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A remarkable, never-been-told story of Thomas Chapin, a jazz master who was gone too soon. We want to start filming this summer! Read more

New York, NY Jazz
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This project was successfully funded on March 30, 2013.

A remarkable, never-been-told story of Thomas Chapin, a jazz master who was gone too soon. We want to start filming this summer!

New York, NY Jazz
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About this project

About the Thomas Chapin flim project

Thomas Chapin Trio at the JVC Newport Jazz Festival 1995
Thomas Chapin Trio at the JVC Newport Jazz Festival 1995

In the world of music, there are special people who come along and open the door to new levels, who take a genre and expose dimensions that have never before been heard. That was Thomas Chapin!

In 1995, in the New York Times, Peter Watrous wrote: “Chapin… is a virtuoso… also one of the more schooled musicians in jazz, both technically and historically, and for his set he dug into the styles of everyone from Benny Carter to the 60’s avant-gardists, screeching and howling and huffing as if this were 1964 and he was breaking the rules of jazz into pieces.” 

WHY AM I MAKING THIS FILM?

Thomas was my friend and the husband of my sister Terri. When he died on Feb. 13, 1998 his obit appeared in the New York Times, and music tributes were played on NPR stations from New England to California.

Thomas's story and his remarkable but short career as a powerful musical force in the '80's & '90's has never been fully told, although he is included in the major encyclopedias of jazz.  I asked people who knew him, played with him and wrote about him, "Should a film about Thomas Chapin be made?" They all emphatically said, "Yes. Absolutely." And then I said, "Tell me why." What they told me compelled me to want to create this film.

I want to tell his story before it is too late, before memories of him fade, and before an important piece of history is lost. Clearly, Thomas was totally unique, an iconoclast who followed his own musical path.It's time to tell his story.

HE WAS MOVING THE MUSIC FORWARD

This 90-minute documentary film, NIGHT BIRD SONG: THE THOMAS CHAPIN STORY, will unfold his tale. Thomas emerged in the 1980's in New York City's wild and free downtown music scene with a highly original style.  He was called a virtuoso. A leading alto saxophonist of his generation with "monstrous chops," he was "full of incredible energy, pushing the needle, never letting up." Thomas was said by critics to be moving the music forward. A vanguard in the world of "free" jazz, he embraced all expressions of music. Straight out of college, he was for six years with Lionel Hampton as lead alto sax and musical director, followed by a two-year stint as saxophonist with the legendary drummer Chico Hamilton before forming his own Thomas Chapin Trio which had a long, seven year stint, playing all over the world.

Creator, band leader, avant garde master, a bridge
Creator, band leader, avant garde master, a bridge

Most notably, he moved easily between the avant-garde and straight-ahead jazz communities; Thomas was an enormous bridge. The film also will show the competitive environment that Thomas thrived in and the ever-elusive reach for wider recognition. Plus, it will explore how Thomas overcame his personal struggle with alcohol and how he won his parent's approval for a career that went against their W.A.S.P, New England traditions and expectations.

20 years of a soaring career and 12 CDs later, at age 40, Thomas's life tragically ended in 1998 after a year of battling leukemia. The illness took its toll, but his greater pain was living without the strength to play as he had done every day of his life. However, 12 days before he passed, as the film will show, there would come one last triumphant moment -- the culmination of a life lived to its fullest, through music.

Photographer Enid Farber captured this poignant moment in 1997 at the Knitting Factory, on stage, of Thomas and Terri at a benefit concert held for him and attended by friends and fans.
Photographer Enid Farber captured this poignant moment in 1997 at the Knitting Factory, on stage, of Thomas and Terri at a benefit concert held for him and attended by friends and fans.

WHAT'S THE MEANING OF THE FILM'S TITLE NIGHT BIRD SONG?

The title is from a Thomas Chapin Trio signature tune composed and arranged by Chapin and trio bassist Mario Pavone. While on a midnight walk, Thomas was inspired by the striking melodic turns in a bird’s song that Thomas heard. The title evokes the arc in his music career that reveals he was solidly rooted in tradition yet straining its boundaries at every turn. Jazz critic Larry Blumenfeld said "the arc corresponded less to common categories of 'downtown,' 'mainstream' and more to the flight paths of birds Chapin seemed to favor in song titles. With grace and individuality, Chapin took us to places—lofty and striking and sometimes dangerous—that forced a change of perspective."  The film will take us to some of these places.

