Campaign Update

Our Kickstarter campaign is gaining momentum. We’ve had a nice flurry of pledges from last night and throughout this afternoon. We are now at 15% of our $10,000 goal. It’s a good start and if we can maintain this pace, we’ll be able to get there.

It’s been the result of diligence and hard work on the part of a group of people. Our three stars, Cooper, the families and I have been putting out the word through social media and good old fashioned face to face contact. I’ve learned a lot since I ran the campaign for ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?  last year. We only reached 10% total and we were only able to make the film because I had access to a sum sufficient to produce it. I have no such access this year, so it’s crowd funding or bust.

I’ve done my homework. I’ve spent hours studying material on how to conduct a successful crowd funding campaign and even reached out for consultation from an expert, Lucas McNelly. He has a great web site packed with information on every aspect of the task.

And it is a task. No matter how much time you plan to devote to it, if you want to be successful, you’ve got to devote more. It’s a grind to be sure, especially since Cooper and I are still working on the script, booking and preparing ourselves and our stars for interviews and doing the million other things required to get a film into production. I’m in full filmmaking mode, only sleeping four hours a night.

I love this hectic pace. I’m a Gemini and while I don’t necessarily subscribe to astrology, I do have my sign’s characteristic ability to multitask. I’m going to make this happen. Whatever I have to do, this project will come to fruition. I said this last year as well, but the great thing is that this time, I can point to ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? as an example that proves, we can take a project all the way.

So, jump on board this success story. This is going to be a terrific film and the start of a what should prove to be an amazing series. MY SPIRITED SISTER on Kickstarter. Tell your family, tell your friends, tell people you can’t stand!

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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.

The First Interview

Yesterday, Cooper and I met with a young reporter from the Danbury News-Times for our interview.  We sat in a Starbucks, sipping ice tea and discussing our lives as artists.  I feel it went well.  We prepared for it, getting together the day before and going over the points we wished to express.  We are leaving nothing to chance.  It’s important to take full advantage of every tool at our disposal.

One of the things that has drawn us together as partners and friends is the fact that we have traveled remarkably similar paths in life.  That was confirmed yesterday.  As we talked about the aspirations and passions we developed as children and how they carried us to the current point in our lives, the reporter commented on that similarity.  It’s funny.  I absolutely don’t believe in fate, but we are amazingly well suited to be creative partners.  Almost like it was designed that way.

We also talked about ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?, how it developed, the work we put in, what we learned and how it’s doing now.  We then discussed MY SPIRITED SISTER. That was our main reason for doing the interview.  We need to get the word out about our upcoming IndieGoGo campaign.  We want to raise more money than last time and make an even better film with better production values.

We talked about the young stars of the upcoming movie.  The three of them appeared in the opening scene of ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?  These girls were amazing, talented, enthusiastic and so full of energy.  They had an impact on everyone who was on set that day.  The veteran actors commented on the effect the kids had on them.

They’ve been studying acting for some time and it shows.  We had no dialogue written for them in the scene, so I told them to improvise. It worked beautifully.  They were comfortable and natural and shared the screen like pros.  The scene really works well and they are completely believable.

Cooper and I are really looking forward to working with them again, this time giving them lead roles.  I’ve said this before, casting is vital.  Choose the right actors and your job as a director becomes much easier.  We did just that on ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? and we’re well on our way to doing it again.

In the interview, we also took the time to acknowledge how pleased with were with the effort we got from the crew on IIR.  We had a mix of experience including people who had never been on a film set.  The enthusiasm was high though and everyone made their contribution.

The reporter thanked us at the end.  He’s young and up and coming and appreciated the opportunity.  We equally appreciated the publicity.  Earlier in our lives, when Cooper was in LA pursuing her acting career and I was in New York doing stand up, neither of us promoted ourselves the way we should have.  A little too humble.  Nothing wrong with humble, but to get anywhere in this business, you’ve got to let the world know you’re here.  That’s what we’re doing now.  We’re talented and dedicated and we’re going to shout it from the rooftops.

Happy Birthday, Dad

I’m in a pensive mood today.  Today would have been my father’s seventy-eighth birthday.  He passed away on September 3, 2011.  We had a complex and difficult relationship when I was growing up, but I was able to reconcile with him as an adult.  I miss him and regret that he never got to see my first film.

My father loved movies.  Films and sports were the two loves we shared and about which we could always talk.  Even in his last days, his mind not nearly as sharp as it once was, he would enjoy watching a movie with my brother and I.  He couldn’t remember what he had for breakfast that day, but if one of us quoted a line from THE GODFATHER, he immediately recognized it and smiled.

