Tuesday, November 18, 2014

When Are You Finished?

Last Saturday I announced on social media that I was done. 

I meant that the editor gave me the final DVD of our short film MOTHER. I was excited. I was sad it had come to an end. I was thankful for the amazing people that have come in my life during the past several months (and have blogged about them before). Another project that I could put that check mark next to on the TO DO list as completed.

Then I realized…I'm not DONE. It's just beginning. 

The point of making a film (just like writing a book) is that you want to get your work out to people. In this case, we want to submit this film to festivals and that work has already begun. There are tons of film festivals all around
the country and the world. Finding the correct ones for your own project means tons of research. Seeing where filmmakers you admire have gone. Looking at the festivals to see where you believe you or someone on your team can attend (if chosen) to represent the work. Luckily, I started all of this during post-production and had my spread sheet made. I knew that I had missed the cutoff for some festivals, but working hard to make the deadline for others. So many occur in April and those cut-offs are happening now. Then there will be more in summer and next fall and I'll go through this process again to meet those deadlines.

Marketing has also begun. One would think you may not need that media kit until you know if you've been selected for a festival, but if you use one of the online film submission sites - it is best to jump on it now and start writing. Synopsis. Stories about the process. Bios. Photos. There is so much involved. And it's a wonderful tool to use to make yourself think about your film, the process, the stories you want to share and to help with any kind of 'buzz' you need to start on your film. For me, it has been an amazing process that I know already has touched so many people involved with the film. Now I hope that audiences will feel the same way when they see it.

So to answer the question…I'm not sure when we're ever really finished.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Broadway Has  Holiday Gift with Love Letters

There are many reasons people attend a Broadway show: the spectacle of lavish costumes and setsthe wonder of watching a favorite film that has been turned into a musical, or star power. Sometimes, it's simply to hear the powerful words of a playwright and to be transported  by a story. The producers behind Love Letters offered that very thing when they opened their show on September 18 with the decision to rotate the two leads. Strip away the trappings of huge technical shows and Love Letters provides audiences a gem of a gift wrapped up in a small bow. 

The power of hearing two people speak via the lost art of letter writing is something important --  Audiences in 2014 should put down their numerous technical devices and pay close attention. There is a reason that many of the romantics of time past are captured in letters written to lovers. They were not instagramming photos or writing 'limited word' tweets. They were pouring out their heart and soul on paper in words of adoration and love. That is what author A.R. Gurney has done with his play first written in the late 80s. The story shares the story of Andrew Makepeace Ladd III and Melissa Gardner as they correspond over 50 years, sharing the ups and downs of their lives with that long lost love.   

While it is beautiful in its simplicity, it is complex in covering so many years in the lives of these two people. We grow to know them and care about them. Like the play/film "Same Time Next Year", this show also takes us to different points in the lives of the characters as we watch them grow and change. I also find it amazing how timeless it can be. Melissa wants them to use the phone to speak instead of writing letters; much like today's texting has replaced people connecting on the phone.  

Alan Alda and Candice Bergen recently stepped into the roles of the two loves and what a wonderful couple these two make. With careers that span multiple decades, the two have done everything from TV to film to stage. No one can deliver a monologue like Mr. Alda and I loved every word he said. He tends to stay in the book more than Ms. Bergen, yet that doesn't bother me in this production.  In contrast, she uses her face throughout the performance as she looks into the audience, reacts to the letters he reads and lives in the moment as she takes us on a journey of this wonderful character. Not allowing actors to rely on movement and blocking and instead focusing on  the written word makes for a glorious 90 minutes of live theater. Something like this comes along very rarely in the New York Theater scene, but the holiday season where we think of family and love is a perfect time to take in this show. You can't help but be pulled into the lives of the two characters and you'll be amazed that simply listening to people read letters could affect you in such a way. That's what makes this show so incredibly special. Audiences have nothing else to concentrate on (or be distracted by) so you have no choice than to be swept away by…love. 

Up to now, my favorite romantic play has been Say Goodnight, Gracie - a one man show about George Burns. I must say, Love Letters is right up there. The amazing thing is that both of these show talk about love in a very unique way and both cause you to leave the theater thinking about your own relationships.

The show is running through February and will have other actors switching into the roles. Check out their website to see what couples are going in and give yourself the gift of stepping back in time, away from 2014 and enjoy the love that A.R. Gurney has poured onto the paper.

Monday, November 10, 2014

A True Lesson in The Elephant Man

The Elephant Man is a story that many people have known for years. Either they saw the 1980 film or perhaps have seen a stage production of it at some time. Being a theater kid, I recall doing scenes from it in school, witnessing other schools do it at play competitions, and have seen numerous productions over the years. I will admit, I was apprehensive about 39 year old Bradley Cooper - Mr. Hollywood and People's Sexiest Man Alive taking on this iconic character. 

Boy was I wrong!

From the moment he steps on stage, as Dr. Treves shows us photos of the real Joseph Merrick (called John by many), Mr. Cooper transforms in front of our eyes without make-up, words, or much of a costume on his body. It is pure acting and this actor tackles this role head on with such gusto, he had me in the palm of his over-sized hand. I was moved to tears a few times from Mr. Merrick's plight. The fact that I forgot I was watching a movie star on stage is a testament to what Mr. Cooper is doing nightly in this role that he originally played at Williamstown.

