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$3,286 pledged of $19,870 goal
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By Noel Lawrence
$3,286 pledged of $19,870 goal
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About this project


Sammy-Gate is a dark political satire that poses the provocative question: Did Sammy Davis, Jr. cause the Watergate scandal? 

Truth is stranger than fiction.

Having its tongue firmly planted in cheek, this meticulously researched film is based on several startling revelations.

It originated from an amusing historical footnote. Sammy Davis, Jr. was simultaneously an adviser to the Nixon Administration and a Second Degree Warlock in The Church of Satan. The deeper I dug, the better the story got.

Though a supporter of Nixon, Sammy also donated money to the Angela Davis Legal Fund and the Blackstone Rangers, a black nationalist street gang.

Illicit bribes from Howard Hughes to the Nixon campaign may have been one of the original reasons for the Watergate break-in.

In 1972, the White House sent Sammy Davis, Jr. to Vietnam to investigate drug abuse in the military. At the very same time, heroin was being smuggled into the U.S. via cargo planes used by the CIA for covert ops.

Those are the facts. Roll the dice and see where you land...

Why Are We Making This Film?

Sammy Davis, Jr. was a walking contradiction. He embodied many of the conflicting influences and forces at play during the ‘70s.

Although considered an entertainer on par with Sinatra, there has been no biopic about Davis. No Sammy Davis, Jr. museum. And no Broadway musical about him as Quincy Jones once proposed. Just eerie silence.

UNTIL NOW.

My co-writer Darius James explained how important Davis was to the working-class black community. Poitier and Belafonte were serious but Davis was pure fun.

A typical evening in Vegas had Sammy introducing Donald Rumsfeld to Elvis Presley.  He was connected to everyone and they loved him.

That is until the "hug that shook the world." Davis endorsed the re-election of Nixon in 1972. Many could live with that. But when he appeared at the Republican National Convention, Sammy did what few had ever done. He hugged Nixon!

It only took a second for someone to snap a photo and tarnish his reputation forever in the black community.

But even when disgraced, Davis had a chameleonic ability to adapt to his surroundings. He pandered to whatever audience he found himself in front of, from a convention of Republicans, to a posse of militant Blackstone Rangers to a coven of Satanists.

The consummate performer, we know little of the real Sammy and what made him run. This film takes you on a journey through his many transformations as he maneuvers through a shadowy world of politicos, mobsters, celebrities, and G-men. 

Project Status

The first part of the film was shot in January 2013. Below is the filming of the scene where the evil club sandwich attacks Sammy after the FBI doses him with LSD. The film will give you the full story...

The film was shot on vintage 1970s Panavision gear in Cinemascope!
The film was shot on vintage 1970s Panavision gear in Cinemascope!

To create the look and feel of the ‘70s (what we movie types call "production value"), we chose costuming and recreated the set décor of that period. It was painstaking, labor-intensive, and totally worth it.

For the next 120 days, the film was laboriously edited, animated, and run through post-production. It was then shown to a small test audience of industry folks who greeted it with enthusiastic applause.

Next Steps

We have small needs but big ideas. What we can do is only limited by time and money. We will make this film no matter what. However, we want you to be part of the process. With your help, we can shoot a few more scenes and add a few more elements that will make the film even stronger.

What You Can Do

You can give us your tired, your poor, your huddled dollar bills yearning to breathe free. We’ll welcome them with open arms, give them a new home, and show them that film is the land of opportunity. And in addition, you’ll receive some really nifty rewards we’ve picked out especially for you to show our appreciation.

Okay, so you’re a poor college student, full of big dreams but empty pockets. That’s okay too. We all have to start somewhere. You can still get on the magic bus and bring all your friends too.  Just get on your Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat accounts and let them know about us. Don’t keep the fun all to yourself.

But no matter who you are or what your situation, be curious. We don’t profess to have all the answers, but we’ve sure got a lot of questions.

To quote the Godfather of Soul, Mr. James Brown: "Get up. Get into it. Get involved."

