Wednesday, November 7, 2007


How did you do it? It's the most common question Sophia, producer, and I are asked. How did you push past nothing to something? It's hard to say when you know it's gonna really go. There are all of the false starts, the naivete. Those promises of financing which are really designed to bathe the giver and receiver in the glow of possibility until it comes time to write the check and you hear , "If you could push, we overbooked our slate and ...", "okay, but first we want to see a draft where you boost the love story and lose the three act structure and make her a babe and ..." and my personal favorite "can't you get one A-list star?". Hm... A-list? These actors were a huge part of what got this film made. The crew came to work with David and Melissa and Giancarlo. How did we do it? We walked off a cliff and found earth under our feet.

I saw Ted Hope on a panel talking about distribution, about the formula for breaking even. If you can make a really good movie, with recognizable actors, for less than (unspecified amount) ... Sophia will not let me give a figure as she suspects people value a film by its price tag, and there's merit to that. Let me just say well under a million. Ted Hope said that if you kept your costs low and had all the other elements there's no way you can't make the money back even in a straight to dvd sale. It made sense to me what he said. So I set out to raise $x.

I applied to the Sundance Producers Conference, figuring that getting in was a good sign to move forward. It cost a couple thousand dollars, which is a chunk out of a small budget. But I had formed Racing DaylihgtLLC and had a a couple of small investors, seed money from my father mostly, which I greatly appreciated. So I could afford the fee, which included lodging at a great house walking distance up a creeksided mountain road from the institute, beautiful art. My housemates were Suzanne Jurva and Christine Fugate, funny, irreverant, smart. Both doc filmmakers from LA. We were all moms away from our kids shepherding these other children, our ideas, into the world. It was a busy few days. Panels and screenings. Small group meetings with industry professionals, watering holes.

I listened. I watched. I pitched to the panel of packaging agents where I was scolded by one for being "too independent" and another who challenged my veracity "IF you had that cast, I'd be interested." I mostly learned that Gregory Goodell's book "Indepenedent Feature Film Production" is as comprehensive as it seems and does prepare one well for the road ahead. But there is a cache to brand identity.

Back in NY we set out to get David really locked in, make him an offer, get his dates, work around his schedule. David and Melissa were/are the hub of the film. Then "Goodnight and Good Luck" opened. No nominations by the time we got to him, but the tom-toms were beating, and we didn't know if he might lose interest in our kayak once the yachts started circling. He asked tough questions, put us through our paces to determine whether we were just mucking with his schedule, or if we could pull this off if he gave us his focus. His biggest questions were about food.

David had just come off an indie shoot where he was buying food for the crew out of pocket. We assured him that as women and mothers there was no way people wouldn't get fed on our watch. Now I know that whenever you ask someone who's crewed on any movie what the set was like, one of the first things they comment on is the food; "Food sucked!" "Food was okay, little too much starch ..." We wanted to be a "Food was great!" kind of set, and had already nabbed Sandi Zinaman, a woman with water-into-wine capabilitites who charged us less than cost, (oh I hope not), or so it seemed, and with donations from Bruce Davenport at Davenport's farmstand, and many other local concerns (listed on our website:, our crew ate as if they were at a country spa.

Once assured of our sincerity and food strategems, Strathairn set about working us into his post-award nomination schedule. It became evident that May's days were dwindling to the ocean liners on either side of us, and on the advice of David's manager, Madeleine Ryan, we agreed to push into July. A little more breathing room, or so we thought ...

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