My Spirited Sister Update

Cooper and I are now back in full swing in preproduction on MY SPIRITED SISTER. Things are progressing nicely and there are a few updates to report. First, we realized that the story and characters lend themselves to the sitcom format, so we are rewriting the script. We’re very excited and have great ideas. It’s going to be a very funny pilot.

We have also hired a DP, a vital position to be sure. He’s young, talented and very creative. We really like his work and he impressed us in the interview. He’s got equipment and solid experience and we feel that it will be a great collaboration. The crew is now almost completely in place. We just need a crafty, a person to handle setting up and taking charge of the food. It’s an often overlooked, but very important part of a shoot. We have a few ideas and we’re hoping to have someone soon. We’ll be setting up a tech scout at our location soon for our DP, 1st AD and Production Designer. This way, everyone can get a look at where we’ll be shooting and work out the logistics for the look of the show.

We have auditions scheduled for December 7 at the Shetler Studios in New York, the same place we held auditions last year for ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? We’ll be filling out the remainder of our roles and we’re really excited to see the actors we’ve chosen to see. We will then have a table read to start the rehearsal process.

Finally, MY SPIRITED SISTER, is now on IMDb It’s very cool to see your project listed and it’s also helpful for promotion, marketing and publicity. It also builds our personal pages. Take a look at the listing.

So, there you have it. The wheels are in motion. We’re on track to be ready to go on our January 11 start date. Stay tuned. It gets more exciting from here!

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.

An Anniversary

Today, October 13 is a significant day in my filmmaking career. It was on this date last year that production began on ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? My first day on set as a director as well as my film acting debut. Well, not really acting. You all know the deal, I’m a performer, not an actor. Nevertheless, it was a memorable day.

I went back and read my post from last year. Hey, somebody has to read these things. I still remember the excitement I felt, the thrill of my long time dream coming true. I also faced my baptism by fire that day, when we fell behind schedule and I adjusted the shot list to get us caught up. At the time, the finished film was months away, but I did what I could to make sure I had sufficient coverage for the “inn scene”, the longest and most complex of IIR. (For the record, it works!)

Funny story about that day. Throughout preproduction, my script supervisor kept drilling into everyone the importance of not having any food or drinks on set. Basic rule, no problem there. When I first arrived, I was carrying a cup of coffee. I went to the room we were shooting in to consult with my DP. After a minute or so, my make up artist called me to the make up area to talk. As I left the room, I put my coffee on an end table. Within a minute, my scripty rushed into the make up area flustered. “Paul, you better talk to these people! There’s a coffee cup on set!” I responded, “Don’t worry. I’ll take care of this!” Hilarious. I sneaked to the set and grabbed my cup. Nice to make an impact my first day on set.

So happy anniversary, not only to me, but to my wonderful partner Cooper and everyone who was present that day. Appropriately, it was today that I mailed our distribution contract to IndiePix who has picked up IIR for online distribution. So October 13 of this year is significant as well! Who says thirteen is an unlucky number?

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.

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