Speak Softly is a short film project led by a team of recent University of Denver graduates along with a crew of current DU students. The majority of us worked on the production of Scary Lucy this summer as a part of the Project DU F.I.L.M. program, an initiative sponsored by the school which brings together faculty, alumni and students to create, promote and distribute films. Coming off of a successful shoot and after building a stronger network, we were eager to make another movie together.
As the constant ramblings in his head dominate his thought process, Oliver is unable to notice how his actions are alienating him from the rest of the world. Despite approaching things with a warm heart and the best intentions, he can never find the right thing to say, which prevents him from getting the help that he truly needs. When his inability to express himself puts a friend's life in jeopardy, Oliver will have to find his voice in order to save her.
Cooper Pagano is a multi-hyphenate filmmaker accustomed to working multiple positions on and off set. Since graduating from the University of Denver with a B.A. in Film Studies & Production in June, Cooper has primarily worked in television, with programs including Food Paradise, Colorado Experience, CNN Heroes and a Cooking Channel pilot called SEARious Meats. He has directed a variety of short films including Comfort Zone, Brewed Awakenings and Rift, the latter of which has received numerous accolades and screened at the Nederland International Film Festival in September. In the past year, he was also the editor for additional short films including the documentaries Rags to Riches and Polar Edge, in addition to being the Assistant Editor for Scary Lucy, where he prepared the first rough cut of the film.
As a filmmaker, Cooper pursues stories about the vulnerability of the human condition and the challenges we face in taking care of those we love, as well as ourselves. Speak Softly is his most ambitious and personal project yet, a semi-autobiographical film which explores all of the influences at work in our lives voiced through schizophrenia. His primary goal for the film is to make the audience question how we handle conflict and what happens when our actions don’t align with our desired outcome, even when we have the best intentions.
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR/PRODUCER - SAMMI LOBATO
Sammi Lobato is a recent University of Denver graduate, having earned a B.A. in Studio Art and Film Studies & Production. She strives to produce and direct short films, having worked as the Producer and Assistant Director for Brewed Awakenings, the Assistant Director for Rift and the Director of Rags to Riches. Additionally, she has worked with the Art Department in creating a freestanding sculpture, as well as the wardrobe, for Scary Lucy. Sammi and Cooper Pagano have a long running partnership in film and she looks forward to being a part of this wonderful team to bring the script to life.
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY - STEFAN WISNOSKI
Stefan Wisnoski is a US Army Veteran turned award-winning filmmaker and freelance cinematographer. He was the Director of Photography for the short film Hipsters, Heart, Irony and the documentary Face Value, which was recognized as the best in show at the 2017 DU In Short Showcase and screened at the DocuWest Film Festival in September. Additionally, his experimental film, Headspace and Timing, was featured at the West Virginia Mountaineer Short Film Festival in March.
Prior to earning an M.A. in Video Production from the University of Denver, Stefan received a B.A. in Journalism from James Madison University. For three years of his undergraduate career, he served as an infantryman in the Virginia Army National Guard and was commissioned into the US Army as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Military Police Corps, where he spent five and half years in active duty before pursuing graduate school. Since receiving his Master’s, Stefan has worked on a variety of commercial productions with clients including Forbes, DJI, Comcast, TD Ameritrade, Bookit.com and the Colorado State Government, in addition to working as the 1st Assistant Camera on the set of Scary Lucy.
1st ASSISTANT CAMERA - HAYLEY KNOPH
Hayley Knoph is a senior Film Studies & Production major at the University of Denver. A native of the mile high city, she produces short films, including Zon, an experimental documentary exploring Denver via symphony which received an honorable mention from the DocuWest Film Festival. Hayley is currently a videography intern at Comedy Works and worked as the 2nd Assistant Camera on Scary Lucy.
2nd ASSISTANT DIRECTOR/ASSISTANT PRODUCER - TAYLOR KAUFFMAN
Taylor Kauffman is a senior at the University of Denver, studying Psychology, Business and Film Studies & Production. She is known for her work as a Production Assistant on independent productions, brand-name car commercials and corporate videos with businesses including Air B&B and the Denver Children’s Hospital. Taylor is currently interning with Zerosun Creative Inc. and was the Script Supervisor for Scary Lucy.
LIGHTING DESIGNER/GRIP - C.J. BLAKELY
C.J. Blakely is a senior at the University of Denver majoring in Studio Art and Film Studies & Production. He was recently the Director of Photography for the documentary Rags to Riches, which he worked on along with Cooper Pagano and Sammi Lobato. He has also shot his own short film projects including When I Dream, I am Happy and Geese. C.J. worked as a grip on the set of Scary Lucy.
