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!”

My Amazing Fiancé: Julia Baxter

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My lovely Julia!

 

In honor of Women’s History Month, I would like to blog about some of the very special and incredible ladies in my life. They inspire me, guide me, get me through the rough times and most incredibly of all, put up with me and all the nonsense that comes with that!

For this first post, I will focus on my fiancé, Julia Baxter. What an incredible stroke of luck it was to have met her! Those of you who have followed my blog from the beginning know my story. I was thoroughly convinced no woman would ever want to be involved with me. The rest of my life would be spent in solitude. I was too unattractive, too neurotic. Guys like me only get the girl in the movies. Turns out, I was wrong.

Sometimes, it does happen in real life. The funny, anxiety ridden artist can end up with a wonderful lady. (One of the first things I noticed when I saw a photo of Julia, was her resemblance to Diane Keaton. Maybe that had something to do with it.) I decided to take a shot at a dating site. Yes, there are all kinds of crazies out there. I interacted with a few. Went on a couple of dates, none of which worked out. Then, I clicked on one of the site’s suggestions, you know, here’s someone you might like. I was intrigued.

The story gets interesting here. Julia had no photos on her profile. But it was well written, funny and sincere and she seemed like the type of woman I am attracted to. Neurotic and complex! Unbeknownst to me, Julia listed herself as living in a different part of the State of New York, which put her geographically close enough to where I was living in Connecticut at the time. Quite fortunate as it is unlikely our paths would have ever crossed otherwise.

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Summer fun in Cooperstown.

 

Julia, as it turns out, was on a very bad date that day. She came home lamenting the inability to find a smart, funny guy. Logging on to the dating site she saw that she had been visited by a guy whose profile title was, “Smart, Funny”. The rest, as they say is history! We dated for two years and I requested her hand, and the rest of her beautiful self, in marriage on a horse carriage in Central Park. We are happily engaged and enjoying our lives together.

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She said yes!

 

Julia is an absolutely remarkable person. She works at SUNY Oneonta, placing student teachers and teaching education classes. She also teaches Sunday school and does counseling and is a Reiki master! Acting in community theater musicals, planning vacations and always ready to help family and friends. I get tired just thinking about everything she does. She a terrific mother, sister, friend and truly, the love of my life. She supports and inspires me. I would not be accomplishing the things that I have been lately, were it not for her.

As an empath, Julia reads me like a book, always knowing what I need, whether that be a pat on the back or a kick in the ass. (It’s generally the latter.) Therapy and medication certainly were the major factors in helping me deal with my depression and anxiety issues, but Julia has also been vital in that regard. She understands because she has the same issues! What a perfect match!

We enjoy our life, cars parked together in the driveway, shoes side by side on the porch, my Zoloft next to her Prozac in the medicine cabinet. A match made in the DSM. I love you, Honey. I don’t know how I ever survived without you, but I’m so glad I don’t face that now.

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.

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.

The Script Is Finished!

Last night, Cooper and I finished the script for MY SPIRITED SISTER.  It’s a nice achievement and the last stretch didn’t come easy. We ran into a phenomenon that Syd Field describes in his book, “Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting”. It’s interesting and very common.

When working on a screenplay, as writers, we become intimately involved in all parts of it. The characters become real people, friends, acquaintances and even enemies. We enjoy the ride the story takes us on, get hooked on fleshing out scenes and moving it forward step by step. By the time we get to the end, it can be hard to let go. It’s like sending your child out into the world.

We found ourselves reluctant to jump in and start the final scene. We had our outline and a short treatment, we just resisted. Fortunately, we are veteran writers and realized what was happening. We pushed ourselves into it and it flowed. Mission accomplished. At least that part of it.

It’s very exciting now, because we get to move into the next phase. While still working diligently on the Kickstarter campaign, we can now move onto the later stages of development that bridge into preproduction. First, we can get the script into the hands of our lead actors. We want to give them the opportunity to start working on their characters, so they can show us their takes on them.. I’m a big believer in giving the character to the actor once the script is done. The characters are theirs to bring to life. Cooper and I will guide them of course in keeping everything in line with our vision, but we trust their talent and training.

We can schedule rehearsals and get in some work with the girls, further building a rapport with them and good actor/director relationships. We can also start thinking about casting the other roles. We need to know what we’re looking for so we can find it.

We can also get the script to our DP/Editor and start filling out the crew. We can meet with our department heads, showing them the script and start planning the look and feel of the film. It’s a very exciting time, the first step to taking the story off of paper and moving it toward the screen. It’s starts to feel real at that point.

I’ll keep you updated as we move forward. We’re very excited about this project. It will be a nice step forward in our filmmaking careers.