My father was a bright, charming and very funny guy.  There’s no question I got my sense of humor from him and watching him make his friends laugh was one of my greatest motivations for becoming a stand up comic.  He never got to see me perform, the only family member who didn’t, but his friends told me that he used to brag about how smart, funny and talented I was.

I dedicated ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? to his memory.  I think he would have liked it.  He loved comedies and was as big a Woody Allen fan as I am.  It would have been nice to see his reaction had he gotten to see it.  No matter.  I still have my memories.  As I move on to my next film, MY SPIRITED SISTER, I still think of my father and all the times we watched movies together.  There’s a piece of him in me.  A valuable piece.  One without which I would not be the artist that I am.

Happy birthday, Dad.  Thank you for everything.  You gave me much more than you ever realized.

All about me questionnaire

I know, my posts have been few and far between lately.  Sorry.  ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? is just about finished and I’ve been busy working to promote it, as well as seeking out suitable film festivals and other avenues of distribution.  I’m also working on two major writing projects as well brainstorming ideas for my next film.

I came across something that may interest my minuscule group of readers.  I found it on the one of the excellent blogs I follow, “shoegaze and cats”.  It is a questionnaire designed by Ania.  I think it’s fun to learn about the writers I read, so I’ve decided to post my answers to the questions here.

1. What are your values/priorities in life?

I value my family and close friends.  Honesty with others and myself.  I want to constantly grow as a person and to reach my full potential.  I want to continue to express myself through the medium of film, entertaining and hopefully enlightening others.  Maybe if I’m fortunate, there will be one person out there I can touch in the way that my favorite filmmakers have touched me.

2. What is your zodiac sign? Do you match its description?

I’m a Gemini and it’s uncanny how closely I match its description.  At the risk of sounding less than humble, I am intelligent and creative with a very fast mind.  I’m spontaneous and impulsive, very good at improv and extremely energetic.  I also have dual sides to my personality, kind of a light and dark, yin and yang kind of thing.  More on this in the introvert/extrovert question.

3. Do you have a pet? If you do, what kind of a pet is it?

Yes, I have a cat.  I never came up with a name for her, I just call her Kitty.  Very original, huh?  She’s very independent and keeps to herself most of the time.  She only wants attention on her terms, but she’s very affectionate sometimes and keeps me company.

4. Are there any quotes you particularly like?

There are actually two and they come from somewhat bizarre sources.  The first is, “It’s fun to have fun, but you have to know how”.  It’s from Doctor Suess’ “The Cat in the Hat”.  I remember it from childhood and I think it’s so important to have fun whenever I can.  The other is from “Amazing Fantasy # 15” the comic book that launched Spider-man, one of my heroes.  “With great power, there must also come great responsibility”.  That’s the original quote, it was altered in the Sam Raimi film.  Corny, I know, but I truly believe it and it’s one of the guiding principles of my life.

5. What song would you pick up as a soundtrack to your life? If you cannot choose one, take several :)

This is tricky.  I would have to choose an actual soundtrack, with different songs for different aspects of my life.  In terms of my work as an artist I would choose Annie Ross’ “Twisted”.  It’s an obscure jazz tune that Woody Allen used under the opening titles of DECONSTRUCTING HARRY.  If you’re curious, you can find it on YouTube.  Basically the song is about my analyst thinking I’m crazy, but I believe my eccentricities are a sign of genius.  I recently told someone this and she thought it was a little self-absorbed.  I have to say I agree with that, but I’m a confident guy.  At least when it comes to my talent.

Another song that I’ve always loved that has a place in my life is Cole Porter’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”.  I prefer the Sinatra version to Frankie Valli.  Over the last year I went through a pretty intense experience.  I was insanely attracted to a female friend.  I seriously have never wanted a woman more in my life.  The lyrics of that song matched how I was feeling exactly.  Especially the part about “the warning voice that comes in the night and repeats and repeats in my ear, don’t you know little fool, you never can win”  I didn’t win the girl of my dreams (no surprise there) but I did confess my feelings to her, she was really understanding and we became closer friends because of it.  Very cool.

6. Who are the most important people in your life?

My son would be first.  He’s a terrific kid, a bio-chem major.  I’m very proud of him and we have a great relationship.  My mother and brother.  I am very close to my family.  They are so supportive of everything I do.  Also my writing partner and co-star on ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? She is by far the best creative partner I have ever had and I can honestly say, the movie would not have been made without her.  We plan to continue to work together.  We’re a really good team.

