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!

I Plead Sith with an Explanation

Darth Weinstein

The featured photo for this post is my profile picture on Facebook. On that social media platform I am known as “Darth Weinstein”, the only Jewish Sith lord in the galaxy. “I’m as ruthless as the next guy, but I feel guilty about it”. It’s a joke, a fun character meant to entertain, but in the Star Wars universe, I do identify with the Sith. Yes, I know. They’re the bad guys. But with the exception of killing innocent people and blowing up planets, (I have to draw the line some place), I like their philosophy. Much more than that of the Jedi.

Dark Side DeskFirst, my issues with the Jedi. (I’m basing this on the events pre-ROTJ, I know things changed after that.) The ban on romantic relationships. Really? Are they knights or monks? That’s just wrong and unnatural. It’s not human, or Wookie, or Togruta or any other species in the galaxy. It does more harm than good. Look at the stress Anakin Skywalker went through hiding his marriage to Padme Amidala. No wonder he turned to the Dark Side. I’m engaged, eager to marry my beautiful fiancé, Julia Baxter and no order is worth giving her up.

I also don’t like the Jedi philosophy of suppressing emotion. Again, unnatural. Emotions are a vital part of any creature’s make up. Don’t let them control you, but feel them, experience them, let them fuel you. I especially have an issue with the negative view of passion. Here’s where the Sith shine.

We embrace passion. Witness, The Sith Code:

Peace is a lie, there is only passion.

Through passion, I gain strength.

Through strength, I gain power.

Through power, I gain victory.

Through victory, my chains are broken.

The force shall set me free.

Passion is in the first line. Passion is vital in any profession. Do you think I could make any significant progress in my filmmaking career without intense passion for the artform? No. Not at all. Not in the least. Strength is a great asset, not just physical strength, but intellectual and emotional. A quest for power over others is not a good thing, I will grant you, but for me, power over myself and to lead the life I want to lead. Accomplish the goals I set for myself. Passion gives me the strength and power to do that. Victory and freedom? Hey, who doesn’t want those.

So, for all my Jedi friends out there, I respect you. May the force be with you. But I will always be a Dark Sider. Besides, doesn’t a lightsaber look the most menacing in red?

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.

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!

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.