Director Scott Ellis has made a name for himself with both musicals and plays on Broadway and keeps this show moving at a fast pace. So much that Act 1 is over before we even know it. Beautiful costumes, simple lighting and sets (all moved by a well-oiled ensemble) ground us in the late 1800s. The entire cast assembled work as a wonderful ensemble (including the delicious Anthony Heald and multi-talented Scott Lowell) in this show full of outsiders all wanting a piece of the MAN.

I would be remiss to not mention the wonder that is Patricia Clarkson and Alessandro Nivola as the actress Mrs. Kendal who tears down the walls that surround Merrick and the doctor who takes him under his wing as a family member. Both care for Merrick in different ways and these actors give extremely powerful performances in their own right.

Knowing this is still in previews and things could change, if I had any complaint, it would be that Act II should be tightened up to match that experience that Act I rushes over us in such an extreme way. I was taken on such a journey by intermission that I wished Act II could match that same feeling. Perhaps it is the play itself or it could be director's choices, (but there were things that definitely felt different to me than what I had been used to in seeing other productions). The play originally opened on Broadway in 1979 and was revived in 2002. Some may question why a show would return just 12 years later, but after seeing it - questions should cease. Something is in the air this season with American Horror: Freak Show on TV, the musical Side Show back on Broadway and The Elephant Man all teaching a story of diversity and to not be fearful of those society shuns. Perhaps that is a lesson that we shouldn't put an expiration date on of how often a story should be told. 

Usually I would not write a review for a show that is still in previews - but I want those reading to know they need to grab up tickets BEFORE it opens and reviews come out. If you can get tickets before this limited run ends February 15, 2015 - do yourself a favor and do it NOW to experience real love. By that, I mean Mr. Cooper's love of the character he is playing and the love you will feel for the man that society had pushed aside.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Journey into Crowd-funding

What a ride.

The fundraising campaign that annoyed everyone that follows me anywhere on social media has finally come to an end. Those involved in any type of independent, non-profit, or charity work can attest to how hard it is to raise funds to accomplish any project. I've worked in all three areas in my life and depending on the kindness of others can be daunting and satisfying at the same time.

I set out on the journey unsure of what would happen. Would I meet my goal? Would anyone care? I mean, after all, I'm not Zach Braff or Veronica Mars…both of which raised tons for their projects. Then I found other projects that were crowd funding success stories.  I thought there was no way we'd hit our goal, but if you don't try

Well - was I ever wrong! People came to our aid and it was amazing. Either seeing the stills from our shoot, watching the video with our cast/crew talking about their moms, or seeing the trailer our editor finished before the end of the campaign - something caused people to get excited and come onboard. It's always amazing when a stranger gives to a project simply because something in that project speaks to them or they want to pay-it-forward in some way. But for the most part, our funders were friends of people involved in this project and I am extremely grateful to each and everyone of them. 

We met our goal!

We continued working during the entire campaign with our post-production team and in the next 7-10 days - we will have our film completed and begin the process of submitting it to festivals.

The last 4 months from pre-production through now have been so fulfilling to me in numerous ways. I've gotten to work with amazing people and grow my network of a film family that I hope to cross paths again in the future on other projects. 

Thanks again to everyone that helped us get to this place. Sincerely. We could never have done this without all of your help.

Now we put that film out there and see what happens next. Fingers crossed that some festivals will accept it and want to screen it for film-goers. My hope is that this short film will touch someone else's life as much as it has touched each person's that has worked on it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Adapting a Work

Recently I was watching my new favorite show on TV and a character told another that everyone has one novel in them. I instantly thought back to when I first started to write novels as I thought I only had Well With My Soul inside of me - dying to get out. All these years later and a few more books under my belt and I find I'm returning to familiar territory. I recently used a book of mine as the basis for a short film. I adapted the novel Missing by Drake Braxton into a feature film screenplay and now, I'm attacking a story of mine that I believe should be on screen.

Very few people read Cool Side of the Pillow. I'll admit, when released, I tried something new with only placing it on the Kindle as an eBook (which cut out many readers right there) - but to be frank: it bombed. Had it been a book released by a major publisher, they would have yanked it from the shelves after the first month of sitting there collecting dust. Yet I'm so proud of that book. In some ways, I related so much to the main character in search of who he would be in the second half of his life and in other ways - this stay-at-home Jewish dad was completely foreign to me. Even as I wrote the novel, it was always a movie in my mind. I could see every scene. I can visualize the eccentric character that is Ginger Charman - the aging actress that completely turns Zach's life upside down. And now, I've plunged head first down that rabbit hole again to turn it into a screenplay. Sure, that screenplay may sit in a drawer forever (or at least on my computer's hard drive), but I believe I need to get it written so as to have completed that goal. (I'll take overachiever for $500, Alex.)