7. Do you believe in life after death? If yes, how do you imagine it will look like?

I don’t.  For that reason, I don’t want to be buried in a suit.  What am I dressing up for?  Put me in something comfortable.

8. What are your greatest passions/hobbies?

Naturally, first would be film.  I love writing in general, especially screenwriting and now that I’ve experienced it firsthand, I love the entire filmmaking process.  I also love music and reading and sports, especially hockey.  Philosophy is something I’m passionate about as well.  I love to ponder all of life’s deepest questions.  I will never have the answers but it really is all about the search.

9. If you could choose any job in the world, which one would you choose?

It would be exactly the career I am pursuing, writing and directing films.  I also plan to find the time at some point to get back into stand up comedy.  I really miss it.  I could not be happy if I wasn’t expressing myself creatively.

10. How do you like to dress? Do you stick to a particular style?

I wear what’s comfortable.  I am the least fashionable person on the planet.  I don’t begrudge those who have a style.  To each his own, but I have never believed that clothes make the man.  Who I am is not something I can put on and take off.  I’m very low maintenance.  Besides, it’s doesn’t matter what I wear, nothing looks good on me.  I’m just not an attractive person.  Not physically anyway.

11. What’s your most favourite book/writer?

Tough question, there are many writers I admire.  Since the question mentions books, I will go with my favorite novelist/short story writer, Ernest Hemingway.  I got hooked in high school and reread his work all the time.

12. Are you more of an extrovert or an introvert?

Ah, back to being a Gemini.  I can be both to an extreme degree.  There are times when I am in social situations and feel uncomfortable.  I will just blend into the background, not say a word and no one even knows I’m there.  Other times, I can be the absolute life of the party.  I talk to everyone, joke with them, make them feel comfortable.  It was something I was proud of when I shot the movie.  My actors all commented on how I made them feel appreciated and on my warmth.  Fascinating aspect of my personality and something I don’t have a lot of control over.

13. If you could perfect one of  the skills you already have or dream of having, which one would it be?

Interesting question.  I am tempted to say my writing.  I’ve always said, I am first and foremost a writer.  But I am very confident of my writing skills and I work to improve them all the time, quite successfully.  So, I  would have to say my business skills.  Right now, they are pretty much nonexistent.  But to be a successful filmmaker, I have to get really good at promotion, networking and raising money through investors.  I’ve got to be a salesman.  That is one of my goals for this year, to improve those skills.  I’m actually doing fairly well so far.  To perfect them would free me to make the films I want to.  Nice to think about.

14. Do you have a role model? Is there some historical figure/celebrity/family member you admire?

I don’t model myself on anyone, I like the fact that I am, like everyone in the world, a unique individual.  I do have a number of influences but to single out one is very easy.  Woody Allen.  I’m talking about the artist, his personal life is not something I would emulate, but it is none of my business.  I admire the way he always strives to grow as an artist, trying new things.  I like that he is not afraid to fail and that he makes the films he wants to make and serves no master.  It’s what I strive to do myself.

15. What do you usually do to lift your mood?

Music is very helpful.  I love jazz and there are a number of recordings that make me feel good.  There are also movies that I watch that can snap me out of a funk, and now that includes my own.  Not that I’m saying it’s on the level of the others, just that I am proud of the accomplishment and it reminds me of what I am capable of doing.

16. What are your top 5 websites that you visit daily or most often?

My GMail account, I get tons of emails and many of them are important.  My film’s Facebook page and Twitter account because I am still promoting it.  IMDBPro.  I love researching films and filmmakers.  LinkedIn.  It’s a great networking site.  I’ve gotten work from it and found people to help with my projects.  My profile was one of the top 5% viewed last year.  I’m learning!

17. Where would you live if you could choose any place in the world?

My hometown, the greatest city in the world and the center of the universe, New York. (Okay, I’m just a little biased)  It’s such a great center of culture and the arts and I feel more comfortable there than anywhere.  I still live very close and get into the city all the time.  But I’m going to move back when I can finally afford to.

18. Do you like your flat/house or would you like to move somewhere else?

My place is okay, but it’s small.  I would love to have more space.  I’m here for financial reasons, but I am working very hard to change that.

19. What do you carry in your bag?

Being a guy I don’t carry a bag but in my pockets I carry my wallet, my keys, my phone, my money and a small picture of my son as a baby in a lucite case.  I keep my cash in a separate pocket and not in my wallet because when I was a child my father told me that people from New York never put money in their wallets.  I don’t know how true that is, but he never did and neither do I.

