Help release the best film you’ve never seen, starring women over 60 & a 25 yr old in the middle. No gore, booty-pants, or jello shots.
I was a 32 year-old single mother of three, when I went back to school to study Theatre, Film and Television at UCLA. I graduated with honors and saw my kids through college, as I worked for the next 12 years writing and pitching and straining to bring a film like this to the screen. Well, we got the film made, it's winning awards, and now all we need is this last little bit of money to help release it. Please help with any pledge amount you can. Check out our trailer of the film at http://vimeo.com/9505909
Imagine trying to pitch this story for funding in Hollywood:
I walk into a room of boys, barely out of business school, who imagine themselves the arbiters of art and culture, their fingers on the pulse of what’s hip and now, and they are here to help me. This is the Indie Film Division, after all.
I begin the pitch - - “This film stars the great Academy Award nominated Karen Black and three time Emmy Award winner, Barbara Bain. They fight for the future of a talented young woman. They are quiet heroes scratching for an elusive scrap of dignity. It’s a heart wrenching mother/daughter story about unlikely wisdom.”
I answer a series of questions about “elements” that might help them sell this movie to the general public -- “No, there are no booty-pants or accidental nudity in this film.”
They continue. What do these women over 60 have to say? How is that going to play on the big screen? Have they had any work done? -- “No” I say, proud and despondent.
How do I suggest they market this story to women if it doesn’t involve a wedding dress or tequila-amnesia? What about violence? Is there any blood or, say, implied dismemberment? Could you work in the rape of a lesbian? That’s edgy, very Indie.
I respond - - “I think there is a market for seriously funny, soul searching stories about men and women that illuminate greater questions about our humanity and the future of our species.” (What the hell did I just say!? I’ve lost them! Regroup.)
I try for a quick save - - “I mean, there’s a hole in the market for rich, textured...”(No!) “Story is the key. Giving voice to compelling, thoughtful...” (Too intellectual. Quick! Say something in ten words or less.) “Men are going to love it!” (BTW, they do.)
And these young men stare back at me, with a collective haze growing over their communal retina. No, they just can’t see it.
I switch tactics before they show me the door - - “The young heroine is a plucky, resilient 25 year old and the older women fear her gigantic dreaming heart is in danger of being crushed by the forces of life.” (I sound like the adults in a ‘Peanuts’ animation! I’m a French horn -- waa-waa-waaaa) “It’s like Willy Loman, the tragic hero, only about women.” No, they haven’t read Death of a Salesman. (Oh my god, I suck at pitching! How do I dumb this down?)
I can see when I’m licked, so I change my approach. I get private funding from people who actually go to the movies hoping for an experience that reflects something else, something beyond tequila-sex and short-shorts.
We make the film and win awards everywhere we go. We stand up for our Q&A after each screening and the audience is silent. -- Oh god! They hate it, no… they are crying. And suddenly, they are standing, clapping, weeping, smiling. They’ve erupted into a standing ovation. Women (and men!) are saying, "Everyone should see this film!" Suddenly the hands are poking up. Too many to call on, but I try. They seem to understand me when I say things like “Louise is a tragic hero because she doesn’t understand her value outside the modern mind-set of the media saturated, ‘reality’ generation.” They cry and clap some more.
This is the film we made on a dime and a bucket-load of favors and this is the film I need help releasing. We have a few bills to pay for music rights, accountants, unfinished titles, art work releases, and media costs, you get the idea. We cannot release the film until these are paid. And we have to commit to travel with the film again for its release in theaters. I am willing to stay in grungy motels and eat stale cheerios, no problem. We have committed the barest minimum to these costs, because I’m thrifty. I’ve been doing this on a dime for a long time. But now I need your help.
Please help us release this award winning film, which has no nudity, blood, gore, booty-pants or Jell-O shots and stars women over 60 (and a beautiful 25 year old caught in the middle, glimpsing her future). The more pledges we receive, the more theaters we can bring this film to. Please help us reach our goal and beyond! Thank you for everything.
