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.

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.

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.

Media Available on the Facebook Fan Page

Diana finally spells out the problem to her clueless husband, Danny.

ISN’T ROMANTIC? is now full steam in post production and we should have a finished film sometime in January.  We are all very excited and already have a few festivals we are planning to enter.  One we definitely want to submit to is the Litchfield Hills Film Festival which is held at the Warner Theater in Torrington, CT.  It would be fun to see it screened there since we shot the opening scene at the Warner.

As the film nears completion, I am stepping up my efforts to promote it.  It’s going to be a nice movie, sweet, quirky and very funny.  The film has a Facebook fan page and I am now placing content on it regularly.  I have production stills, updates, screen captures (like the one above) and I’ve placed a very funny outtake on the site.  The outtake seems to be quite popular and I have more I am planning to post as time goes on.

There are actually a fair number of people looking forward to seeing the film, which is encouraging.  I have no delusions about making money from it, but it would be great if a large number of people could enjoy it.  It would be very helpful to me moving forward to build a following that will look forward to future projects.

The screen capture shown here features me, with my co-writer, producer and co-star (I’m not the only one who did multiple tasks!) Cooper Campbell as Danny and Diana.  Here, a frustrated Diana, after locking herself in the bedroom has popped out to make clear to her husband just what is lacking in their marriage.  The T-shirt I’m wearing is a tribute to my Brooklyn heritage.  I like this shot and I think it captures the basic story of the movie.

I would encourage those of you who read my blog to check out the Facebook page @ www.facebook.com/isntitromanticmovie .  The outtake I posted yesterday is very funny.  I also have interesting little facts included in the captions of the photos discussing the inside story.

Diana struggles with the groceries getting no help from Danny.

Diana struggles with the groceries getting no help from Danny.

Here’s another screen capture showing that for Diana, being married to the greatest maker of romantic comedies in the country is not the experience Danny’s female fans believe it to be.  This was a fun film to make and it will be equally fun to watch.  I honestly believe that.  Take a look and tell your family and friends.

Day 2

Me (left) with my editor, Matt Epstein, on location at the Warner Theater in Torrington, CT on Day 2 of production on “Isn’t It Romantic?”

Sorry for the delay on this post.  There are so many things to do each day, even on non-shooting days.  I’ve finally found some time to file a report.  Day 2 went well, less hectic, but the inexperienced crew members have a few things to learn.

This Sunday, we shot the opening scene of ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? at the Warner Theater.  It was a much shorter day as the scene will only run about thirty seconds and it required fewer shots.  Additionally, I’m not in that scene so I was able to focus all of my attention on directing.

Things went very well.  I made a change on the fly on Day 2 as well.  Not nearly as dramatic as my move to get us back on schedule on Day 1, but I did substitute a different set up for the purpose of a smoother transition in editing.  Flexibility is always important in filmmaking and I am fortunate to have my editor on set to advise me in these matters.  That’s an important part of being a good director.  Listening to your department heads when it comes to their fields of expertise.  Unfortunately, you also sometimes get advice from non-experts who wish to help.

I have a number of crew members who have solid experience on movie sets.  I trust their judgement and listen carefully to what they have to say.  The final decisions are always mine, and they understand that.  The less experienced members of my crew are a different.  I need to speak to them at our next production meeting before we resume shooting.  They mean well, but cause distractions.

My 1st assistant director is terrific.  He’s been involved in filmmaking for forty years and gives me the space I need.  I need to instruct everyone in protocol.  A movie set is not a democracy.  The director is the emperor and his or her word is law.  There is a chain of command, much like in the military with a movie crew.  Any questions or concerns are addressed to one’s department head.  The department head reports to the 1st AD, who then goes to the director if necessary.

Sunday was not too bad.  Saturday was worse.  I had inexperienced people following me around commenting on whether or not I had enough make up on, telling they didn’t hear a line when they were twenty feet away in another room.  That kind of thing.  It was worse that day because I had my role to play as well as direct.  I’m going to tactfully go over set etiquette.  I’m sure they will respond well.

Margie Ferris (left) and Madeline Jaye rehearse their scene on the set on Day 2.

Sunday was a very pleasant shooting day.  My actors were terrific and so nice to work with.  They told me how much they enjoyed working with me and complimented my directorial style.  Not bad for a rookie.  I had a nice group of background actors too.  My co-star and writer brought a group of teenage girls who were so excited to be in a movie.  The kids were amazing.  I let them improvise some dialogue and they were natural and energetic and added so much to the scene.  It warmed my heart to see the joy on their faces.

