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.

Bonus Perk Weekend!

Abbe Skinner (thumbs up), Lauren Abbott (gray sweater) and Emma Skinner (extreme right in profile taking the picture) in  "Isn't It Romantic?" Soul Mate poster behind them.

Abbe Skinner (thumbs up), Lauren Abbott (gray sweater) and Emma Skinner (extreme right in profile taking the picture) in “Isn’t It Romantic?” Soul Mate poster behind them.

The Kickstarter campaign to fund MY SPIRITED SISTER is progressing steadily. We are happy to offer a special deal this weekend. The highest pledge this weekend, Saturday, August 3 or Sunday August 4, will receive, in addition to the regular perk, two autographed items from our previous film, ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?

First, there is the SOUL MATE poster (in the background above) that shared a scene with Lauren Abbott, Emma Skinner and Abbe Skinner, the three stars of MY SPIRITED SISTER. The three up and coming actors will sign it.

Paul Rothbart and Cooper Campbell in "Isn't It Romantic?"

Paul Rothbart and Cooper Campbell in “Isn’t It Romantic?”

Second, you will receive the photo above, featuring yours truly and my partner, Cooper Campbell, the writer/directors of MSS, who also starred in IIR. We will both sign the photo. How can you turn that down?

Here’s a chance to become a part of our team, support indie film and get some cool signed mementos. Check out the Kickstarter campaign. Please, share it with your friends. Give everyone the chance to take advantage of this limited time offer.

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.

Kicktraq

Kicktraq is a great web site that until yesterday, I didn’t know existed.  In fact, I didn’t realize that the MY SPIRITED SISTER Kickstarter campaign was listed on the site. It provides statistical analysis on Kickstarter campaigns, using an algorithm to project the final outcome, successfully funded, over funded, or, dare we say it, failing to reach the goal.

For a math geek like me, it’s a fun to explore our page.  There are charts and graphs.  Beyond my fascination with numbers, it is a very useful tool.  It’s not so much that the predictions are 100% accurate (movie campaigns generally follow a reverse bell curve and often experience spikes) but it is a good way to gauge where tweaks must be made in the life of the campaign.

So take a look and see what you think.  In the future, this site may become a very reliable way of predicting a campaign’s chance of success.

MY SPIRITED SISTER on Kicktraq.

Special Offer!

This is last minute, I know, but, hey, I only thought of it this afternoon.  In the future, I’m planning to run these specials all weekend and will announce them on Friday.  But here it is.

The MY SPIRITED SISTER Kickstarter campaign is now almost 19% funded with a total of $1880.  In an effort to reach $2000 over the weekend, I am making this exclusive offer.  The person whose pledge pushes us to $2000 or above, today, and today only, will receive in addition to the perk for that level, the special ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? bonus pack.  That will include the DVD of the film, the first by Cooper and me and some signed memorabilia.

Abbe Skinner (thumbs up), Lauren Abbott (gray sweater) and Emma Skinner (extreme right in profile taking the picture) in  "Isn't It Romantic?"

Abbe Skinner (thumbs up), Lauren Abbott (gray sweater) and Emma Skinner (extreme right in profile taking the picture) in “Isn’t It Romantic?”

First, the SOUL MATE poster (behind the girls in the photo above) that was used in the opening scene of the film, signed by Lauren, Emma and Abbe, the three stars of MY SPIRITED SISTER.

Diana and Danny Scene 4

And I will throw in the “Property of Brooklyn College Film School” T-shirt (pictured above) that I wore as “Danny Kresky” in the film.  And I will sign it.

You have the unique opportunity to receive memorabilia from our first two films!  When Cooper and I win an Oscar, think of how valuable these items will be!  Jump on this opportunity and, if you are unable to do so, share the link with everyone you know.  Surely, someone will want to take advantage of this offer.

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?)

Introducing Our Stars

The stars of "My Spirited Sister" (left to right), Lauren Abbott, Abbe Skinner and Emma Skinner.

The stars of “My Spirited Sister” (left to right), Lauren Abbott, Abbe Skinner and Emma Skinner.

The photo above was taken on the set of “A Moment with Jon Francois”, WHC-TV in West Hartford, CT on the night of July 23. That’s the same show that Cooper and I appeared on last month. This time, the three young stars of our current film, MY SPIRITED SISTER were the guests. It was a terrific show and the girls all came through like pros. No surprise there. These are not ordinary young ladies. I am happy to introduce Lauren Abbott, Abbe Skinner and Emma Skinner.

