The Next Round

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As I recently reported, one of my latest successes was my feature length romantic comedy screenplay, Soul Mate being selected as a quarterfinalist in the Stage 32 Comedy Writing Contest. Pretty exciting. But let’s see. What would be more exciting? How about if it were selected as a semifinalist? Yes, boys and girls, that’s what I’m telling you. I was notified yesterday. Semifinals!

I am very happy and proud. Not to blow my own horn, but it’s a very good script. I worked extremely hard on it. It’s a unique and very funny story that takes place in my beloved New York. (Hence the photo above)

The story behind the story is pretty interesting too. I had the idea for it in 1988. I had written my first two screenplays when I came up with an idea for a romantic comedy, one of my favorite genres. I told my then girlfriend I was going to write one and she laughed. She informed me that I did not have a romantic bone in my body. Out of fairness, she was pretty much spot on at the time.

I wasn’t ready to write it. So it sat in the back of my mind in a little cabinet where I store my best ideas. Eventually in late 2010, I decided I was ready to write it. I did and here we are. Progressing nicely through a fairly prestigious contest.

Another interesting fact about Soul Mate. After I completed a couple of drafts, I let my ex-girlfriend read it. We have remained friends and I greatly value her opinion. She really liked it and was amazed that I had written it. That was the inspiration for my short comedy, Isn’t It Romantic?, which just won a festival award. Two for one! Not a bad deal.

Finalists will be announced on April 26. Here’s hoping I can make at least one more round. This is almost as much fun as the NHL playoffs. Let’s Go Rangers and Let’s Go Soul Mate!

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New Opportunities for a Couple of Past Projects

As Cooper and I continue to create new content and market it, I also seek to promote some of our past projects. As I believed I mentioned, I was tweeting during the Oscar telecast and a few film festivals requested our first film, the romantic comedy short, Isn’t It Romantic? the film which began this blog. One of the festivals was the Best Shorts Competition. Our movie was accepted and we were just notified that we won an Award of Recognition.

Best Shorts is a well connected competition in La Jolla, CA. As a result of the award, we will be included in press releases and other publicity which will be viewed by industry professionals. We also get to display another laurel. This is pretty exciting for a project we finished four years ago. Every step forward is crucial.

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Another project that got a boost, which some of you who have read my blog from the beginning may remember is my feature romantic comedy script, Soul Mate. I entered it into the Stage32 Comedy Writing Contest. I was recently notified that is has been chosen as a quarterfinalist. Soul Mate is a script of which I am very proud. Whatever I have to do, I will get it to the screen one day. Winning this contest would go a long way toward achieving that goal. The grand prize winner is flown to LA for a meeting with a group of industry professionals to discuss the development of the winning property. Two winners will get Skype meetings with the pros and every finalist will have his or her logline sent to over 500 professionals. This is a very good opportunity and if nothing else, getting to the quarterfinals is a nice confidence boost.

In the meantime, Cooper and I have something else on the horizon that has not been finalized so I can’t share it yet, but it’s very good. Hard work and persistence do pay off.

If anyone would like to view Isn’t It Romantic? you can see it on our YouTube channel here: IIR on YouTube. Stay tuned folks. As the song says, “The best is yet to come!”

“Isn’t It Romantic?” is back!

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I have been very busy networking and promoting our various projects and Cooper and I have some exciting things in the works. One thing I would like to share is that our first project, the short romantic comedy, Isn’t It Romantic? has been selected by the Best Shorts Competition in La Jolla, California. This will put it in consideration for several awards in a fairly prestigious competition with industry professionals on the judging panel.

This is exciting. We have gone on to many fun projects of which we are quite proud, but the first is always special I like that it’s out there again. I was tweeting on the Route 202 Productions Twitter account during the Academy Awards and picked up a number of new followers. Several festivals requested that we submit Isn’t It Romantic?. One of them was actor Tom Sizemore, who requested it for the Filmchella Festival, which he hosts. So, of course, we submitted. Fingers crossed, a bit more exposure for our short.

Things are happening, boys and girls. We’re very excited at Route 202 Productions. I will keep you up to date on all the news as it happens. Thanks for reading. I appreciate all of you.

