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.

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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.

The Rough Cut Looks Good!

Danny smiles in at Diana with the reflection of the inn they've traveled to in the car window.

Danny smiles in at Diana with the reflection of the inn they’ve traveled to in the car window.

Another big step forward in the filmmaking process.  Over the weekend, I completed a rough cut of ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?  It is, admittedly, a very rough cut.  I don’t have the sound we recorded, only my editor has it, I used the in camera sound, which is of inferior quality.  I also only have a basic knowledge of editing techniques, but I must say, the cut looks “pretty darn good”.  My co-writer agrees with me and in fact, the words in quotes are hers.

We are very excited.  My editor has twenty years of experience and is creative and talented.  When he does his cut and we polish it, using the quality sound, color correction and other post production techniques, we’re going to have a very good film.  It will get into festivals.  There is not a doubt in my mind.

This is quite different from how I felt just a few weeks ago when I was having panic attacks worrying about the quality of the finished film. At that point, I hadn’t gotten a look at everything we had and was experiencing the type of self-doubt many artists go through.  Now, with all of the footage at my disposal and sufficient distance from production, I have a bit more objectivity.

I’ve been making efforts to promote the film as well.  I’m posting updates and outtakes on IIR’s Facebook page and on YouTube.  I’ve also been adverting it on LinkedIn.  We have several festivals targeted so far.  SAG has invited us to submit it to their short film showcase.  We’ve also been invited to submit to a film festival in Wales.  That is quite exciting.  Another venue is the Love Actually Film Festival, which takes place in Ridgewood, NY on Valentine’s Day.  It’s specifically for short films about love, sex and romance.  It’s right up our alley and I really hope to get into that one.  It will give me something to do on Valentine’s Day other than celebrate the fact that February is half over.

Upon Further Review …

My fantasy onscreen credit

My fantasy onscreen credit

The picture above is something I threw together months ago while the screenplay for ISNT’ IT ROMANTIC? was still in development and before I brought in my writing partner to help me add depth to the script.  It’s the Windsor font, the one Woody Allen uses.  It was a fantasy, just a fun, little device to help motivate me.  Seeing my name onscreen in a writing and directing credit was a dream.  It’s now just about upon me.

The actual credit will be different.  I would never use Woody’s trademark font (although I am planning simple, elegant white titles on a black screen).  I want to develop my own unique style.  I also can’t use the “written and directed by” credit, since I have a co-writer.  It will actually be “story by” me, “screenplay by” me and my partner and then “directed by” me.  No matter, it will be a thrill to see it.

My prior update was premature and I now have a whole new outlook on the quality of IIR.  Until this week, I had only had a cursory look at the footage we shot.  My editor is busy with other projects, so we have had phone conversations but haven’t sat down to look at the film yet.  The only look I had was when my DP briefly showed me some of the raw footage.  Based on that brief look, I was worried that I did not have enough coverage.

I now have all of the footage on my computer.  I’ve seen everything and started putting some scenes together.  This is going to be a good movie.  There is one scene that has a few gaps, but my editor and I are confident we can work around them.  I am feeling very good about this project.

I also now have a little distance and can judge my performance better.  Many people have assured me that I did a good job.  I will never be able to see myself the way others do, but I think I did a satisfactory job and my comedic timing is right on the money.  (Honestly, there was never a doubt about that).

I’m looking forward to finishing the film and getting to show if off a bit.  It will be thrilling to see that “directed by” credit on the screen.

Happy Birthday Mom and Woody

Today, December 1st, is a significant day for me.  It’s the birthday of my idol, the comedic genius, brilliant writer and director, Woody Allen.  It’s also the birthday of Audrey Rothbart, who gave birth to a comedic genius, brilliant writer and on his way to becoming a brilliant director.  Yes, I’m talking about my mother.  Let’s face it, you have to admire my trademark humility.

My brother, my son and I celebrated with my mother.  We got her a cake, cards, some nice presents and bought her dinner.  She’s a terrific person and is just happy to have her family around her.  She is a great mother who pretty much raised her three children alone.  She always made sacrifices for us and encourages me constantly.  I admire her strength.  My father passed away a little over a year ago and she has handled it much better than we could have anticipated.

As far as Woody goes, I celebrated with a mini-marathon.  I watched ANNIE HALL, HANNAH AND HER SISTERS and MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, the three films for which he won Best Original Screenplay (ANNIE HALL also earned him Best Director) at the Academy Awards.  Later, I’m going to watch MANHATTAN because it’s my favorite film of all time and I don’t need an excuse to view it.

There is so much to be learned from watching great movies and reading well-written scripts.  (You can learn as much, if not more, from watching terrible movies and reading awful scripts, but today is about celebration.)  I have other influences, the main ones being Neil Simon and the late Nora Ephron, but Woody is first.  Always.

So happy birthday, Mom.  Your oldest appreciates everything you do for your family.  It’s good to know that even if everyone else hates ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? you will love it!

Happy birthday to you too, Woody.  Love your work, all of it.  Not just the films.  Thanks for inspiring me and showing me that a short, homely, neurotic guy from Brooklyn can succeed with his intellect, talent and wit.