Last year, during preproduction on ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?, Cooper, who was my co-writer and one of my producers, came up with an idea for the opening scene. It took place in a movie theater with a crowd exiting after viewing Danny Kresky’s latest film. They were excited and gushing about the film. We needed extras and Cooper said she had a group of teenage girls who would add energy to the scene. I trust her judgement 100% and I thought it sounded like a great idea, so we went with it. I remember that day well, in fact, you can look back at what I wrote in my post on it.

The girls were terrific. We had no dialogue written, in fact, their actions weren’t even in the script, so I decided to let them improvise some lines. Lauren, Abbe and Emma were amazing! The were natural and shared the screen like professionals, not stepping on each other’s lines, despite the fact that it was improvised. They also brought so much energy and excitement to the set that it affected all of us. The veteran actors commented on great it was to have the girls there. Talk about easy to direct! I told them what I needed and they delivered.

Abbe Skinner (thumbs up), Lauren Abbott (gray sweater) and Emma Skinner (extreme right in profile taking the picture) in  "Isn't It Romantic?"

Abbe Skinner (thumbs up), Lauren Abbott (gray sweater) and Emma Skinner (extreme right in profile taking the picture) in “Isn’t It Romantic?”

Cooper and I were very impressed. There was no question we had to work with this talented trio again. This time with them in lead roles. Cooper conceived of MY SPIRITED SISTER with our stars in mind, the roles were written for them. Emma and Abbe, real life sisters, will be playing Amanda and Bethany Paige, sisters in the film and Lauren, Abbe’s real life best friend, will be playing Crystal Albright, Bethany’s best friend. This is a can’t miss.

The girls have been interested in acting and performing their entire young lives and started training at the age of five. They’ve attended camps and taken classes in scene study, character work, improv, singing, pretty much every aspect of acting. They also  have plenty of experience on the stage and television work. Of course they’ve also appeared in a film, my first.

I say this in all seriousness, these young ladies are worth watching. They are talented, well trained and dedicated. Cooper and I are thrilled to have them as our leads. You all know my approach: eighty percent of directing is casting and we’ve nailed it here. It was further confirmed last night as we watched the interview. The girls were a bit nervous. Perfectly natural as none of them had ever done a TV interview. Cooper and I prepped them the night before and just before the interview. Once it got underway, they all relaxed and were charming and articulate and entertaining. Never a doubt in my mind that they would be.

We’re planning to develop MY SPIRITED SISTER as a series and have a couple of potential avenues we plan to pitch to. With the work we’re putting in on the script and the terrific lead actors we have, we’re anticipating a great film. This should advance the careers of everyone involved. Very exciting.

The TV Spot

This past Wednesday, Cooper and I shot our television appearance on WHC-TV in West Hartford, CT.  It’s a local public access station, but it will also be available on the internet on the station’s web site and it’s still publicity!  It was also a lot of fun.

During my stand up days, I did quite a bit of public access TV as well as a few interviews on the local news.  Thus, I was very comfortable with the interview.  Cooper’s only prior television work had been on soaps and not any talk show type situations, so she was a bit nervous.  She relaxed the second we started and handled it like the pro she is.  There was never a doubt in my mind that she would.

We got a nice full twenty minute spot, more than enough time to cover everything we wanted to.  We talked about our backgrounds in writing, and mine in stand up and hers in acting.  The story of how we met in our old screenwriting group and became partners came up and we also related our similar tastes in movies and how well we work together.

Then we talked about ISN’T ROMANTIC?, how much fun we had, what we learned and how it’s doing now.  They will add a clip from the film in the final edit.  We chose the scene in the kitchen where Diana confronts Danny about her despair over the lack of romance in their marriage.  It’s a good scene that gives a feel for the film without giving anything away.

We segued to MY SPIRITED SISTER by talking about how impressed with were with the work its three young stars did in their appearance in the opening scene of ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?   We wrapped up by talking about the story and our crowd funding campaign.

It went very well.  The host, the director and the crew were very nice and they did a great job, very professional.  The host is also an actor and I told him to send me a headshot and resume, I”m always on the lookout for talent.  After the show, Cooper and I talked to him about what it’s like to pursue a show business career.  He had many questions about New York versus LA.  I of course, am from New York and Cooper has lived in both cities so we were able to help him out.

The show is called A MOMENT WITH JON FRANCOIS.  It will air in July on Comcast Cable, just in time for the launch of our campaign.  I’ll post the web site link when it’s available for those who are curious.  We also booked our three stars to make an appearance on the show next month.  PR is so important and as I have stated, I’m going to do all I can in that vein.

After spending so much time preparing for and doing interviews, on Thursday, Cooper and I were able to get back to writing.  We’re finishing up our revisions to prepare the script for production.  So much to do to be ready for our October shooting start.  It will be here before we know it.  We are so excited!  Making a film is so much fun.