Where Does My Money Go?

Our base goal is to raise $19,870 to wrap production. We plan on shooting five additional days of principal photography to complete our story. The actual cost is higher but some private donors have suggested that they’ll match what we receive if we show that there is interest in this project. So, show that you’re interested! Every dollar you contribute could be matched.

STRETCH GOALS

If we were to exceed our base fundraising goal, already a hugely important milestone, we have lots of amazing things stuffed up our sleeves.

IF WE RAISE $31,000 - MUSIC:  In addition to principal photography, we have lined up very talented artists like Eric D. Clark and Spindrift to contribute to the soundtrack. Let's give them the resources they need. Recording studios, session musicians, engineers, and high-end mastering all cost money. As an ADDED BONUS, all contributors to the campaign will receive a digital copy of the film soundtrack upon completion.

IF WE RAISE $43,000 - ADDITIONAL LOCATIONS: Locations don't come cheap. The film takes place in Hollywood, Washington D.C., Florida, Chicago, and Vietnam. We might not make it out to Saigon but we know some very cool locations that will make you swear that you are back in the 'Nam. As an ADDED BONUS, all contributors to the campaign will get a copy of a secret deleted scene from the film that will never appear on the DVD/Blu-Ray for legal reasons.

IF WE RAISE $55,000 - ADDITIONAL SCENES: Would you like to see Sammy Davis kidnapped by Viet Cong guerillas? How about a dream sequence in which he discusses the meaning of life with Louis Armstrong and Paul Robeson? Our writers would and we're itching to film them. As an ADDED BONUS, all contributors to the campaign will get a Quicktime video of director Noel Lawrence eating his shoe. (Werner Herzog, if you are reading this, please provide cooking instructions !)

IF WE RAISE OVER $100,000 – LICENSING, LEGAL FEES, DELIVERABLES: We will need additional funds for lawyers, licensing, deliverables, and other fun stuff. By that point, however, we will have a rough cut of the complete film that can be presented to distributors so it can be released to the public. As an ADDED BONUS, if we raise $100,000, all contributors to the campaign will get an unforgettable surprise.

If You Don't Have a Credit Card

Kickstarter pledges work via credit card. However, if you don't have one, don't despair. We've happy to try to work with you. Just send us an email to  sammyfilm [at] gmail.com with whatever details you can provide and we'll see what can be arranged.

Skip This Section Unless You Are A Film Geek

We wanted to give this film a look of authenticity. Rather than just make a film that takes place in the 70s, we wanted to make a film that looked like it had been made in the 70s.  

Instead of shooting on digital video, which would have been less expensive, we used vintage Panavision 35mm gear. The cameras were provided through the gracious courtesy of Panavision’s “Emerging Filmmaker” program and shot on Kodak 5219 film stock. We asked Fotokem (our favorite lab in LA) to push the film extra stops during processing to make the film ultra-grainy.

Screen Aspect Ratio Chart
Screen Aspect Ratio Chart

Our film may not be big but it sure is wide. We shot in good-old fashioned Cinemascope (2.35:1). The widescreen canvas allowed a lot more freedom to present multi-screen imagery á la the films Woodstock and Grand Prix.

Multi-screen sequence: not for lazy editors.
Multi-screen sequence: not for lazy editors.

The graphic design work of Pablo Ferro was a huge influence on the editing of the picture. Though Kubrick and other auteurs employed him to design opening credits and trailers, we were interested in making the entire film look like his multi-screen action sequences in The Thomas Crown Affair. That meant editing from four to eight screens of action and stills at the very same time. Difficult but priceless.

The Team

About Noel Lawrence (Director)

Noel Lawrence (aka J.X. Williams) has produced a body of work that critiques institutions and historical discourses of cinema. He has done solo shows at Slamdance, George Eastman House, Pacific Film Archives, Thessaloniki Film Festival, and other museums and cinemas worldwide. His work has received critical acclaim from The New York Times, Salon.com, The Wall Street Journal and many other publications.