I felt very good all day.  I was so excited after Day 1 that I only got about two hours of sleep, but my adrenaline keep me going.  I was on my feet all day, no director’s chair for me.  I was really comfortable with the whole process.  I’ve always picked things up quickly and directing seems to be following suit.

I’m really looking forward to resuming shooting on November 2.  Many things for me to do in the meantime.  I want to plan some nice camera moves for the rest of the film and I’m in every scene that we shoot from here on out.  More rehearsal time.  On November 2, we shoot my first onscreen kiss.  Lucky for me it’s in front of the camera.  I’ll have no problem because I’m performing.  In real life, I would be terrified.

At any rate, I’m pleased overall at how things are going.  There’s room for improvement and I plan to have an even better Day 3 and 4.  I’ve got to do this again.  It’s so much fun.

 

 

This Is It!

Today was quite hectic.  It is now about 8 PM.  I just ate dinner.  I arrived home about an hour ago after running around the state of Connecticut since about 7 this morning.  Last minute details.  I had to go to pick up my prop camera, pick up a rental van, pick up my DP,  pick up the equipment we rented and get to my location.  Everyone one of those places in a different town.  I’m tired but happy.  We got our set ready to go and we’ll get off to a good start tomorrow.

As I looked around at the lights, C-stands, silks, flags and other equipment, I experienced some of that surreal feeling I had last night while shooting the marquee at the Warner Theater.  I’ve observed the action on film sets a few times in my life, but this was different.  This was my set.  This time, I’m the guy calling the shots and a huge responsibility sits on my shoulders.  I walked around, moving through the blocking for the scene, imagining what it will feel like when I’m performing and directing for real.

How many times have I thought about this?  Wondering what it would be like, if I would ever get the opportunity.  How would I handle it?  It’s been a long time coming, but the last several weeks flew by.  It’s pretty incredible how much we accomplished in a pre-production period that lasted only eight weeks.  My director of photography told me he thought what I’ve done is amazing, that he thought it was impossible to prepare for production that quickly.  Nice to be able to amaze.

Huge day tomorrow.  Not only do I have to direct my cast and crew, I’ve got to play my part well.  I want to make a great film.  I feel the pressure and the enormity of the situation.  It’s quite a load to carry, but when I push past the layers of insecurity, the little neuroses and get right down to my core, the truth is clear.  This thing is in the bag!  Like I have my entire life, when the heat is on, I will rise to the occasion and deliver the goods.

Production Has Begun

The opening shot of “Isn’t It Romantic?”

Although our first shooting day with the full crew is not until Saturday, October 13, production on ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?  technically began tonight when my director of photography and I took a trip to our movie theater location, the beautiful Warner Theater in Torrington, Connecticut, to get the opening shots.  The head of maintenance at the theater graciously dressed the marquee for us to display the title of Danny Kresky’s latest film along with my fictional counterpart’s name.  It was a cool but clear night and it went off without a hitch.  We got terrific shots of the marquee from several angles.  It will be a nice way to start the film.

I experienced a true thrill when we pulled up in front of the theater and I got a look at the marquee.  Throughout pre-production, although the majority of my attention was focused on the film, it still felt abstract.  It was all planning and as busy as I was, I never truly registered exactly what was happening.  Tonight, as I stood behind the camera, looking at the shot on the monitor, it all sunk in.  It was actually happening.  I was there capturing the first ever images for my first ever film.

Kind of a surreal moment.  How does one describe the feeling of finally experiencing a long time dream?  I was a bit overwhelmed and I wished my still photographer had been there to record the moment, at least for me.  But, no matter.  The sight of that gorgeous marquee lit up against the night sky displaying an image that I had created and placed on paper is permanently burned into my mind’s eye.

This is not only the first film I am directing, it is also the first of my screenplays to be produced and it will be my film acting debut.  As a writer, I got a charge out of seeing a scene in front of me that previously had only existed in my imagination.  It was different.  Much better than I initially saw it.  The theater I envisioned when I wrote the script was just that: a theater.  I ended up shooting it at a movie palace.  Very nice upgrade.

Saturday will take things to the next level.  We are shooting the longest and most complex scene of the film and I will have my actors and my crew to direct as well as my role to play.  A challenge to be sure, but one I eagerly await.  No matter what I accomplish in my filmmaking career, this first one will always be special.  I want to remember this thrill, the childlike feeling of a new and exciting experience and let it carry me in all my future work.