MY 10TH FILM

Yes, my 10th! Documentaries are my life's work; I work on them full-time and believe my gifts and talents are God-given. I've been making documentaries for 25 years; 4 have aired on PBS. I won an EMMY Award in 1993 for my first documentary, SIMPLE COURAGE: AN HISTORICAL PORTRAIT FOR THE AGE OF AIDS. I make biographies, cultural and social histories, educational videos, and know a good story when I hear one. I am a former newspaper journalist -- 5 years with the Honolulu Star-Bulletin (3 years on Maui as the bureau chief/photographer) and two stints with USA Today (including a 5-country reporting tour in Asia)

Check out my work at www.olenamedia.com

HOW DOES KICKSTARTER WORK?

Kickstarter’s a great way to fund creative ideas and ambitious dreams. And it's a new tool for us filmmakers!  "Crowd funding," as it is called, did not exist five years ago. It's a new and exciting way to get our films made. Kickstarter is a secure and reputable way to give. Want to know more about Kickstarter? Feel free to read the Kickstarter's Backer Questions at FAQ. And when you become a backer, you are thanked with a reward -- a gift of your choosing. In addition, I will thank you with a personal email.

Just select your desired Reward and then click the green “Back This Project” button in that Pledge box. From there, you will go through the Amazon checkout process. You must finish the Amazon checkout process for your pledge to be recorded.  You will receive an acknowledgement from me.

SELECTING YOUR REWARD: Once you have selected your Reward and made your Pledge,

1. you will be taken to Kickstarter's information page, which you must fill out.

2. Then you will be taken to Amazon.com. If you are already an old customer, you'll be asked to sign in with your email and your password. If you are new to Amazon, you'll be asked to register.

3. Kickstarter and Amazon work together; Amazon will hold your credit card and only charge it at the end of this campaign IF I succeed; if not, your credit card will not be charged.

4. You will be notified in either case. We need your support, so if you have any problems, please email me at castillosj@aol.com Thanks!!

Kickstarter is an all or nothing deal. Projects must be fully funded at my stated goal of $50,000 or no money will change hands. In other words, if my Kickstarter campaign fails and I fall below my goal amount, all pledges are cancelled and your credit card is not charged.

My team and I will then regroup and contact you with an alternative way to donate to the project. But let's plan on succeeding! With success, we will be on our way to making a professionally shot film that looks great and is based on a fantastic script.

MY INVITATION TO YOU

I am almost at the end of my 45 days at Kickstarter to raise $50,000 so that I can shoot the film. Thomas had fans all over the world. Jazz has fans all over the world. Together with my "crowd" - you and my friends and family and jazz fans all over the world, we can get the film off the ground in a big way!!  And with success at Kickstarter, I can keep moving and get the  film made.

Know anyone who can help us succeed? Please send them here. Also, Corporate Backers are wanted and welcomed! Or you can back the film as a group; gather your friends and make a huge impact! Want to set up a matching fund, please contact me at castillosj@aol.com. 

ANY DONATION, ABOVE YOUR REWARD AMOUNT THAT YOU SELECTED, IS TAX DEDUCTIBLE!   NIGHT BIRD SONG: THE THOMAS CHAPIN STORY is being produced by Stephanie J. Castillo/'Olena Productions with the fiscal sponsorship/support of Akasha, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization for the legacy of Thomas Chapin. Your contribution to the film that is more than your pledge of any reward level, is tax-deductible to the full extent provided by law. When you pledge and opt out of receiving a Reward, the full amount you pledged and contributed is tax deductible!

Would you rather skip Kickstarter and write a check?
Great! It is tax-deductible. Send your check  or a U.S. money order to

Akasha, Inc.   
by contacting Terri Castillo Chapin at

akasha.chapin@gmail.com

HOW WILL YOUR MONEY HELP?
$50,000 is not enough to make a 90-minute, feature documentary. We filmmakers raise our money in stages.

The Kickstarter campaign money will be used
• to shoot the film in Europe, New York City, and Connecticut, plus a few other places where Thomas Chapin performed.
• to edit a new trailer or segments of the film that targets foundations, corporate sponsors, and arts funders. With an excellent and compelling trailer, we can attract more funding and bigger funders.

Hiring a professional crew, excellent writers, an editor that knows how to tell a compelling story, and getting it ready for U.S. and international television distribution will take a lot more money. But $50,000 will get us what we need now to keep moving forward.

Raising the money at Kickstarter to shoot my film is only one of several stages in the process of finding support to make this film. There are bigger funders, art institutions, and grantors who we will seek out when we have our newly shot footage, a new and excellent trailer, and exciting rough cuts of our planned film.

ARE WE ALLOWED TO EXCEED OUR KICKSTARTER GOAL?

