I have to fight it constantly, but as time has gone on and I’ve examined and adjusted my life, I’ve gotten more control of it.

I have not had a bout of depression since January of this year. That’s an extremely long time for me and it shows great progress. That streak has come to an end as darkness settles over me.  I know, that’s a little melodramatic, but hey, I’m a fiction writer. I’ve put myself into a position that I should have known enough to avoid. All of us have a number of different roles we play in life. We’re not defined by any one aspect of it. Our occupations are a big part of that, but we are also sons and daughters, parents, siblings, spouses, friends, co-workers. We have hobbies and passions. All of these things add up to make us the unique people we are.

There is a phenomenon of which I am very aware. Sometimes, people will define themselves entirely by one aspect of their life, usually their job. When things are not going well in their work, and that is inevitable from time to time, they feel like failures as human beings. It’s a fallacy and it can lead to depression, especially if you are predisposed to it, as I am. This is the situation in which I have placed myself.

My entire world pretty much consists of my writing and filmmaking career, so when that’s not going well, I have nothing to fall back on. It’s where I am now. It’s really sucks because I am completely aware of it but I feel powerless to change it. There is nothing going on in my life right now except for MY SPIRITED SISTER. The campaign has slowed to almost a halt and I’m doing everything I can to change it. It’s not really working. My only escape is the one I’ve always had; going to the movies.

Thank God for films. Movie theaters are my sanctuary.  The one and only place I can forget about the mess my life is and become absorbed in another world. If it were possible, I would love to enter a movie and live there, like in Woody Allen‘s THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO. The difference being that I wouldn’t come back out of the film. I would stay there.

People talk to me about movies all the time and I’m amused by how many people think their life stories would make a great film. It’s natural to feel that way, but I have no such delusions. Nobody wants to see my story. What would I even call such a film? I think that if I made a movie about my show business career I would title it, FROM HERE TO OBSCURITY. A film about my love life would be called LESS THAN ZERO. Amazing how I can bang out these joke titles but I struggle to come up with good ones for my actual work. I’m so lucky I have Cooper to work with.

There, I’ve done my venting. I don’t know if it will help or not, but I’ve got work to do. I’m a fighter and I always battle until the end even in a losing cause. The campaign ends this Friday. We need $6660 in pledges or we lose what we have. So, if you’re reading this, and if you haven’t already pledged, take a look at our Kickstarter campaign, choose a reward and really consider becoming a part of it. It really is a great project. Do it for my partner and our three young stars. Do it for the great team of people who believe in this project and are working so hard to make it happen. Do for yourselves, so you can  be proud to be a part of something special. Don’t worry about me. I’m a survivor. I love the darkness. It’s my muse.

Kickstarter Update #2

My Spirited Sister -- Kicktraq Mini

We now have just nine days remaining in the Kickstarter campaign for MY SPIRITED SISTER.  We’re 37% funded, so we have a long way to go. Nevertheless, we are in good shape. 82% of Kickstarter campaigns that reach the 20% funded mark go on to succeed. We reached that milestone early, which is a very good sign. Campaign progress typical graphs as a reverse bell curve (for the statisticians out there). The start is fast due to the excitement and the rush of one’s inner circle of family, friends and colleagues. The middle slows down and then there is a frantic rush at the end as everyone works to see the project makes its goal. The key is to get the number as high as possible through the start and boost the middle as much as possible.

Last year, I ran a campaign on IndieGoGo for ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?  although I had sufficient funding from another source. Cooper and I decided to see if we could raise some additional funds to allow us to have a bigger budget. I was a complete novice at the art of crowd funding and we only raised about 10% of our goal. We used the “flexible funding” option (not available on Kickstarter) so we were able to keep what we raised. I knew I had a lot to learn.

This year, I did my homework and it’s been quite an education. I’m very proud of how much my crowd funding skills have improved. I still have much to learn, but I’ve come a long way in a year, enough that we were confident enough to use Kickstarter and it’s “all or nothing” platform.  We’re going to make it this time.