Here are what critics and industry professionals are saying now:
“Karen Black is nothing short of spectacular...Barbara Bain is ideally cast…Everything is done with such loving care and sense of style that the appetite is whetted for another chapter from this talented filmmaker”★★★★½James Wegg, Rotten Tomatoes
"I really loved the movie. Not a single car chase, not a fireball, not a shooting, merely closely connected human beings scratching and chaffing and struggling with that thing called life. I'm reminded that it's the simplest stories that pack the most power." Richard Walter, Professor and Chair, Department of Screenwriting, UCLA
“An amazing filmmaker. Truly remarkable. Karen Black and Barbara Bain are terrific! Julia Garcia Combs has a wonderful ease, charming, marvelous.” Henry Jaglom, Writer/Director
“This courageous film is about nuance and introspection – a deliberate, careful and ultimately loving look at the dynamics among three women.” Sylvie Drake, retired L.A. Times Theatre Critic
I thought about some of my favorite characters over the years, like Annie Hall, Aurora Greenway, Belle de Jour, Rose Sayer. They all share a sense of frustration, self-esteem issues, but they also do brave, crazy things to break out of their social prescription. The cognitive dissonance of being female with its unique social expectations interests me. I wanted to explore the effects of suppressed sexuality in an otherwise intelligent young lady, by allowing her mother’s romance novel view of relationships to infiltrate her fantasy life, while she actively rejects her mother’s worldview on an intellectual level. I think today’s young women are up against so many different messages, it’s impossible for it not to complicate the psyche and indeed the culture. I got to use three characters to illustrate that tension. The girl (Louise) sort of embodies all of the dysfunction juxtaposed in her many real lives against her secret fantasy life. She maintains a low level of depression, which sadly preserves some kind of stability, something she never found as a child. And the mother and the boss are also searching for something to hold onto, some thing that gives their lives meaning. They are desperately searching for evidence of a life well lived and in the case of the girl, a life worth living.
Well, it was great! I’ve had the pleasure of directing Karen Black before in a stage production and we have developed our own private language. I knew to just watch her body language for her needs. For instance, just before I would say “Action” I’d look over at Karen and I could tell when she was ready by the position of her head or a look in her eyes. She suddenly transforms and you can see it in her whole body. It’s amazing.
I’ve worked with Barbara Bain on a few readings of my various writings in the past, but I had never directed her. She comes at the material in a totally different way, almost like she’s wrestling it to the ground! She walks on the set with ten tons of gravitas, which is exactly what was needed for the character.
This film looks and feels like you spent a lot more money than you actually did. How did you accomplish that?
Well, we made sure we spent what little money we had where it mattered, for instance, we got hold of great lenses, and a great D.P. who happens also to be a really good collaborator and communicator. We had amazing people in wardrobe, make-up, hair, sets, locations etc. And I wrote the script with a specific budget in mind, which is why (spoiler alert!) there are no high-speed car chases or aliens! Also, we were very resourceful and my wonderful Producer, Sascha Schneider pulled in a lot of favors...
Well Laura Karpman is an amazing composer with a PhD from Julliard, and she’s a Professor in UCLA’s film department, so she understands the role of music in film like few others. The dramatic action is pretty complicated in this movie and Laura understood that. There were a few times I said “This is where the turn comes” and it wasn’t always in the obvious place, but she would say “I see, yes, yes” and then she’d score it and we would nearly cry. When we were done she turned to me and said “I want to thank you for letting me score this complicated movie. It’s been an absolute pleasure.” I could have fallen off my seat, because I was so lucky to get her! She took the film to the complex emotional level it begged for and she kept us on that roller coaster in the subtlest ways.
The Los Angeles you show us in “Nothing Special” is not the shiny, glamorous city we usually see in the movies. Tell us about that.