About Darius James (Screenwriter)

Darius James is an author, spoken-word artist, and expert on African-American folk culture. He is author of the critically acclaimed novel Negrophobia: An Urban Parable and his survey of blaxploitation cinema That’s Blaxploitation!!! Most recently, he wrote and hosted The United States of Hoodoo (Arte, 2012), a road movie that traces the influence of voodoo on daily life and pop culture in the USA.

About Karina Pyudik (Producer)

Hailing from St. Petersburg, Karina Pyudik has produced four features and many more shorts. Her AFI thesis film, Ubuntu's Wounds won the Pan-African Film Festival, the Kodak Audience Award, the Caucus Award, the Martin Ritt Award, DGA Award and was shortlisted for an Oscar (Best Short Film). Karina also produced the features Malachance (an Official Selection at AFI and Cannes) and Point of Contact (an Official Selection at the Berlin Film Festival).

About Peter G. Donald (Co-Producer)

Peter Gordon Donald is a writer, whose work has appeared in magazines and newspapers such as Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, New York Magazine and Entertainment Weekly and may He also runs Applehead Films and Records in Woodstock, NY, where he has managed bands such as Philpot, Mark Johnson and the Wild Alligators, and Travis Meeks.

About Priscilla Elliott (Production Designer)

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania (B.A. Philosophy) and AFI (Screenwriting), Priscilla has served as art director for numerous studio films including The Box, Spongebob Squarepants 2, and the third and fourth installment of The Hunger Games. She has also done visual research for such visionary directors as Tim Burton, David Fincher, Steven Spielberg, and Wes Anderson.

About Tabbert Filler (Cinematographer)

The son of a baker and a teacher, Tabbert grew up skateboarding in the wild streets of Mexico City and was a founding member of the influential punk-a-gogo band MaxSinger Z. After earning his MFA at AFI, he has shot narrative and documentary films for noted directors such as Gerardo Naranjo and Diego Luna as well as music videos for world-class acts like Dengue Fever and DJ Me DJ You.

About Eric D. Clark (Soundtrack Composer)

Eric D. Clark is a musician and producer. He formed Whirlpool Productions with Justus Köhncke and Hans Nieswandt, which had hits in a number of European countries, including From Disco to Disco, which reached #1 in the Italian charts.  As a producer, he has worked with Giorgio Moroder, Amanda Lear, Angie Reed, Lady Miss Kier, Peaches, Märtini Bros, Mark Stewart and Tiefschwartz.

About Spindrift (Soundtrack Contributor)

Spindrift is a cinematically-driven, psychedelic western/rock band created by singer-songwriter-composer-producer-guitarist Kirpatrick Thomas. They are featured on many soundtracks and films (such as Hell Ride [produced by Quentin Tarantino] and HBO's Eastbound and Down). The band is currently based out of Los Angeles, CA and have recently signed a publishing deal with Chrysalis/BMG.

About David K. Greenwald (Marketing & Production Adviser)

A graduate of the Wesleyan University film program, David has been a Madison Avenue guru, guiding strategic planning and commercial productions for many blue-chip brands. Launching SONY home video, he negotiated partnerships with Paramount, Disney, MGM and Warner Brothers. He’s the recipient of many awards, including the “Edison” from the American Marketing Association. When he embraced the online world, the press quickly labeled him "One of the 25 Men of E-commerce."

The Cast

Richard Beatty (As Sammy Davis, Jr.)

Originally from Cincinnatti, Ohio, Richard Beatty studied extensively at David Hall's Actor's Studio and has numerous credits on stage, film and TV, including Buffy, The Vampire Slayer, Get Dead, Thick as Thieves, and Under The Influence. He is also writer/producer of the long-running stage variety show, "The LRS Show." His lifelong dream was to play Sammy Davis, Jr. in a feature film.

