One More Hill to Climb, Baby!

Running the meeting

Me, at a production meeting for “Isn’t It Romantic?”

The title of this post will be recognized by any long time New York Ranger fans. They were part of then radio play by play man Howie’s Rose’s call of the goal Stephan Matteau scored in double overtime that eliminated the New Jersey Devils and sent the Rangers to the NHL finals, where they defeated the Vancouver Canucks and won the Stanley Cup in 1994. What does this have to do with anything? It’s playoff time and I thought this would be a fun way to announce that my feature romantic comedy screenplay, Soul Mate is headed to the finals!

On April 26, eleven scripts were announced and low and behold, mine was amongst them. I have now won a free Stage 32 Next Level webinar and the logline for Soul Mate will be sent to over 500 industry professionals. Not to mention the chance to win the Grand Prize or one of the second prizes.

I’m thrilled. No question about that. This is actually the second contest where Soul Mate has been a finalist. It got down to a final six in the 2012 Wild Sound Summer Screenwriting Contest. So people think it’s pretty good.

At the start, I said I hoped to at least make the finals. I’m very happy to be there, but I would be lying if I said I don’t care about winning. I want this. Badly. Nearly all Stage 32 contest winners have gotten agents and their scripts optioned. That would be a very nice career boost. With everything else that’s been going well, this would just add to the momentum. In a very big way.

The winners will be announced on May 17. I will post my results then. So if you’re interested, and I think you are, tune in then.

In case you’re curious, you can hear Howie Rose’s amazing call and see the goal on YouTube. Let’s hope I go all the way as my Rangers did that magical season.

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!

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.

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.

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.

Caption Contest!

Caption this photo to win a signed poster that was used in "Isn't It Romantic?"

Caption this photo to win a signed poster that was used in “Isn’t It Romantic?”

As post production continues on ISNT’ IT ROMANTIC?, I’m also making efforts to promote the film.  It’s actually starting to take on a life of its own and we’re generating a little buzz.  I would like to make that buzz bigger.  So I came up with an idea.

We are running a contest on the movie’s Facebook fan page.  The photo above is a screen capture taken from the film’s footage.  Interestingly, it did not occur during a take, so it’s not an interaction between characters, but rather between director and actor.  I thought the body English and facial expressions were interesting, so I chose it for the contest.

Visitors to the FB page can leave a caption as a comment.  The contest runs until January 31.  The writer of the best caption will receive a poster for Danny Kresky’s fictitious film, SOUL MATE.  The poster was used as set dressing in the opening scene of ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? and it will be signed by yours truly and Cooper Campbell, pictured here with me.  So, you essentially get six autographs, the two writers, the two lead actors, the main producer and the director!  What a prize!

Margie Ferris (left) and Madeline Jaye rehearse their scene on the set on Day 2.  In the background is the prize poster.

Margie Ferris (left) and Madeline Jaye rehearse their scene on the set on Day 2. In the background is the prize poster.

So check out our fan page.  Enter the contest, look at the outtakes and like us!  Who knows, you may end up with a piece of movie memorabilia.  ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? is rapidly nearing completion and will be hitting the festival circuit very soon.

Status Update

It’s been almost a month since production wrapped on ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? and quite awhile since I’ve posted.  I guess I’m overdue to bring everyone (okay, the three of you that actually read my blog) up to speed.  We’re still in post production and there is a considerable amount of work to be done.

I’ve gotten a look at the footage.  We’ve got some good stuff, but there are some gaps in coverage that will take creative solutions to make the scenes work.  I’m not happy with myself for allowing that to happen.  Granted, this is my first film, but it’s difficult.  I set very high standards for myself and it bothers me when I don’t live up to them.  My editor is confident that we can work around the problems.  He has over twenty years of experience and is very creative and talented.  He’s also a good friend who helps me stay calm when I start to freak out.

I”m a neurotic mess much of the time.  It’s very helpful in that I feel it’s the source of my creativity and talent.  It provides me with energy and inspires original story concepts.  It also makes me crazy sometimes.  For example, I find my performance in the film to be abysmal.  Other members of my team tell me otherwise, that I did a solid job.  My editor used the words, “Pretty damn good”.  Most actors don’t like to watch themselves and it’s so hard to be objective when watching oneself.  Nonetheless, watching me in a scene with the experienced and terrific actors in my cast looks to me like a high school pitcher trying to get major league hitters out.

I think part of the problem is I can’t buy into my character, Danny Kresky.  I look at the screen and I don’t see Danny.  I see me.  It makes everything else hard to buy.  I can’t get into the story because I know I’m not a highly successful writer/director (and probably never will be).  I’m not married to an amazing woman (and definitely never will be!)  I know, I should be looking at the overall story, but it is hard.

On the plus side, the sound is very good.  Poor audio is one of the major problems independent films face.  I hired a very good sound man and eliminated that issue.  I had two beautiful locations, four of my five main actors were excellent and my background actors were terrific.  We also had an excellent script from which to work.  As my idol Woody Allen said, “Experience has shown me that if you have a good script, you can do a miserable job of directing and still get a pretty good movie …”  I didn’t do a brilliant job, but it certainly wasn’t miserable either.  I did pretty well, I thought.  So I think we will end up with a pretty good movie.

SAG has invited us to submit it to their Short Film Showcase.  So glad we did it under a SAG contract for a number of reasons and this is now another.  It’s free to enter and if we get in, there’s a free screening at the SAG office in New York with a Q and A with the director and producers after.  That would be really nice exposure for us.  There is also a local film festival that we are almost sure to get into.  So, there are things to which we can look forward.

In the meantime, I am once again attempting to market my feature screenplay, SOUL MATE.  It’s a great script, the best thing I’ve written to date and I’ve got to get it on the screen.  If I have to, I will shoot it myself one day.  I’ve also started work on a new feature with my writing partner.  I’m very excited about that too.  We have a good story concept and our work on ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? has shown both of us that we are capable of great things together.

Sorry for the long layoff on the updates.  (Like anyone is paying attention.)  I’ll keep you apprised of new developments.  Hopefully, we’ll have a finished film sometime early in the new year.