How It All Began
I'm a proud New Jersey native, born and raised. Growing up I always knew there was something special about New Jersey.
It wasn't just the way people would roll their eyes when they heard where I was from. The sigh that would escape their lips. Or the immediate, "Oh, New Jersey, doesn’t it smell there?" or "What exit?" There was something more to this confused, crowded, little slice of America than met the nose.
Despite our reputation I always liked New Jersey. It was where I was from. Close enough to get the feel of the city, but just far enough to roam and to run. It was fun. But there was always that moment, I’m from New Jersey.
It wasn’t until years later and around the world, in 2010 in Hong Kong when I continued to encounter the same old attitudes about my beloved home state that I decided to do something about it.
I was going to find out how it all started and why people didn’t like New Jersey and show them why they should. An idea for a comedic documentary formed, it would be called, I’m From New Jersey.
And that’s when I found Red. And his song.
I’m From New Jersey examines the state’s unique place in American culture and the evolution of Jersey pride through the story of a 91 year old man and his 50-year struggle to get New Jersey an official state song.
Watch this 5 minute video for an introduction to the film (or read the short film synopsis at the bottom):
Why I need your help
I started working on this project alone more than 3 years ago in Hong Kong. I’ve invested a lot of my time and money to get the project started, but to finish production of the film and to support Red’s campaign for a New Jersey state song I need your help.
Students in Delran, NJ have already started an active campaign to support Red’s song and I've put together a lean production crew. We finally have what it takes to get New Jersey a state song and to document the process and the state’s special place in American culture.
The missing piece is the money…It always is, right?
So the funds raised from this Kickstarter campaign, hopefully with your help, will be used to finish production of the film and cover campaign expenses.
Film Production Expenses:
- Crew - I can’t do this by myself. While I started this alone, I’ve since found a reliable and lean team to help me get the footage I need. But they need to eat and I need to pay them.
- Editor - We will need an experienced film editor to help craft the footage we get into a strong film. I know what I want, but I will need someone to help me put it together properly. Editors also need to eat, so I also have to pay them. I’ve spoken to a few people and found editors who will work within budget.
- Equipment - I’ve purchased a lot of equipment for the film, but still need to rent and purchase more to get the quality we need to make this a success. Equipment expenses are a relatively small portion of the budget - with most going to crew, editing, and campaign costs.
- Marketing Materials - Website, flyers, posters, banners, shirts, hats, sweatshirts, etc. We need to get the word out about the campaign and we need to make some things to do so.
- Jersey Pride Rally For Red - Yep, we are gonna have a parade! The students at Delran are working on the details but we do need some money to pay for expenses associated with the parade.
- On the ground work - we need to drive around, spend time with people, and plan small events and activities to get everyone excited about the song...those things cost money too…
- The film is intended for film festivals and some of the funding will be used for film festival application fees.
The Kickstarter goal of $48,000 represents a bare bones budget that will get the campaign for a song completed, ensure crew and equipment for filming, and get a festival edit from the footage.
However, it really is a basic budget and more money will mean a better campaign and a better movie. It will also bring the film that much closer to a potential theatrical release.
My promise to Kickstarter supporters is that the film will get made and you will be able to see it if you want to. Beyond that I hope that it will eventually be viewed by the biggest audience possible among the general public.
The Film Synopsis
As New Jersey celebrates its 350th anniversary, it remains the only state in the U.S. that has never had an officially adopted state song. While New Jersey has made many important contributions to America it has remained the subject of ridicule and jokes and many residents lack state pride. I’m From New Jersey examines the state’s unique place in American culture, debunking the myths, acknowledging the truths, and ultimately celebrating New Jersey.
At the center of this debate is 91-year old New Jersey native Red Mascara. For more than 50 years Red has been fighting to get his song, “I’m from New Jersey” officially adopted as the state song. His bill has passed both houses of the state legislature twice (only to be vetoed), and it currently has more than 30 sponsors in the state Senate and 70 sponsors in the state Assembly.
The film follows Red as he continues his campaign. It also follows others who support him, including students from Delran High School. As the lobbying and public campaign continue over the next months we will learn whether New Jersey will finally get an official state song.
The film also visits Rutgers University where Professor Michael Rockland’s “Jerseyana” class traces the history of the “Jersey Joke” back 350 years from the state’s founding to Saturday Night Live in the 1970s and to today where the state has started to gain some respect. Conversations with regular New Jerseyans, as well as comedians, writers, artists, and cultural and political figures from New Jersey look at the state’s reputation, Jersey pride, and just being from New Jersey. Beautiful imagery from around New Jersey will show people the state is more than just the Turnpike.
Weaving Red’s struggle for a state song that celebrates Jersey pride and the history of New Jersey’s own grit and perseverance, the film explores what it means to take pride in where you are from.
Risks and challenges
I have invested a great deal of time and money to get this project to where it stands. I can now promise that if this campaign reaches its goal, the film will get made and all the Kickstarter supporters will be able to see it.
While this is my first feature length documentary, I've co-directed two short documentaries. One of them, "The Last Villagers," was selected for the Hangzhou Asian Film Festival in 2011.
From 2011-2013 I worked full-time for Business Insider as a video producer and photographer where I conceived, shot, and edited many of my own stories. And I have some experienced filmmakers providing me with insight and advice.
That said, here are some risks and challenges that remain…
We want to get the song adopted and the film finished in time for Red to enjoy it. We are working as fast as possible to avoid the risk that he won’t and your support will help us finish faster.
The other challenge is making sure the film gets out to as wide an audience as possible after it is completed. I’m confident the film will make it into some film festivals and there will definitely be screenings for supporters. However, a theatrical release of any kind is a challenge for every film.
I am hoping that a successful song campaign (and Kickstarter campaign!) will raise the awareness needed to get this movie on the big screen and out to as many viewers as possible.
But it might not make it there, and if that happens we will all still be able to enjoy the film, we just won’t be able to share it with as many other people.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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