Phil Proctor (As Richard Nixon)

Phil Proctor is an award-winning actor, singer, writer and producer and a co-founder of the thrice-Grammy-nominated Firesign Theatre. He’s performed on Broadway, off-Broadway, and is a longtime member of the Antaeus Classical Theater Company. He’s guest-starred on TV and voiced the Drunken French Monkey in the Dr. Dolittle series, Howard in the Emmy-winning Rugrats and Seahorse Bob in Finding Nemo. Cinephiles know him best starring alongside Orson Welles and Jack Nicholson in Henry Jaglom's A Safe Place (1971).

Durga McBroom (Interviewer)

Durga began her Hollywood career with a featured role in the classic hit film Flashdance. Other roles followed, and when she got tired of playing hookers and prison inmates, Durga tackled the music business. Her first tour was with the legendary band Pink Floyd. After backing them up on three world tours, she then formed her own band Blue Pearl which reached the top of the charts in the U.K and Europe with numerous singles. 

Peter-Henry Schroeder (Santo Trafficante)

Both an acting virtuoso and teacher, Peter-Henry's body of work as an actor includes numerous roles in film, television and theater. He recently played The Producer, in the Academy Award-winning Best Film, Argo, directed by Ben Affleck for Warner Brothers, which was also the recipient of the Screen Actor's Guild award for "Best Cast in A Motion Picture."
 

Dan Carbone (Howard Hughes & J. Edgar Hoover)

Dan Carbone is one of Bay Area Theater's most original voices. As a writer/performer he is a recipient of a "Bay Area Critics Circle Award" and "Guardian Goldie Award." Dubbed,"the oddest fish in our pond of experimental theatre" by SF Weekly, he presently appears under his alter ego "Bud Underwood" in the band "Kingdom of Not."

Richard Tanner (Robert Maheu & H.R. Haldeman)

Richard Tanner has appeared in over 75 feature films and primetime episodes. He regularly performs his original stories around LA, and in 2012, launched his production company, Misery Loves Co., whose inaugural production, “small PARTS,” previewed to unanimous acclaim and will return as part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival in June, 2014. Other writing credits include Esquire, The Village Voice, and The NY Daily News.

Reginald Jernigan (Night Tripper)

Reggie received his B.F.A. from the University of Central Florida in theater performance and has also performed for the Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival. Reggie's current resume includes over 20 Film/TV credits and 11 commercials.

Mike McGill (Deep Throat)

Mike served in the 432nd Civil Affairs Battalion in Green Bay, Wisconsin. His Army Reserve Unit was one of the first to be activated for Operation Joint Endeavor in Bosnia after the Dayton Peace Accord was signed. After his tour, he went on to earn over 100 credits in film and TV. He studied acting with Jack Stehlin and Alfred Molina of Circus Theatricals as well as The Groundlings.

Stevens Gaston (Jeff Fort)

Stevens Gaston is a graduate of Dean College, California Institute of the Arts and The Second City training center in Hollywood. TV credits include The Shield, NCIS, Medium, Touch, and Togetherness. Film credits include Breathing Room, Nina, and Electric Slide.

The Rest of our Amazing Cast

Luis Fernandez-Gil - Bebe Rebozo

Blair Dickens - PFC Stu King

Ben McCrea - PFC Bobby McGee

Dorian Logan - PFC Jimmy James

Theo Breaux - PFC Garfield Mosley

In Conclusion...

Thank you for reading this far. We appreciate you spending a few minutes of your precious time with us. Feel free to leave us any comments you might have here or on our Facebook fanpage!

We look forward to reading them and to bringing Sammy-Gate to you shortly. 

GET UP!  GET INTO IT!  GET INVOLVED!

Illegal loans by Howard Hughes to Nixon's brother financed a restaurant serving "Nixonburgers."
Illegal loans by Howard Hughes to Nixon's brother financed a restaurant serving "Nixonburgers."

Risks and challenges

We’ve been able to produce a quality film thanks to a talented cast and crew who worked for practically nothing, compared to the studio rates they usually get paid on bigger and more mainstream projects. They did it because they shared our vision. We hope you do too.