I’m feeling the same way I did when I directed ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? last year. I have a responsibility to my cast, production team and backers and fans to make this happen. It isn’t just about me. This increases my motivation and drives me to work even harder than I usually do (and that’s pretty hard as it is).  

So, in the final stretch, we’re in good shape. To make it, we need more eyes on the campaign page.. Do you like movies? Do you like getting in on the ground floor and being part of a success story? Do you like me? (Of course you do, I’m adorable!) Click the LINK, check out the pitch, choose a fun perk that fits your budget and tell the world. Much easier to do in today’s modern society with the internet! I’m going to make this happen if I have to put this project on my back an carry it. We’re going to succeed and you know you want to be a part of it. 

MY SPIRITED SISTER Kickstarter Campaign

Blue Jasmine

This past Saturday, I got to indulge in my yearly pleasure. I saw Woody Allen’s latest film, BLUE JASMINE. Going to the movies is, for me, one of the great joys of my life. A Woody movie is a treasured event. His latest did not disappoint.

I’m not a critic, so I’m not going to go into a lot of detail. A full analysis is not the point of this post anyway. That aside, BLUE JASMINE ranks with Woody’s best. A truly great film and that’s not hyperbole. The performances were top notch and Cate Blanchett was outstanding in the title role. So much so, that I will make a prediction: Ms. Blanchett will win the Oscar for Best Actress this year. You heard it here first, folks. I also would not be the least bit surprised if Woody received his sixteenth nomination for Best Original Screenplay, maybe his fourth win. A Best Picture nomination is also a distinct possibility.

The truly amazing thing about the movie is that the protagonist, Jasmine, is not at all a likable character. She’s a spoiled, entitled “did nothing to earn it but marry a rich man” socialite who has fallen on hard times. Despite that, she is sympathetic. You really do feel for her. I attribute that to script, direction and the performance.

This film is also not quite like any other that Woody has done before. It contains flashbacks, monologues and the usual obsessions, things we’ve seen many times. But there is something unique about it as well. It really inspires me that after all these years, he can still surprise me like that and find a way to enter new territory.

Like many of his best movies, it also beautifully blends drama with comedy. There are many scenes and lines that are laugh out loud funny, but there is also great pathos, with scenes that are disturbing and sad. This is what I aspire to. Cooper and I want to make films that create this balance. After all, life is both funny and sad and I feel that art should reflect that.

As proud as we are of ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? , it is pure comedy. It’s funny, but featherweight, a pleasant diversion with no real depth. That’s okay. Movies are supposed to entertain and I would be happy to make another like it in the future. But we have things to say and we really want to make films that entertain and illuminate.

MY SPIRITED SISTER is written that way. After seeing BLUE JASMINE, I am more inspired than ever to make this film and take a big step forward as a writer and director. I just hope we can get the funding. The Kickstarter campaign could use a boost. This is a great project and Cooper and I are really passionate about seeing it happen.

Let’s Set a Record!

My Spirited Sister -- Kicktraq Mini
I’ve come up with a fun idea to boost MY SPIRITED SISTER’s Kickstarter campaign and make it even more fun for everyone involved.  We’re going to try to set the record for the most one dollar pledges on a single campaign. I’m not going to divulge the number, but needless to say, it is a very large one. This is, in fact, the essence of crowd funding. The occasional big pledge is very helpful, but the core of most campaigns is many, many small contributions.

One dollar is the smallest amount of money that can be pledged. We do have a fun little perk for that level. It’s a very small amount of money, but if enough people do it, a great project gets funded. Setting a record offers some bragging rights, a little bit of immortality, in addition to being part of the team that makes MY SPIRITED SISTER a reality.

So pledge a buck! Urge everyone you know to do the same! Be a part of a record setting event and a member of the team. Opportunities like this don’t come along every day. Of course, if you would like to pledge a bit more than a dollar, you won’t get any complaints from me!

Link to Kickstarter campaign.