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!

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!”

Distribution!

Things are going swimmingly for MY SPIRITED SISTER. We resume preproduction this week, right on schedule to be prepared for our January 11 start of production. The crew is just about fully in place, we’ve got a great line on locations and a good group of actors to audition. However, this post is about our last project, ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?

A company called Indie Pix offered us an online distribution contract for IIR a couple of months ago. Their web site offers films for rental or purchase and they also distribute through Amazon, ITunes and other online outlets. We carefully checked out the contract and the company and were very pleased to sign.

The official release date is April 15, 2014, (Jackie Robinson Day. I’m the son of a Brooklyn Dodger fan. I had to acknowledge that.) Cooper and I are very excited. As she called it, “our little movie that could” is making us proud. To know that it will be out there, available to entertain, is a great feeling. Our first film to boot. I knew this partnership would yield results and I’m not surprised it’s happening this quickly.

It’s a good deal money wise, but we’re just happy to know that it will be out in the world, representing us and providing a few laughs for a world that desperately needs them.  Art for art’s sake is a wonderful thing, but creative projects are more rewarding when they are shared. So mark your calendars. Coincidentally, that’s right around the time we anticipate a final cut of MY SPIRITED SISTER. It’s going to be a fun spring.

Feeling Restless

With production on MY SPIRITED SISTER pushed back until January, the normally hectic pace of preproduction has slowed considerably. It was absolutely the right decision and we now have the opportunity to do some revising to the script. Being able to engage in writing and creativity in general is very welcoming. But I am feeling just a bit antsy.

It’s very similar to the way I was feeling in early March. We had just finished ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? Its film festival debut was still about a month away and things were feeling a bit anticlimactic. We hadn’t started work on MSS yet, so I was chomping at the bit to get going on a project. I’m feeling almost like that now. After all the work on the script, promotion and the Kickstarter campaign throughout the spring and summer and the preproduction work in September, it feels like we’ve downshifted all the way to first gear. I love being busy and engaged in a full schedule.

Fortunately, it won’t be long until things pick up. We’ll be back at full speed in preproduction in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, we are polishing the script. Once we resume, the pace will pick up again. It’s nice because we’ll have a head start. We’ve put together most of the crew, we’ve got a great line on locations and we’ve already chosen the actors we want to see. So it should be a comfortable frantic feeling, if you know what I mean.

So, I’m hanging in, brainstorming with Cooper and biding my time. I love filmmaking. Even the bad days are better than most of the regular days of my otherwise dull life. It makes me feel useful, like I actually make some kind of contribution to the world. So, bring on November!

New Production Dates for “My Spirited Sister”

Yes, I know. It’s been over a month since my last post. My apologies, but Cooper and I have been incredibly busy in preproduction on MY SPIRITED SISTER. Preparation is perhaps the most important part of the filmmaking process, and MSS is a much more ambitious project than ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? was. Plus, we had a bit of a setback.

As mentioned in earlier posts, we had retained our editor from IIR and he was going to serve as our DP as well. Unfortunately, he had to pull out of both jobs. He is always very busy and our project was more than he could handle with his very full schedule. So, in addition to every other job, we’ve had to search to fill those positions. As a result, we felt it would be best to postpone production.

We will now be shooting the final three weekends in January, including Monday, the 20th, Martin Luther King Day. The extra time will enable us to fill out the crew, finalize casting and locations as well as prepare our shot lists. It’s quite a task when you’re the writers, producers and directors, even with two of us. It was a little disappointing to have to wait a bit longer. We’ve been so eager to get going. But it was the prudent decision and will allow for a better shoot and final project.

We’ve got some good candidates for DP, including one we really like. He’s interested and we should be able to make a deal. Regarding casting, we ran a notice on Backstage and got a ton of submissions. We went through them all and chose and notified the actors we wish to see. We’ll be holding auditions in New York again, like last year. Similarly, we’ve got a good handle on locations.

We’re very happy with the crew we have too. We found an excellent 1st AD with plenty of experience. She’s organized and hardworking and is taking quite a load off us during preproduction. We also have a production designer this time around. That will make a big difference. Visually, IIR is adequate, but it could be a lot better. Some of that has to do with the lack of set dressings. We didn’t have anyone dedicated to that job. We’ve got an ambitious, young hair and make up artist, a good sound recorder and some good PAs. We have a gaffer this time too, Cooper’s fiancé, Jimmy. It’s going to be fun having him on set.

Speaking of which, Jimmy and Cooper have been planning their wedding throughout the preproduction process. Simply amazing. I don’t know how Coop does. If I go to the bank and the dry cleaner in the same day, I need a nap! Their wedding is two weeks from today. I’m really looking forward to it. They’re two terrific people and really good together. I’m also going to be shooting footage on the second camera for their wedding video. Now I can add “Second Unit Camera Operator” to my resume.

So, there you have it. You’re up to date and know when the shooting starts. I will try to be better about posting. I know my fans eagerly anticipate these posts. Both of you.

Week One Tasks

The first week of preproduction is now well underway. Cooper and I are up to our elbows in work, but we’re off to a great start and on track. Her organizational skills are vital to this partnership. I contribute boundless energy, dogged tenacity and the ability to do more than one thing at a time. I do need to have someone help put my focus in the right place., which takes us back to Coop. Complimentary skill sets, just like when we’re writing.

We formed a new production company. Last year, we called it Chegg Productions, a name coined by our editor Matt, a combination of “chicken” and “egg”, as in, which comes first. We are now 202 Productions, named after Cafe 202, a coffee shop on Route 202 where we did a lot of the writing of MY SPIRITED SISTER. 202 Productions is officially registered as a business, and we’ve got a business bank account for our funding. Much better for keeping track of the budget.

We’ve also got the first draft of our budget. In films, budgets are revised, just as scripts are. We have almost double the funding we had last year, but we still need to spend it wisely. Using what we learned while making ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? has been a huge help.

We also have our shooting dates locked in. Six day shoot, the first three weekends in November. No three week break in between like we had last year. What a momentum killer that was. So glad we don’t have to do that again.

We’ve got our Line Producer/Unit Production Manager, Director of Photography, Editor, Gaffer, Sound Recordist, Post Production Sound Mixer, Hair and Make up artist and our 1st assistant director for the first weekend. It’s a great start. We’ve got feelers out for a Script Supervisor, Production Coordinator and Production Assistants.

We’ve started discussing casting and a couple of actors have asked us for the opportunity to audition. Very nice. It’s a great project and people are interested. It’s always helpful when your cast and crew are excited about the film.

Casting is really one of the most enjoyable parts of the entire filmmaking process. Cooper and I both love it. We were very excited to discuss it today in a phone call. We’re really eager to start seeing actors as well as begin rehearsals.

Location scouting is also one the tasks we are starting. It’s fun too and essential to our success. We’re also hoping to find an art director/production designer. That was one of the areas where ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? was lacking. This time, we don’t want to neglect that aspect of production.

That’s enough of my rambling. You’re up to date. Nothing truly exciting has happened, but it will. Stay tuned.

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.

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.