Here is the hard part of adapting something for film: everyone always loves the book more. And there is a reason, when we read - we create our own movie in our mind. Plus, there is so much more texture and layered backstories that can be in a novel. Think about it - do you really want to sit in a three hour movie? I know my butt got tired during Gone Girl with its running time of 149 minutes because they wanted to keep that book/story intact. But usually, you try and keep movie scripts under two hours. That means scenes, characters - so much needs to be cut and you must get to the root of the story and tell it in a new way.

I'm finding that difficult. Time has passed since I wrote this novel, but as I go back to it now - I can't help but look at moments that I LOVED and now think "dang, that has to go for the film". And that's where I am. Killing off moments as I adapt so that the story can possibly have a new life in a different medium. It's a challenge. It's a risk. And ultimately, it will be rewarding. For now though - at times I get overwhelmed and walk away from it until I can look at it with fresh eyes and not allow the novelist to get mad at the screenwriter. (Then the screenwriter tells the novelist that adapt means to alter, make it fit…to change something up and the two of them go at it!)

The one good thing about this is - no one read the book so I won't have to hear that the book was better! See how I found that silver lining? 


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What to Do When You Don't Fit A Mold

Recently we were having some painting done in our home and the painter was having the "what do you do?" talk with my husband. It's easy for him. Radiation therapist.  All nice and neat in a tight box. The man asked about me and Anthony started saying I write books and directed a film. Then he stopped,  looked at me helplessly and said, "what DO you do?"
Everyone wants it spelled out so concisely. Business cards. LinkedIn. Even Facebook if you are creating a public page that requests your title or industry. They are looking for a one title job. But what if you can't be placed in a box?

Late night TV and talk shows are full of it. This actor has written a children’s book. That actress has a clothing line. This person opened a restaurant after doing reality TV. More and more, people can’t be labeled by one title.
It got me thinking. What am I?
Theater Manager
Business Owner
Not to mention husband, son, brother, uncle.
It's so hard in today's world to choose one thing. I think what all of those have in common is that I'm most happy if I'm creating something. Anything. That doesn't make me an inventor and yet that's what industry that would be assigned in one of those "please pick one" lists. It can be creating new programs at the theater I manage, creating a story for a book, a film, or encouraging someone else in their dream...but that feeling of creation is passion to me. Perhaps it's about what I'll leave behind. The mark I'll make. I'm not sure, but I know this: if I'm not learning something new...I'm dead. So I'm also a student! Not that I'd ever want to quote Taylor Swift, but I heard this on the radio as something she recently said and it made perfect sense. If you are the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room. 

Disclaimer: I was watching Julie & Julia again this past weekend where her husband told her not to put a fight of theirs into her blog. Just to be clear, I checked with my husband first before outing him in this blog.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Phases of Filmmaking

If you are around the film industry at all or just a lover of movies, you always hear about preproduction, production, and post-production. Each phase carries their own weight and I won't go into details on what each entails because you can buy a book to read up on that. I will talk about what these phases mean to me personally when I'm directing a project. 

In preproduction, you plan and you plan and you plan. You are looking for people that you know you can work with, trust their judgment and utilize their assets to help you get to that point of production. You doubt yourself and your abilities. You wonder if you are crazy. But you have those people around you pushing your forward. I was extremely lucky in this phase.

In production - you are shooting your film. It's what many say is the smallest portion of the entire process. Once again, I was sooo lucky in this phase and even blogged about it once it was over. It was an amazing time and I instantly had that sad feeling that one gets when something ends. I was going to miss these people - that family that you create and spent time with - even if it was for only two days on our shoot.

But then we jumped right into post-production and a completely different part of my brain went into use. It's as if you start to market the film before it's even done. Yet you must if you are trying to raise funds to finish the film: people need to KNOW about it which means marketing.

You want to ride the creative wave of the project while raising money so you start putting together your post-production team. Editors, composers, songwriters, design teams - this is when you begin to sift through resumes and reels hoping you can find the right collaboration for your project. While I was so sad when the production part ended, being involved in this portion has rejuvenated me all over again.

Our music team is incredible. I can't wait for people to hear what Mikey is writing as an original score and the song that Nicki has written for the closing credits. 

The producers that are helping with fundraising have been top-notch and with 20 days left to go on our IndieGoGo campaign, we are 83% towards our goal.

And then joining up with an editor that understands your sensibilities and connects to the story…that doesn't view it as "just another job" - words can't express how much I've loved working with Rob the past two weeks. (A film director/writer as well as an editor.) I feel just as in sync with him as I did working with my DP Jeff during the shoot. The work an editor does by compiling all of those scenes, enhancing moments by making different decisions, and painstakingly searching for the perfect sound to bump a certain moment - it is all incredible. I am so excited about our rough cut and yet I know he still has more work to do - which means I'll be over the moon when I see the finished product!
Rob Moretti - Editing MOTHER

I've said this film has been a labor of love for all involved and that has been true from start to finish. I think people bring their own stories to it - their relationship with their own moms - and that is perfect for this particular film. People have been touched from the first phase through the last and I hope that continues as we contact festivals and get this film out there in 2015 for all to see.

What a ride…and it's one I know I'll be taking again.