He holds the Guinness record for most recorded roles ever played in his 60 year career, but who was he? A look at career and life.
When my father passed away in 2009, he was no longer the Great and Powerful Wizard of 3,000 faces (although his Guinness record for most recorded roles is still far and away unchallenged). He was diminished by age and its indignities. However, there was never a moment in his life that he was not entertaining. It was a deep survival instinct. I did record some of moments from his life's final act on video.
When he passed away, he didn't just leave behind hundreds of costumes. He left behind over 1,000 reels, audio- and videocassettes in archaic formats such as Umatic and helical scan plus hundreds of photos documenting his versatile 6-decade career. I delayed his memorial service so that I could digitize all this material and incorporate it into a memorial video. But during the process of this massive project I realized his story deserved more than a low-budget vanity video.I still sought a budding filmmaker to make a movie about his epic career. It took some time, but finally a budding and ambitious filmmaker stepped up to the plate. That filmmaker is myself.
It's a simple story: A boy named Milton Lichtman grows up in the great depression with a mentally ill father and a physically ill mother. He escapes from reality and gets the attention he craves by role-playing. He parlays this survival skill into a career as a struggling actor, re-inventing himself as Jan Leighton and eventually as the "Man of 3,000 Faces." But his wild ambition has a cost, and at the end of his life he is forced to reinvent himself again...I'll leave it hanging there...
It's epic, but the story will be told with an irreverent and fun tone, which is inevitable because Jan Leighton himself will be telling a lot of the story. So the number one job is to entertain you the viewer from start to finish.
It is an amazing story. In the heyday of Jan Leighton's career (70's and 80's), his face and voice were everywhere--TV movies, commercials, magazine covers, book covers, newspaper ads, society pages, even disco songs. However, he was always in disguise, so you could see and hear him 100 times in the course of a week and not recognize him. If he weren't so good at what he did, he would have been unbelievably famous.
My favorite type of movie is the one that is entertaining start to finish, but when I see it again, I get a layer of meaning I completely missed the first time. The third time, ditto, and so on until I've seen it 15 times, each time catching new things. (Or I'll see a movie with a friend and we both enjoy it immensely, but we both completely disagree about what the movie is about.) You could say Jan Leighton is a movie about what one can achieve with ambition, ingenuity, and obsessive focus. You could also say it's a movie about how one reinvents oneself to survive but also to hide. You could also say it's a movie about the great struggle to maintain one's identity as one ages. You could say it's a movie about a man whose job was to sell the American dream to consumers, whether it was Alexander Graham Bell selling mobile phones or Washington selling Oldsmobiles.
The rough "script" of this documentary is written, and the layers are already baked in.
Of course, telling a nuanced story while keeping the viewer entertained for every frame takes mad editing skills. I am fortunate enough to have acquired a couple of highly high-caliber, accomplished mentors on this project, including an editor who is a collaborator with Albert Maysles. And I am working with a fantastic assistant editor to assemble the rough cut of this film.
The costly and time-consuming digitization and archiving phase of this project is pretty much completed. I am working on assembling a rough cut, narrating, and then editing it so that it is film-festival quality. I intend for this film to be complete well within a year.
Although $25,000 sounds like a lot to produce a documentary, I am told by experts that this is the bare minimum to cover editing and post-production costs such as color correction and audio mixing. It's an ambitious fundraising goal, but a documentary about Jan Leighton deserves no less than filmfest quality production values. (Please note the "all-or-nothing" structure of kickstarter; if I don't raise the full amount, I get nothing and no money changes hands--so help and share!)
Giving is its own reward, but there are also a lot of rewards with great value at each giving tier.
I have also written a song called "Mr. Plastic" that I am producing with indie-punk-pop band the Happy Problem for the soundtrack to this film. Speaking of which, the soundtrack will be fun, ironic, and hip with retro echoes. (If you know emerging recording artists/bands with that flavor, drop me a line!) I feel strongly that my father is just ripe to be a hipster cult icon (even if he had no idea what that is). I mean, he played Beethoven to sell Atari, and Einstein to sell the Rubik's cube. He appeared on Letterman, Tom Snyder, Dean Martin, David Frost, the Daily Show, and Saturday Night Live, to name a few.
Although Jan Leighton would be elated to be the subject of a documentary, he wouldn't want me to go broke making it. Come to think about it, neither would I. So I am turning to you to help create a budget for this film that is truly worthy of its subject. There are great rewards, plus the fun of participating in what will be a truly entertaining film--and that is guaranteed, because the star is THE GREAT LATE JAN LEIGHTON.
Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.