I wanted to show Los Angeles more honestly, as Angelinos see it. It’s not all glamour, but it can be stunning! It’s a city that doesn’t open up unless you ask. Also, I wanted to give the audience a sense of how precarious life is for the mentally ill and those living in the margins of our society; how tough it is for groups like the low income retired to survive. But that is outside the car, through the glass. The main character does not want to engage until her mother is taken away and she begins to actively see the world on the harsh streets of L.A. But also, there is the glamour, the deals, doing lunch, the Hollywood sign and the dreams of so many people that come to this city. It all crashes against itself. It’s the disparity between the American Dream (bootstraps and all of that) and our collective responsibility for humanity.
Yes! I wrote it for her! Obviously, I’ve been able to observe her growth as an actor and during her studies at Boston University, Julia worked in some new forms, exploring characters through the influence and study of Grotowski’s work. I just knew she was going to be that rare actress that could hold up in the presence of these celebrated Hollywood icons (no small task) and dramatize the very complex emotional world of this character. It’s a tour de force performance! Let’s just talk about her ability to twist around those incomplete sentences to start with! She stayed on script verbatim and made it feel like she was stuttering. And her ability to illuminate and move seamlessly through the many separate and complex layers of the character is the stuff you expect from an older actress. It’s a performance that stands out for an actress of any age, really.
That's a really big question because the influences are never ending. But I’d have to put Julie Tamor at the top of my list, even though I do not work with puppetry! I have an approach that I like to call “saturation” which I try to apply to the emotional/dramatic content of the story. This is how I experience Julie Tamor's work. There is an intense saturation of ideas and she uses any material she can imagine to achieve her ends – and she undoubtedly achieves brilliant story telling. For me, saturation doesn’t have to be color; it is an attention to detail, depth, text, movement, set, etc. It can be a sparse set, a silence or a slow movement to saturate with loneliness, and so on. I’m from the theatre, so I relate to that approach. Also, I’ve always loved the old Hollywood Women’s films, where the ladies were cheeky, self-starters walking with confidence in great suits! The women were independent and the men admired them and competed with them and for them. There was a subversive strength in those models, despite the fact that they were always laid low by love! Henry Jaglom is a good friend and mentor and I’ve learned a lot about film making from sitting in his editing room and watching his rough cuts. He unerringly finds the story buried in the detail. I have learned to really think on my feet and be flexible because, after you’ve filmed the thing, the story begins to tell itself on some level. Even though we approach the work with a different style, Henry is probably not even aware of how much I have learned from him by just listening and watching him work. And as I said, I have a theatre background that really helps you think outside the box, especially when it comes to doing a lot with a small budget. Theatre can be anything, it has so many possibilities. You aren’t constrained by rules, just dollars! So you figure out how to make things work. And plays are very carefully and lovingly written. The blueprint has to be there, so I believe in the text first, and then you work on tone and find the devices to get there. Also, Morgan (Susser) and I share a love of Ingmar Bergman and many Woody Allen films, which are daring in their visuals without being obvious or drawing you away from the story. We both like the look of zooms. They were used very heavily in the movies of the 70's and 80's and they let you use longer shots and yet not be in a static frame. I could go on about influences for hours. Danny Kaye, Bette Davis, Jodi Foster, Carol Burnett, and especially “Three Sisters”, “A Doll’s House”, “Streetcar Named Desire”, and “Long Days Journey Into Night.” Definitely Chekhov, O’Neil and Williams.
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One ticket to attend the L.A. premiere of the film with cast and crew (transportation not included).
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Associate Producer credit! Your name will appear in the credit roll! Plus all $1000 level gifts AND all ten ticket-holders invited to a cocktail after-party with Director, Cast and other industry celebrities and guests! (You might want to get yourself a little black dress!)
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1 backer Limited (5 left of 6)
The Director and one of the lead actresses will screen the movie in your home, anywhere in the U.S.! (An unforgettable experience right in your own living room!) AND you'll get a walk-on role with a line in Angela’s next film! ("I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille!") Plus all of the $5000 level gifts!
- (30 days)