Yes! Every dollar raised above my $50,000 goal will go into making an even better film. Surpassing our goal would be an incredible show of support for the Thomas Chapin film and could mean such possibilities as:

  • finishing the film sooner,
  • access to expensive live performance footage of Thomas playing on the big stages of jazz,
  • buying the rights to Thomas’s music,
  • buying other music that will help us tell his story (like Hank William’s  Rambling Man, James Taylor’s Another Day, and the Beatles’ Ticket to Ride. These tunes and others hold a special place in Thomas's musical life.)
  • hiring a film composer to create a unified score and soundtrack.

So, please pledge as much as you can -- small or large, it will all get us there -- and be a part of this very special project!

If we meet our goal and more money continues to come in before March 31, when the campaign ends, I will be offering a Very Special Gift to everyone who backed this campaign. What is it? Help exceed my goal, and I will reveal it then!

THE REWARDS

Hawaii artist, formerly from Australia, Derek Glaskin created our Night Bird Song art card/film poster while listening to Thomas's music. The photo is by Lee Meltzer, who kindly gave it to the project to support us. The indigenous symbols Derek painted remind me of Thomas's love of nature, world culture and world music.  //  The commemorative KICKSTARTER image by celebrated NYC photographer Enid Farber captures Thomas's energy, movement and style. Her image is being used for banner ads on jazz websites that are promoting my Kickstarter campaign.  //  The fabulous 3 keepsake stills (samples above), with captions, will be from among the images documenting our film shoot.

"The Thomas Chapin Collection," a special digital download created by me, will feature 15 recordings by Thomas selected by 15 of his friends, family and fans. It will come with some commentary and stories.  //  The widely-praised NEVER LET ME GO, 3-CD set was posthumously released in December, 2012 by Playscape Recordings. Recorded in 1995 and 1996 during rare, live quartet performances at Flushing Town Hall in Queens, NYC and the old Knitting Factory in downtown NYC. The CD has been a great fundraising tool for the film, thanks to Thomas's wife Terri Castillo Chapin and his brother Ted Chapin, the producers. 

It's a great honor to offer these two beautiful, original paintings from artist and long-time friend Derek Glaskin of Kauai, Hawaii, formerly from Australia. While listening to Thomas's music, Derek found himself inspired to paint what he was feeling and hearing. I love the indigenous symbols for they remind me that Thomas loved nature, world music and world culture. The snake symbol is the movement of jazz Derek heard while painting these. Donating them to the film project, he's taking no money and wants all Kickstarter proceeds from these paintings and his posters to go to the film. Thank you Derek!!

OTHER STUFF

My Kickstarter Wall of Fame

All of my Kickstarter backers will have their names added to this Wall, which will you will find at the end of my campaign at my film's website at www.thomaschapinfilm.com.

Want to back the film in memory of someone special? to honor a friend or someone special, like a jazz lover, a fan of Thomas's, a parent, a teacher, a fellow musician? Kickstarter does not provide a place to do this, but if you send me an email and let me know your wishes, I will include your dedication with your name on the Wall of Fame.  Email me at castillosj@aol.com.

Send Me Your Comments & Good Wishes

Before you leave, when you are done pledging your support, I would love to hear directly from you about your Kickstarter experience, or how you were moved to give, or any other response you have to Thomas Chapin, his music and/or the film. Send me an email at castillosj@aol.com. I promise to reply to you.

Lastly, and Most Important

Your support will help to honor the legacy and music of Thomas Chapin, a most worthy jazz artist whose huge spirit lifts us all still today!

Thank you for visiting this page. I do hope you are excited by what you have seen and read, and that you will back the  film. Please tell your friends and share this page. Thanks!

Risks and challenges

Although I have finished nine documentary films, and I know how to finish, filmmaking is a gamble, and so is backing one.

Truth be told, these worst case scenarios below could happen and often do.
1. We fail to raise the rest of the money needed to complete the film.
2. We finish the film but no distributor is found.
3. Tragic or unforeseen circumstances befall us.
4. The film takes longer than expected to completed.

As artists we're committed to our dreams and we work to overcome challenges and obstacles. But risks are inherent when making or backing a film. We hope you will back us anyway and find a Reward level you are comfortable with. Take a chance with us.

With a great team, a terrific script, and professionals working with us at every stage, we are on our way to make your gamble and mine pay off. Thanks for your support, thanks for backing us!

Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

FAQ

Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.

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Rewards

  • You selected
    Pledge $10 or more

    11 backers

    A big thank you!! And a digital download of our beautiful "Crazy Rhythm" 5"x7" art card that celebrates the film and Thomas Chapin's love of nature and music.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $20 or more

    26 backers

    A digital download of our official KICKSTARTER image -- a 4"x6" commemorative art card of Thomas Chapin playing at the 1994 JVC Jazz Festival. Sent with a personal thank you email from the filmmaker. Later -- A digital download of the finished film!