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Times are tough, and you don't have to play John D. Rockefeller to support this project. If you can't make a larger contribution, you can still contribute by telling all your friends about this. If ten people mention your name when they make a donation, you will get a free download of the film, a thanks in the credits, and good Jan Leighton karma! If not, $1 will still get you a thanks on the filmmaker's Facebook page as a supporter.Estimated delivery:
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Get 2 FREE SONG DOWNLOADS: The Happy Problem's "Zero" (the song on Jan Leighton Kickstarter video), PLUS an EXCLUSIVE ADVANCE DOWNLOAD of the Happy Problem performing the film's theme song, "MR. PLASTIC" (co-written by the filmmaker, Hallie Leighton) as soon as it's hot off the press.Estimated delivery:
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Join the family of supporters mentioned on Janleighton.com, and eCard from the filmmaker. Plus above (good Jan Leighton karma and a thanks on Jan Leighton's Facebook page). Not a bad exchange for one Alexander Hamilton bill.Estimated delivery:
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FREE DOWNLOAD of finished film and thanks on Janleighton.com. Plus above.Estimated delivery:
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ALTERNATIVE TO TRADITIONAL HOLIDAY OR BIRTHDAY GIFT Free download for yourself AND 1 FRIEND upon completion of film, plus your friend gets recognition in personal eCard from Hallie, with (optional) mention on documentary blog as an honoree. (Specify name of honoree when you give gift.) Plus all of above. (Note: delivery date for card is immediate, but estimated delivery date for download is late 2012.)Estimated delivery:
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Receive SIGNED DVD OF FINISHED FILM plus note of thanks from the filmmaker (Leighton's daughter) on Jan Leighton's stationery with a copy of Jan Leighton's glossy 6-PAGE COLOR BROCHURE (8X11) that Jan created, designed, and printed in his lifetime. Plus all of the above.Estimated delivery:
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SPECIAL LIMITED EDITION VINTAGE PHOTO OF CHOICE OF JAN in character (you choose the character!) or as himself, or an artful, mod shot from his hand modeling days. 8X10, black & white, from Jan Leighton's personal collection. Plus above.Estimated delivery:
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Ticket to special benefit screening of finished film (NYC) plus all of the above.Estimated delivery:
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Actors and performers--command your career destiny as Jan did! A complimentary one-on-one career coaching session with The Savvy Actor's Doug Shapiro, himself a well-known actor, singer, and voiceover talent, as well as entertainment marketing/branding guru http://www.thesavvyactor.com/ in person or by phone, addition to DVD of the finished film and all the other goodies above. Normal value is $125. This is a limited offer, so grab it while it lasts!Estimated delivery:
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Receive SPECIAL THANKS IN THE FILM CREDITS, plus above.Estimated delivery:
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HAND-SELECTED GOODY BAG OF MEMORABILIA from the late Jan Leighton's private collection (including one-of-a-kind photos, slides, handwritten notes by Jan & correspondence with clients). If this documentary turns Jan Leighton into a cult icon (and why not?), this memorabilia may even appreciate in value. Plus above.Estimated delivery:
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A FRIEND OR LOVED ONE LISTED IN CREDIT CRAWL AS HONOREE in addition to your own name. It could be your mom or dad, your spouse, your friend. Plus above.Estimated delivery:
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SPECIALLY CREATED HUMOROUS UNIQUE TITLE in credits of film, such as "superhero extraordinaire" (chosen by you and filmmaker) plus all of above.Estimated delivery:
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SPECIAL THANKS WITH LINK TO YOUR CHARITY OF CHOICE (OR TO YOUR WEBSITE) on Janleighton.com (already a high-traffic site) and on Facebook, plus all of the above.Estimated delivery:
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PERSONALIZED THANK YOU VIDEO. Brief, fun video edited so that Jan appears to be addressing you (your name will appear) for you to post on Facebook, etc. Plus all of the above.Estimated delivery:
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RECEIVE ASSOCIATE PRODUCER CREDIT on the film plus invitation to EXCLUSIVE GATHERING OF PRODUCERS in NYC (tentatively scheduled Dec. '12), plus VIP STATUS at benefit screening plus all of the above. Your name will appear on IMDB (Internet Movie Database) on a great film about the Guinness recordbreaking entertainer Jan Leighton! Plus all of the above.Estimated delivery:
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COSTUME OF CHOICE from Jan Leighton's unparalleled state-of-the-art costume collection plus all of the above. Jan put great care into assembling quality costumes so whichever costume you choose will be a unique collectors item. Plus all of the above.Estimated delivery:
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