I’m not dreaming.  I’m really making a movie.

Our Other Location

Warner Theater

The beautiful and historic Warner Theater in Torrington, CT, the location for the opening scene of “Isn’t It Romantic?”

 

The photo above is an approximation of the opening shot of the short film I am shooting, ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?  The marquee displays the title of the fictitious film written and directed by the protagonist, Danny Kresky.  (For the record, SOUL MATE is the title of a feature screenplay of mine, a romantic comedy that has been generating some interest.  It was a contest finalist and one way or the other, it will be on the screen some day.)

The opening scene of our comedy short takes place at a movie theater.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was not able to get in touch with anyone at the theater two blocks from my house, or receive any help from the local film commission.  I was very fortunate.  That theater is a nice little venue, but look at that photo.  The Warner is gorgeous!

Built in the 30’s by Warner Brothers, and restored decades later, it is seriously one of the nicest theaters in the entire Northeast.  My co-writer, my director of photography and I took a tour of the incredible facility yesterday.  The scene is very brief and takes place in the lobby.  We were very tempted to rewrite it and include the auditorium.

The Warner has a number of programs to promote and support local performing artists.  Stage shows, concerts and programs for children are regularly held.  They were very receptive to allowing us to shoot there and are letting us do it for free.  That’s the kind of support independent filmmakers need to create original and entertaining movies.  The executive director was incredibly generous.  They are going to set up the marquee for us.  (It was photoshopped in the picture above)  They are also going to provide us with some extras for the background of the scene, and a place for the actors to rest and for us to set up our craft service tables.

We were so deeply moved by this show of generosity.  I feel as though our production has been blessed.  Things are going so well.  We have two truly beautiful locations that will add greatly to the production value.  I’ve got a great cast and crew.  An entire team working hard and dedicated to making a great film.

This whole venture is succeeding beyond anything I could have imagined.  The heat is on.  All the elements are in place.  No excuses.  I’ve got to guide this team and bring it home.  Luckily for me, I thrive under pressure.

Did anyone notice my absence?

I haven’t posted anything in awhile.  That has most likely gone unnoticed, and in fact, there’s a very good chance no one is reading this now.  But, on the off chance that some poor soul who reached an extreme state of boredom was looking for a post from me, I apologize.  Directing a movie is quite a task.  Particularly on a micro budget, when you have to do multiple jobs.  I just have not had the time.

We shoot in less than six weeks.  Things have been going amazingly well.  But for every element that slides neatly into place, there seem to be three others that still need to located.  It’s like climbing a mountain and every time you get to the top, it grows another hundred feet.

I’ll catch you up quickly in this post.  I’ve got a production meeting in a few hours.  I’ll try to get a more entertaining post up later.  (I know.  The movie stuff is boring.  You want details of my issues and how I’m dealing with them.)

We’ve got our crowd funding campaign up on IndieGoGo. www.indiegogo.com/Isnt-It-Romantic?  We’ve gotten three donations so far, which is not a bad start considering we launched over Labor Day weekend.  I placed an ad on Facebook for our fan page and we’re picking up some likes.

This Saturday, we are shooting a short promotional video for IndieGoGo and we will probably put it on YouTube.  Sunday is auditions at a rented studio in the Theater District.  Pretty cool, huh?  We placed an online ad on BackStage and we have gotten submissions from some really good actors who are willing to work free.  We’re going to have a good cast.  That’s essential.

I’m working on organizing our meetings better.  We’ve got so much to do in so little time.  We actually need to be better organized and prepared than a studio production.  We don’t have the resources or manpower to do reshoots or fix problems that a big production would, so everything has to be in place.

We’ve also found a movie theater for our opening scene.  There’s a theater two blocks from my house that has a classic Art Deco movie house look.  We are not using that one.  The town I live in has a film commission, but they are only interested when Hollywood comes calling.  They are terrible about returning phone calls and emails.  I tried to contact the movie theater directly.  Same problem.  I will NEVER shoot a frame of anything in this town.  In fact, my goal is to someday shoot a feature with one scene in every town that borders on the one in which I currently live.

As I said, we do have a theater.  I sent an email to the executive director of the Warner Theater in Torrington, Connecticut, a beautiful and historic building.  He answered in half an hour, said it was doable, let’s talk.  Now, there’s support for local independent filmmakers!

Now, on to the other million things I need to do.  Better posts coming.  I promise.