Short of a major earthquake hitting L.A. and wiping us all out (the minor ones we can handle), this project will be completed, one way or another. The additional funding will allow us to finish the film more quickly (we all have day jobs) and will help give it its finishing touches.

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    Pledge $1 or more About $1.00

    DIG IT -- You will receive a big digital hug from the production team as well as
    a special animated GIF. So even if you don't have deep pockets, we've got
    you covered.

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    READ IT -- You will receive a digital copy of the screenplay. Find out how Sammy did it, but if you tell anyone, expect a knock at the door. ALSO, we will mail you a page torn out of the actual script used for the shoot. The page will be autographed by the screenwriter and director.

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    OWN IT -- Along with a digital copy of the screenplay, you will receive a download of the film in full HD 1080p resolution. ALSO, an exclusive video interview with the filmmakers about the project.

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    UNEARTH IT -- You will receive a digital download of the ultra-rare films of
    1960s auteur J.X. Williams. He may be either the greatest cult director you've never heard of or an elaborate myth perpetrated by director Noel Lawrence. However, everyone agrees that many of his films are impossible to see let alone TO OWN. Along with his classic "Peep Show," you will receive copies of his unreleased films, "Fragment of an unidentified work, #427," and "Mystery 3D Theatre." These can't be found ANYWHERE else. You will ALSO receive a secret bonus film that's pretty intense. So if you scare easily, mention it and we won't include it.

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    DEDICATE IT -- You will receive all the rewards of the previous levels PLUS receive an EXCLUSIVE posting of your personal dedication to a favorite person or Kickstarter campaign on the film’s official website and twitter feed. (Your dedication is limited to 100 characters. URL's are fine too as long as they don't link to porn or questionable content).

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    FRAME IT -- You will receive all the rewards of the previous levels PLUS receive an EXCLUSIVE poster of the film signed by principal cast and crew.

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    PREVIEW IT -- This April, we will have two private work-in-progress screenings of the film for our friends in the industry. The screenings will be invite-only. However, we have set aside a handful of invitations for our Kickstarter friends. One screening will take place in New York City on April 11 and the other in Los Angeles on April 20. If you'd like to be among the few who get a chance to have a sneak peek, this is for you.

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    COLLECT IT -- You will receive all the rewards of the previous levels PLUS a LIMITED EDITION numbered and signed DVD/Blu-Ray copy of the film. Only 99 copies will be released. This will come in a special silkscreened jacket with a packet of artwork and photographs. We expect this may become a collector’s item. (US shipping only or shipped overseas upon special arrangement.)

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    SUPERVISE IT -- You will receive all the rewards of the previous levels PLUS an exclusive, password-protected, members-only 1-hr conference call with our producer on the film’s progress and EXCLUSIVE sneak preview access to scenes from the film.

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    BOOK IT -- You will receive all the rewards of the previous levels PLUS Darius James, our screenwriter and cinema expert, will PERSONALLY program your Netflix queue with the rarest and coolest films in the known universe. PLUS, IN ADDITION, you will also receive an AUTOGRAPHED copy of his book "That's Blaxploitation."

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    PROP IT -- You will receive all the rewards of the COLLECT IT level PLUS your choice of one of the props that was SPECIALLY purchased or designed for the film. Unique items include everything from a coveted Panasonic "Orbitel" TV set to a Roy Lichtenstein-styled painting of Frank Sinatra. Watch the film and choose your prop. Supplies are LIMITED so get them while they last!

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    PAINT IT -- You will receive all the rewards of the COLLECT IT level PLUS the painting "Jesse Jackson & Michael Richards" by the late painter Gidget Gein, Gidget was the co-founder of Marilyn Manson, and a shaper of the UnPop and GaGa art movements with a unique take on both pop cuture and Blaxploitation. The painting is 9" x 12" unframed, signed, watercolor on paper.