Status Update

It’s been almost a month since production wrapped on ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? and quite awhile since I’ve posted.  I guess I’m overdue to bring everyone (okay, the three of you that actually read my blog) up to speed.  We’re still in post production and there is a considerable amount of work to be done.

I’ve gotten a look at the footage.  We’ve got some good stuff, but there are some gaps in coverage that will take creative solutions to make the scenes work.  I’m not happy with myself for allowing that to happen.  Granted, this is my first film, but it’s difficult.  I set very high standards for myself and it bothers me when I don’t live up to them.  My editor is confident that we can work around the problems.  He has over twenty years of experience and is very creative and talented.  He’s also a good friend who helps me stay calm when I start to freak out.

I”m a neurotic mess much of the time.  It’s very helpful in that I feel it’s the source of my creativity and talent.  It provides me with energy and inspires original story concepts.  It also makes me crazy sometimes.  For example, I find my performance in the film to be abysmal.  Other members of my team tell me otherwise, that I did a solid job.  My editor used the words, “Pretty damn good”.  Most actors don’t like to watch themselves and it’s so hard to be objective when watching oneself.  Nonetheless, watching me in a scene with the experienced and terrific actors in my cast looks to me like a high school pitcher trying to get major league hitters out.

I think part of the problem is I can’t buy into my character, Danny Kresky.  I look at the screen and I don’t see Danny.  I see me.  It makes everything else hard to buy.  I can’t get into the story because I know I’m not a highly successful writer/director (and probably never will be).  I’m not married to an amazing woman (and definitely never will be!)  I know, I should be looking at the overall story, but it is hard.

On the plus side, the sound is very good.  Poor audio is one of the major problems independent films face.  I hired a very good sound man and eliminated that issue.  I had two beautiful locations, four of my five main actors were excellent and my background actors were terrific.  We also had an excellent script from which to work.  As my idol Woody Allen said, “Experience has shown me that if you have a good script, you can do a miserable job of directing and still get a pretty good movie …”  I didn’t do a brilliant job, but it certainly wasn’t miserable either.  I did pretty well, I thought.  So I think we will end up with a pretty good movie.

SAG has invited us to submit it to their Short Film Showcase.  So glad we did it under a SAG contract for a number of reasons and this is now another.  It’s free to enter and if we get in, there’s a free screening at the SAG office in New York with a Q and A with the director and producers after.  That would be really nice exposure for us.  There is also a local film festival that we are almost sure to get into.  So, there are things to which we can look forward.

In the meantime, I am once again attempting to market my feature screenplay, SOUL MATE.  It’s a great script, the best thing I’ve written to date and I’ve got to get it on the screen.  If I have to, I will shoot it myself one day.  I’ve also started work on a new feature with my writing partner.  I’m very excited about that too.  We have a good story concept and our work on ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? has shown both of us that we are capable of great things together.

Sorry for the long layoff on the updates.  (Like anyone is paying attention.)  I’ll keep you apprised of new developments.  Hopefully, we’ll have a finished film sometime early in the new year.

Transition Time

Now that ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? is in post production, things have settled down considerably.  I am waiting for my editor to do the rough cut.  He doesn’t like working with someone looking over his shoulder.  He’s experienced, very creative and I trust him completely, so I am having him do the rough cut without me.  He has the script supervisor’s book with all of my notes.  After he’s finished, I will take a look at it and then we will fine tune it together.

In the meantime, I am working on other things.  Basically, I am transitioning from director back to writer.  My partner and I have started on a new feature screenplay.  We’ve got a concept we both really like and are off to a good start.  It’s a process I’ve been through many times and with which I am very comfortable.  It is, however, the first time I’ve completed production so it feels less hectic and exciting.  The time spent in preparation and on set required so much work and energy on my part, that I almost feel lazy right now.

Another thing I am keeping busy with is reviewing my performance during the production of IIR.  I made some mistakes and there are things I will do differently the next time.  As a rookie director, it is natural that I would have made some errors.  A big part of why I made the movie was to learn, after all.  I think the main thing I need to work on is my organizational skills.  I tend to do things on the fly.  My mind works very quickly and I adapt and plan at high speed.  That’s all well and good, but my team doesn’t have access to my mind.  It is really important to get things on paper so that other people know exactly what we’re doing and how.

I also need to more clearly define the role of each person on the team and make sure that he or she knows exactly what is and isn’t a part of that job.  Coordination between departments is also critical.  I’ve given all of this a lot of thought and I am very excited about the prospect of directing another film in the, hopefully, not too distant future.  I have many ideas and a great writing partner to help me craft the script.  It will essentially come down to my ability to raise the money.  The business side of filmmaking is another area that I need to work on.  Networking and promotion do not appeal to me at all, but they are vital parts of the business and I need to learn them.

Overall, this has been a terrific experience and I have grown as an artist and as a person.  I went way outside my comfort zone numerous times and not only survived, I thrived.  I’ve got to do this again.  In the meantime, it’s great to be  a writer again, especially because I get to work with my talented and quite brilliant partner.  I guess I’ll be blogging about that until I’m ready for my next production.