 

I’m Crazy about Mental Health

Despite the tongue-in-cheek title, this is a serious subject about which I care deeply. Sadly, there is still a stigma attached to mental health issues which prevents many people from seeking the help that is available. The world is not an easy place to navigate and there are very few individuals who could not benefit from some type of therapy and/or medication.

I know this first hand. As I have mentioned in earlier posts, I suffer with dysthymia, a mild form of depression. I have had to deal with it since childhood, although it was not correctly diagnosed until about ten years ago.

Although mild, dysthymia is debilitating. It’s often connected to social anxiety, as it is in my case and causes a lack of enthusiasm and anhedonia, an inability to experience pleasure. When I’m in the throes of it, I have no ambition and become lackadaisical. Accomplishing any task becomes extremely difficult. Because it so mild, it very often goes unnoticed and can last for months or even years.

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I am happy to say that it can be controlled. I spent about ten years in therapy with an excellent counselor and I’ve been taking Zoloft (pictured above) for about three years. I have an occasional downturn, but not nearly as frequently or as drastically as in the past.

I am now able to be the best version of myself. I’m more productive in my chosen craft of filmmaking and in all other aspects of my life. I can recognize the onset of a bout of depression and curtail it before it sets in.

The point of this post is: if you have any type of problem with depression, anxiety, phobias, any type of mental illness, don’t be ashamed of it. It’s your brain chemistry, not who you are as a person. Diabetics take insulin, people take pills for their hearts. The help is out there and if you need it, seek it. Be proud that you are dealing with a problem that is not of your making. Be your best self. Live the life you want. I did it. You can too.

Since I am a filmmaker, I will throw in a bit of trivia. I used the obscure word, “anhedonia”. This was the original title of the film, “Annie Hall”. United Artists insisted on a title change because of the fact that very few people are familiar with the word. They tried ads that included a definition, but who wants to get a vocabulary lesson in an advertisement?

A Delicate Balance

I’ve already discussed the differences between writing and directing.  When writing, the sky is limit.  I can create anything my little heart desires.  Staging all those wonderful things and capturing them on camera is another story, especially when money and time are limited.

It is a balancing act.  I am staying true to my original concept for ISN’T ROMANTIC?, but I’ve got to plan my shots within the parameters of what we can afford and what can be done in a reasonable amount of time.  It’s not easy, but with the right effort, it is possible.  The key is effective communication and respect between myself and key members of my team.  Things are going beautifully in that regard.

I had a meeting this afternoon with my director of photography and my first assistant director, two of the most important members of my crew.  The DP is the eyes of a film and using his technical and creative skills, gives a director the images needed to tell the story in the way the director envisions.  The DP is the second highest ranking person on set and runs the crew.  The 1st AD runs the set.  He calls crew and cast to the set, calls for quiet and keeps everything running so the director can focus on the creative aspects of the film.  And in my case, playing my role.

The two guys I have in those positions are terrific.  Both are much more experienced than I am. They offer advice and suggestions without being condescending and with respect for my vision for the film.  They always explain why they are proposing their ideas and what the benefits would be.  They’re much more tech savvy than I am and understand visual storytelling.   I enjoyed myself very much at the meeting, learned more things about lighting and we are closer to being ready for production, which begins in a mere three weeks.

On a less positive note, we’ve had our first glitch.  I knew it was coming sooner or later, things were going much too smoothly.  The family who owns the house we are shooting in, will be out of town on the last scheduled day of our shoot.  A problem to be sure, but just a speed bump.  A good director solves problems and always has a plan B.  I proposed a couple of solutions to my guys, and my AD came up with a good alternate schedule.  It will push back the finish of production a couple of weeks, but will actually make things easier and give us more time to get things right.  And not cost us any more money.  I’ve got to run it by the team at our production meeting Tuesday night.

A huge positive is that we are in excellent shape financially.  I’m going to bring this movie in considerably under budget.  A very good thing for a director to be able to do, especially since I would like to make a movie with a big budget for a big production company some day.  Always a plus when you can save them some money.

Money, time, creativity.  It’s a juggling act.  So far, I’ve got all the balls still in the air.  I think I’m getting the hang of this.