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    JOIN IT -- You will receive all the rewards at the COLLECT IT level PLUS you will be listed as a "guardian angel" on our film's IMDB page as well as its onscreen credits. You also will be given two tickets to the premiere and the after party. (Travel and lodging not included).

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    CRITIQUE IT -- You will receive all the rewards of the COLLECT IT level PLUS a monthly report from our producer on the film’s progress PLUS EXCLUSIVE access to view a rough cut of the film online before it is released. IN ADDITION, we’ll also give you the opportunity to give your feedback to the director via Skype. (To receive this reward, you will be required to sign a non disclosure agreement (NDA), agreeing to keep what you see confidential until the film has officially been released.)

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    FILM IT -- You will receive all the rewards of the COLLECT IT level PLUS be given Noel Lawrence’s talent to create and shoot a short PERSONALIZED 30 second animated film of YOUR CHOOSING. (For a serious artist, that’s days of painstaking work.) You can either send Noel a script or tell him what you want and he’ll create it himself. This is that UNIQUE gift for the gal or guy who has everything.

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    PLAY IT - You will receive all the rewards of the COLLECT IT level PLUS be given the chance to own one of the rarest pieces of vinyl ever to be pressed. Acclaimed rock band and soundtrack contributor Spindrift will record a PERSONALIZED song named after your favorite person, place, or thing. The song will be used in the soundtrack of our film but this alternative version will not be released to the public. You will receive a copy of this rarity on 7" vinyl autographed by the band.

    RECORD COLLECTORS TAKE NOTE: The edition for this single (without B-side) will be TWO copies. It will be an instant collector's item. Imagine the envy you will inspire from rival collectors by owning this unique release. And 20 years from now, this curio may likely fetch a stratospheric price at auction.

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    SPIN IT - You will receive all the rewards of the COLLECT IT level PLUS one of the rarest pieces of vinyl ever to be pressed. A-list DJ and soundtrack composer Eric D. Clark will record a song named after your favorite person, place, or thing. The song will be used in the soundtrack of our film but this alternative version will not be released to the public. You will receive a copy on 7" vinyl autographed by the artist RECORD COLLECTORS TAKE NOTE: The edition for this single (without B-side) will be TWO copies. It will be an instant collector's item. Imagine the envy you shall inspire from rival collectors by owning this unique release. Given Eric's importance in electronica, DJ's also will be going crazy to get a copy of this rarity.

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    SCREEN IT -- You will receive all the rewards of the COLLECT IT level PLUS be given an exclusive preview of the film before anyone else has seen it. If you are in L.A. you can stop by Noel's place and he'll cook you dinner before the film. Or he can stop by your place if you want to invite your friends. If you live elsewhere, a screening can be arranged online. Noel will FedEx you a pastrami and rye from Langer’s Deli and you can have lunch with him via Skype. OR just spend a few more bucks to fly him to your home city. Along with the film, Noel will curate a program with rare footage of Sammy as well as a menagerie of obscure films that influenced the project. He also will speak with you about film history until dawn (or whenever he falls asleep).

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    DIRECT IT -- You will receive all the rewards of the COLLECT IT level PLUS our producer Karina Pyudik will develop your dream film project. For you outside of the industry, she will guide your idea or script through development and pre-production. Services include script breakdown, budgeting, casting, and scheduling. She also will help pick the production team (cinematographer, art director, etc.) that will transform your vision into a reality. Rather than incur $100K of film school debt, the best way to learn how to make a movie is to make a movie. Karina will lead you through the initial steps of producing a film. (Note: Production meetings and casting can be done in person if you live in LA. Otherwise, it can all be done via Skype and e-mail).

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    DREAM IT -- You will receive all the rewards of the COLLECT IT level PLUS be given Noel Lawrence as your very own PERSONAL ghostwriter for six months. Noel will collaborate with you on writing your novel, play or screenplay. He will be available via email on a weekly basis and be either meet with you personally in L.A. or Skype with you every month. Noel will act as a ghostwriter only so that what is done will be created under YOUR NAME.

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Funding period

- (30 days)