LIGHTING DESIGNER/GRIP - SAM CHURCHES
Sam Churches is a senior at the University of Denver majoring in Film Studies & Production. He first became interested in film in middle school and has been involved in many shoots both in and out of the classroom ever since. Sam’s most recent projects include the documentary Zon, which he co-produced, shot and cut, and Scary Lucy, where he worked as a grip. His favorite movie is Saving Private Ryan, but his guilty pleasure is Nacho Libre.
SOUND MIXER/OPERATOR - PAIGE SMITH
Paige Smith is a sophomore Film Studies & Production major at the University of Denver. She first became drawn to filmmaking and its visual medium after being approached for a videographer position at Embrazio when they held a seasonal photo shoot. Scary Lucy was Paige’s first on set experience, where she worked as a production assistant during casting and the boom operator during shooting.
ART DIRECTOR/HMU/WARDROBE - MARAL POURARFAIE
Maral Pourarfaie is a senior at the University of Denver majoring in Art and Film Studies & Production. She is a freelance makeup-artist and Art Director who has worked on multiple film sets and photo shoots, primarily focusing on visual design and creative directing. Additionally, she was the Director of Photography for the short film The Mind Drifts Over Morning Coffee. Maral was a hair and makeup assistant for Scary Lucy and also worked on the film's wardrobe design as well.
PRODUCTION DESIGNER/HMU/WARDROBE - MARIAH ORTIZ
Mariah Ortiz is a senior Film Studies & Production major at the University of Denver. Her participatory and semi-autobiographical documentary Stand-Up, which explored her experiences pursuing stand up comedy, recently received an honorable mention from the DocuWest Film Festival. Mariah is currently interning at Comedy Works as an audio and video editor, in addition to writing sketch comedy and performing at open mic nights. Mariah was a set PA for Scary Lucy and also assisted in the hair and makeup department as well.
KEY PRODUCTION ASSISTANT - JAKE DAVIS
Jake Davis recently graduated from the University of Denver with a B.A. in Biology and Film Studies & Production. He co-produced, shot and cut The Red Tape Project, a documentary which tells the story of the sexual assault survivors' advocacy group of the same name. He has also produced and directed his own short film projects including Pigbeef and Day One, the latter of which won the University of Newcastle’s 2015 Student Film Fest as he studied abroad in Australia. Jake is in the position to fill in for any crew members on Speak Softly and is also in charge of leading our on-set production assistants with any and all miscellaneous duties.
OLIVER - ERIK HANSON
Erik Hanson graduated from the University of Denver in 2016 with a B.A. in Theatre and minors in Film and Marketing. In addition to writing the original screenplay for Rift, which he produced along with Cooper Pagano, he has acted in Cooper’s other short films including Comfort Zone and Brewed Awakenings. While he attended the University of Denver, Erik starred in productions of Eurydice, Circle Mirror Transformation and Lonely Planet, the latter of which he co-directed and produced along with Tim Carlin. Currently, Erik is developing new ideas for short films and writing a feature screenplay. While Erik’s primary role for Speak Softly will be as an actor, he’ll also be contributing to the creative planning, character development and story boarding for the film during pre-production.
SHELBY - MAYA FERRARIO
Maya Ferrario is an actress, production manager, assistant director and french fry sommelier. Her most recent leading roles include the short films Hipsters, Heart, Irony and Pioneers, as well as theatrical productions of Tunes, Brews & Wormwood and a one-woman show as Hedy Lamarr in Stand Still and Look Stupid. Maya graduated from Indiana University with Theatre & Drama and Film Production degrees and has since worked in many places on and off the camera. In addition to working part-time for Hidden Woods Media, Maya has also worked as the 1st AD on the book trailer for Lullaby Road, the short film Scattered and Scary Lucy.
MADDIE - BRITTANY CHARBONEAU
Brittany Charboneau is best known as the “funny runner” (because she is both a comedian and a competitive runner). She trained with The Second City Chicago, where she debuted her hit song “Dad Jokes”, and has written for and performed in sketch comedy shows at the Bovine Metropolis Theater in Denver. Her theatrical credits include Denver’s Next Improv Star, An Improvised Christmas Carol and Girl Jesus: The Musical. She can next be seen in The Simba Claus playing November 24 through December 23 at the Bovine and in the upcoming film Take Your Dream.
ZOEY - MADISON RATLEY
Madison Ratley is an experienced actress who recently returned to Denver after spending three years working as a Radio DJ in Japan. Madison works as a Broadcast Journalist, as well as an actress for film race competitions, music videos, online game reviews and a wide variety of independent features and shorts. Her most notable credits include Those Who Can’t, Estranged and Roses In December. She received a B.F.A. in Theater, Film and Television with an emphasis in performance at the University of Colorado, Denver.