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $30 or more

    30 backers

    Digital downloads of our two art cards above. A personal thank you note from the filmmaker. Later -- A digital download of the finished film!

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $50 or more

    27 backers

    The two art cards above, plus three, signed keepsake digital stills with captions from behind the scenes of the filming of this documentary. See us at work! Later -- A digital download of the finished film! A special thank you email from me!
    Shipping includes insurance.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $100 or more

    52 backers

    The two art cards above, the digital keepsake stills. A special thank you from the filmmaker.
    Later on -- A digital download of the film. A "Special Thank You" credit in the finished film, your name on our website's Kickstarter Wall of Fame wall, and in the printed program for the film's premiere.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $250 or more

    14 backers

    "The Thomas Chapin Collection," a specially created download of 15 Thomas Chapin recorded "favorites" as selected by fans, friends, musicians, and the filmmaker. Plus all of the rewards above -- the art cards, the DVD or download of the film, a "Very Special Thank You" credit in the finished film, your name on the Wall of Fame, and on all printed programs.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $500 or more

    0 backers Limited (50 left of 50)

    A 14"x10" paper poster of the "Crazy Rhythm" painting by Derek Glaskin, capturing Thomas Chapin's love of nature and world music/world cultures, mailed to you and signed by the artist and the filmmaker. A personal email thanking you! Plus, the two art cards above, a copy of Thomas's latest, posthumously released 3-CD set, NEVER LET ME GO.
    Later -- A digital download or a DVD of the film. A "Very Special Thank You" credit in the finished film, on our website's Kickstarter Wall of Fame, and in the printed program for the film's premiere. Shipping includes insurance.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $1,000 or more

    4 backers

    An invitation for two to the film's NYC premiere and party. Plus, the two art cards, "The Thomas Chapin Collection." The NEVER LET ME GO 3-CD set.
    Later -- A digital download or a DVD of the film. A "Very, Very Special Thank You" credit in the finished film, on our website's Kickstarter Wall of Fame, and in the printed program for the film's premiere. A personal call from the filmmaker.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $2,500 or more

    0 backers Limited (10 left of 10)

    The "Crazy Rhythm" poster, signed by the artist and by the filmmaker. The 2 art cards,"The Thomas Chapin Collection." NEVER LET ME GO 3-CD set. Later -- An invitation for four to the film's NYC premiere and party. A digital download or 2 DVDs of the film. A "Very, Very Special Thank You" credit in the finished film, on our website's Kickstarter Wall of Fame, and in the printed program for the film's premiere. A personal call from the filmmaker.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $5,000 or more

    0 backers Limited (5 left of 5)

    An original, signed 8"x12" copy of "Seductive," a beautiful Thomas Chapin/jazz-inspired painting using indigenous symbols of nature by artist Derek Glaskin. The film's poster and art cards. "The Thomas Chapin Collection." The 3-CD set, NEVER LET ME GO. A personal call from the filmmaker.
    Later -- An invitation for six to the film's NYC premiere and party. A digital download or 3 DVDs of the film. A "Very Extra Special Thank You" credit in the finished film, on our website's Kickstarter Wall of Fame, and in the printed program for the film's premiere.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $7,500 or more

    0 backers Limited (1 left of 1)

    The original, signed painting of our film's poster, "Crazy Rhythm," by artist Derek Glaskin -- a 22"x28" rendering using a Lee Meltzer photo of Thomas Chapin. The two art cards, the Thomas Chapin Collection, the 3-CD set NEVER LET ME GO. The film's poster. A personal call from the filmmaker, Plus, an invitation for 8 to the film's NYC premiere and party. A digital download or 4 DVDs of the film. A "Very Extra Special Thank You" credit in the finished film, on our website's Kickstarter Wall of Fame, and in the printed program for the film's premiere.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $10,000

    0 backers

    An ASSOCIATE PRODUCER credit in the finished film. A personal call from the filmmaker. "The Thomas Chapin Collection." The Derek Glaskin film poster and the two art cards. A copy of Thomas's latest, posthumously released 3-CD set, NEVER LET ME GO.
    Later -- A digital download or 5 DVDs of the film. Your name on our website's Kickstarter Wall of Fame, and in the printed program for the film's premiere. An invitation for 10 to the film's NYC premiere and party. A private dinner for you and a friend with the filmmaker, her sister Terri Castillo Chapin (Thomas's widow), and members of Stephanie's team at one of the film's planned premieres.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world

Funding period

- (45 days)