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!

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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.

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.

Let’s Set a Record!

My Spirited Sister -- Kicktraq Mini
I’ve come up with a fun idea to boost MY SPIRITED SISTER’s Kickstarter campaign and make it even more fun for everyone involved.  We’re going to try to set the record for the most one dollar pledges on a single campaign. I’m not going to divulge the number, but needless to say, it is a very large one. This is, in fact, the essence of crowd funding. The occasional big pledge is very helpful, but the core of most campaigns is many, many small contributions.

One dollar is the smallest amount of money that can be pledged. We do have a fun little perk for that level. It’s a very small amount of money, but if enough people do it, a great project gets funded. Setting a record offers some bragging rights, a little bit of immortality, in addition to being part of the team that makes MY SPIRITED SISTER a reality.

So pledge a buck! Urge everyone you know to do the same! Be a part of a record setting event and a member of the team. Opportunities like this don’t come along every day. Of course, if you would like to pledge a bit more than a dollar, you won’t get any complaints from me!

Link to Kickstarter campaign.

Kickstarter Update

My Spirited Sister -- Kicktraq Mini

Here is the current Kicktraq mini chart for MY SPIRITED SISTER.  So far, so good.  The key number for me is the $311 in pledges per day to succeed.  That number has been decreasing over the last few days as we’ve been able to take in more than what is needed.

Campaigns are tough and we must be diligent.  I’ve added some perks to make backing our project more attractive.  You can now earn a perk for a pledge of only $1.  It’s a fun little memento.  I won’t tell you what it is here. Check out the campaign page and take a look.

Realizing that when backing a film, generally one desires to actually see the film when it’s finished, we now offer a link to view and download the finished movie starting at the $5 level.  This is unprecedented in crowd funding.  $25 is the usual starting point to see the film.  We want people to see this and to thank them for their generosity.

But wait, there’s more!  At the $25 and $50 level, you will be able view and download not only MY SPIRITED SISTER but also, the short film Cooper and I made last year,  ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? When was the last time you saw a double feature?

Take a look at the campaign and share it with your contacts. By all means, feel free to ask any questions you may have here, or on the campaign site.  We love to share inside information with our potential collaborators.

MY SPIRITED SISTER on Kickstarter.

A Productive Day

Yesterday was a very good day in the development stage of MY SPIRITED SISTER. As you know, we’re running our Kickstarter Crowd Funding Campaign.  It’s off to a nice start, but we did need to make a little tweak. Actually, a fairly big tweak.

An important part of a campaign is the pitch video. Statistics clearly show that campaigns with a video succeed at a much higher rate than those without. Our original video was Cooper and I talking about how we met, ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?, and of course, our current project.  It was a nice video, we’re both intelligent, articulate and charming people, but it was on the long side.  In today’s world, attention spans are much shorter.  We live in an age of sound bites and brief messages.  We also realized we needed different faces out front on this project.

The solution was clear. Yesterday we shot a new video, shorter, faster paced and featuring Lauren, Emma and Abbe, the three stars of MY SPIRITED SISTER.  The result was fantastic.  The new video runs just under a minute, includes the pertinent information and gives the viewer a preview of how well these young ladies perform on camera.  The new video is now on the campaign site and people are viewing it in its entirety.

There were other good things that came about as a result of the shoot.  The director/actor relationship is one of the most important on a film set.  There has to be mutual trust and understanding.  For a director, working with actors is usually the skill that takes the most time to develop.  It’s important to realize that actors are individuals and must be treated that way.  What motivates one, may not be what motivates another.

Cooper and I had another opportunity (the TV spot was the first) to work with our leads and get a feel for their personalities, strengths and weaknesses.  The girls did a great job.  They were energetic and very natural and they have excellent chemistry with each other.  As we continued to shoot takes, looking for that “magic” one, our actors started to lose the spontaneity a bit.  I think they were worried about the time.  They started to rush a little and sounded too much “by rote”.  Cooper did an amazing job.  She had them stand up, take a little break and a breath to get back on track.  They engaged in a group hug and relaxed.  When we resumed shooting, they nailed it!  A great take that is now on the site.

It was so productive and rewarding to have everything work out that way.  I’m so impressed, not only with our stars, but with Cooper as well.  I’m not at all surprised.  I knew without a doubt she had what it takes to be an excellent director and that we would work together in that capacity every bit as well as we do as writers.

After the shoot, I went to lunch  with Cooper and her fiance.  He’s a great guy and they are such a perfect couple.  It really makes me feel good to see how happy they are together.   (I’m showing some sensitivity here. That doesn’t leave this room! Okay?)