THE PESSIMISTIC VOICE - MEGAN ELISABETH KELLY
Megan Elisabeth Kelly has appeared in over 20 theatrical and musical productions throughout high school and has recently been making a name for herself in the Denver film community. A few of her on screen credits include Black Coffee, Riddle Me This and Far Gone, the latter of which she received the award for Best Actress at the Elizabeth Film Festival. Megan's most recent credits include a motion capture performance in Square Enix's video game Life is Strange: Before The Storm and a commercial for Freddy's Frozen Custard and Steakburgers.
THE PERVERTED VOICE - JD SMURTHWAITE
JD Smurthwaite is a stage actor transitioning to the screen after having appeared in a local film production called The Fate of Glass, produced at Colorado Film School. His theatre credits include Beauty and the Beast, The Last Five Years and Mary Poppins. His other talents include the piano, trumpet, french horn, drums and intermediate gymnastics.
THE CARING VOICE - LIBBY RIFE
Libby Rife is a familiar face in the Colorado theatre community, having appeared in multiple local productions including Becky’s New Car, Other Desert Cities and Steel Magnolias. In 2009, she was nominated for the Henry Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Kimberly Akimbo at the Vintage Theatre. Her television experience includes multiple commercials with Prime Sports Network and hosting the series In Tune on the Denver Community Access Channel.
YOUNG OLIVER - DAKOTA SHARP
Dakota Sharp is a rising star who recently co-starred in a television pilot called Threat. He has also appeared in local theatre productions of The Little Mermaid and Blackbeard the Pirate, as well as local commercials for Lucky’s Market and Boulder Toyota. Additionally, Dakota is a competitive hip hop dancer and was the first runner up in the IMTA Los Angeles Pre-Teen Improvisation Competition.
THE ABUSIVE VOICE - SEAN DILLINGHAM
Sean Dillingham is a veteran performer with a wide variety of experience on stage and on camera. As an actor, he has appeared in over 80 commercials, 30 films and 13 national television series including This Is Us, Longmire and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. In 2017, he appeared in The Secret Lives of Teachers, Under the Big Sky, Space Munchies, Ambush at Peck Canyon, Finding Jordan and Happy Home, in addition to playing the leading role in Rift. As one of the busiest names in the film industry, we are excited to be working with him again.
COMPOSER - FLORA CHENG
Flora Cheng has been actively composing and performing music throughout her life. She has contributed original music to multiple films including Diamonds and A Question of Faith, as well as serving as an orchestrator for Papa. She will also be providing the music for an upcoming feature called Blue Skies On Mars. Flora completed her Bachelors of Music degree in Composition at the University of California, Santa Barbara and currently serves as the Music Teachers Association of California Lakewood-Cerritos Branch Vice President.
Flora is always looking for more opportunities to collaborate and believes that music plays a key role in establishing the atmosphere and emotional tone of a film. She first connected with Cooper Pagano after she found him on Instagram and they immediately began to discuss the soundtrack for Speak Softly as Cooper was finishing the screenplay. You can visit her website to learn more about Flora and listen to her work.
FEATURING MELISSA ELLIOTT & SOL BURIAL
Melissa Elliott is a multi-talented musician, singer and songwriter who composed the soundtrack for Cooper Pagano's past two narrative shorts Brewed Awakenings and Rift. This time around, she will be contributing music along with her band Sol Burial, where she provides the lead vocals, as well as doing her own take on Flora Cheng’s original theme for the closing credits. Melissa is currently pursuing a degree in Jazz Studies and Commercial Music at the Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver. Follow Melissa on Facebook and on Soundcloud to hear more.
Risks and challenges
Making a film always comes with its risks and challenges. A few of the more difficult tasks we are hoping to achieve include shooting into a moving car, creating the effect of a burning room and simulating an earthquake to visualize a panic attack. These challenges present themselves in several scenes throughout the film. However, everyone on this particular crew is well acquainted with each other and open to contributing ideas that will help us prepare for these challenges and others that may come up along the way.
One of the most important lessons we've all learned from our education at the University of Denver is to be prepared for anything that could happen. That knowledge helped make Scary Lucy a success and we are confident it will make this project successful as well.
The entire production team is dedicated to seeing this project through. Not only because of our faith in the story, but our faith in each other. Having worked alongside each other in a variety of different capacities over the years, we've built a dependable team where everyone will contribute to the film's success. Everyone will be playing to their strengths and collaborating with each other to ensure that this film is something that can have a voice of its own.
The greatest challenge in seeing a film through is having adequate funding, which is why we are reaching out to our community for their help. Your generous support will be used towards the betterment of the project, which includes gear and equipment rentals, location permits, set decorations, props and travel expenses. Surplus funds will be invested in improving upon the overall production value and submitting the film to festivals.
If you have any questions, please contact email@example.com and we will be in touch with you as soon as possible.
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