20. Which countries would you like to visit?

Italy for sure.  France, England and Sweden.  I have family in Sweden.  I would love to visit Japan too.

21. What’s your biggest dream (if you can tell, of course)?

To be able to make whatever films I choose.  Making a lot of money and winning awards would be nice, but as long as I can make them, I would be happy.  Since we are talking dream here, I will throw this in.  I would love to win an Oscar, preferably for Best Original Screenplay, but Best Director would be cool too.

22. If you won the lottery, what would be the first thing you would buy?

I can think of a few things, but the question is the first thing.  A ’63 Corvette Split Window Coupe.  My favorite car of all time.  I’ve loved them since I was a kid.  Very impractical, but you’re supposed to have fun when you win the lottery.

23. If you compare yourself five years ago and now, what has changed?

I’ve made a lot of progress in that time span.  I am much more confident.  I am actively and aggressively pursuing my dreams and goals now.  I’ve made tremendous progress in dealing with my depression and anxiety issues.  I am happy to say that I am in a much better place.

24. Do you speak any foreign languages? Would you like to learn any in the future?

Language fascinates me.  I speak Italian fairly well and some Spanish.  There is a growing Latino community in the town I live in and I like to make small talk in Spanish when I can .  As I stated earlier, I have family in Sweden and I do know a little Swedish.  I would love to become fluent.

25. What are your biggest strengths and your biggest weaknesses?

My strengths:  My intelligence, talent, sense of humor, determination, toughness, compassion and ability to read people.

My weaknesses: My temper, impulsiveness at times, my difficulty making phone calls (getting better though) reluctance to ask for help even when I need it, procrastination, inability to focus and the way I sometimes skip meals and sleep while working on a project.  Not healthy.

26. What skills do your friends ask you to teach them? What kind of advice do people turn to you for?

I’m proud to say my fellow writers often ask me to read and critique their work.  This goes back to my stand up days when my comedian friends would always ask me to write with them and wanted my opinion on their material.  Other filmmakers also ask my opinion on their movies.  My brother is great.  He looks up to me and asks my advice on many different things.  It’s a good feeling to be respected and I love helping him.

In the Home Stretch

My onscreen directing credit for "Isn't It Romantic?"

My onscreen directing credit for “Isn’t It Romantic?”

There it is, boys and girls.  My actual directing credit, captured from the final cut of ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?  One of my long time dreams come true.  My editor took my basic white letters on black and tweaked it nicely.  The sign is part of the marquee of the Warner Theater in Torrington, CT where we shot the opening scene.  Woody Allen-ish, but my own unique take.  Very nice.

This past Tuesday, we had the first public screening of the movie.  It was for my cast, crew and family and friends.  The film is still not quite finished, it still needs a sound mix and color correction, but we have picture lock and the team was anxious to see it.  We had a little party and projected it onto a screen, the only way a movie should be seen.

It was a nice night, a success.  The film got a good round of applause and we watched it twice.  I got a rush of adrenaline I haven’t felt since my stand up days.  It was wonderful seeing the team again and reveling in our achievement.  Great to reminisce about the fun we had making it.

We had a professional sound mixer who was going to do the mix for free.  He was a friend of my cowriter.  Unfortunately, he had to drop out due to other commitments.  No problem at all.  I am really getting the hang of filmmaking.  Networking is rapidly becoming one of my skills.  I put out some feelers and picked up a number of candidates.  Today, we chose a very good mixer who is going to do the job for a price that fits the budget.  We also received a very generous donation from one of Tuesday night’s guests to pay for the mixer.  This project has been blessed.

Needless to say, I am feeling very good indeed.  I am expanding my skill set and my contacts.  I feel very good about my future in filmmaking.  My cowriter and I are working on a feature length romantic comedy and we also have a short in the works to shoot later this year, most likely late spring or summer.  I am even thinking of shooting two shorts this year, maybe another in the fall.

“ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?” is going to get plenty of festival exposure.  We have already been accepted to one.  We are going to be reviewed by an online film magazine and I am looking into several avenues of distribution.  My goal from day one was not merely to make a movie, but to make a good movie.  Mission accomplished.  I now have something nice to show potential investors for future projects.  Projects about which I will blog.  Can’t let down my loyal fans.

I am truly thrilled.  So nice to finally see that directed by credit. 

 

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.