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At their university in Eastern Europe, they are future politicians, bankers and journalists, but in America they are just “the help.”
At their university in Eastern Europe, they are future politicians, bankers and journalists, but in America they are just “the help.”
250 backers pledged $25,282 to help bring this project to life.

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$25,282

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THE SUMMER HELP – A DOCUMENTARY 

At their university in Eastern Europe, they are future politicians, bankers and journalists, but in America they are just “the help.” A new documentary directed/produced and filmed by Melody Gilbert (www.frozenfeetfilm.com)

WHAT IS THIS DOCUMENTARY ABOUT? 

 “The Summer Help” tells the story about international students – many from Eastern Europe- who descend upon America’s summer resorts to clean hotels rooms, wash dishes and do the jobs many Americans avoid. Who are they and why are they here? What will they find? Is America what they thought it would be? At their universities back home, they are future politicians, journalists and bankers, but in America they are just “the help.” 

WHO AM I? 

My name is Melody Gilbert and I have been making independent documentaries for 15 years (click here to see my website with links to trailers for all my films!). Some of you may know my films A LIFE WITHOUT PAIN (about 3 kids who can’t feel pain), or URBAN EXPLORERS: INTO THE DARKNESS (about people who go exploring places most people would never go) or WHOLE (about people who want to be an amputee). Or maybe you saw my very first film MARRIED AT THE MALL, about people who get married at the largest shopping mall in the U.S. or my film about the former  Vice President of the United States under Jimmy Carter, FRITZ: THE WALTER MONDALE STORY. I have also been the producer of several award-winning documentaries, including recent film festival hit THE STARFISH THROWERS.   My new film, THE SUMMER HELP, will be my sixth feature-length film as a director/producer/cinematographer, but the first time doing a crowd funding campaign for my own film. I’m asking you- the people who know me as a filmmaker or are interested in this subject or maybe you just want to support true independent filmmaking- if you want to be part of my newest filmmaking journey! 

WHY AM I MAKING THIS DOCUMENTARY AND WHY NOW?

I started this film in 2012 a year after I moved overseas to teach filmmaking and journalism at a university in Bulgaria. The idea was sparked when I heard some of my students talking about “WAT.” What is W.A.T.? I soon discovered it stands for “Work and Travel” - a program that allows foreign students to get a special visa (J-1) to do summer work in the U.S. tourism and hospitality sector. I was intrigued that students from my university in the Balkans actually pay a fee- often more than $1000- for the privilege to go to the U.S. for three months to wash dishes, serve food or make pizzas or for minimum wage. These students will earn more in one summer than their parents in Moldova, Albania, or Bulgaria will make in a year or more. Most will use the money to help their struggling parents and pay to pay their tuition. But that also means that their hard work is helping to pay my salary. I had to know what their lives as “the summer help” was like. You may not know much about the workers serving your dinner or making your pizza this summer, but after watching this documentary, I hope you do. 

Nikoleta and Elena from Bulgaria
Nikoleta and Elena from Bulgaria

 WHERE WE ARE NOW 

After several years of filming in Eastern Europe and the USA, I am in post-production (ie; editing the film). I spent the past few years squeezing in editing while teaching. Now I am in the final stretch. I have a rough cut! I recently hired a professional editor (Nina Altaparmakova) and now have an amazing co-producer (Martichka Bohzilova, Agitprop). And…I have a rough cut! I am even testing that rough cut and getting good feedback. However, I am far from finished. I have gotten this far solely on my own, just me…my camera…and my laptop…and my awesome husband driving our car across America on a 6000-mile road trip. I have been able to finish the filming and editing the majority of the film on my own. Now, so close to completion, I’ve exhausted my personal funds and my need is simple: We must give this film and give it the cinematic finish and sound mix it needs to prepare for film festivals and to connect with the largest possible audience. This is where you come in. 

 YOUR PART IN THE STORY

My filmmaking journey has taken me through many phases. This one has taken me back to my roots as a filmmaker, where I work mostly solo. Like my earlier films, that means I directed, produced shot everything myself. That means the sound and the footage isn’t exactly what it should be. Your support of this campaign will give the film everything it needs to reach the masses: professional color grading, sound design and mix and all things that go into mastering and finishing the final cut along with preparations for the upcoming world premiere in the next year. I also want to develop my website to make it more interactive to share the stories of "WAT" workers. I am so close. Just need your help to get over the finish line.  All contributions come with a reward like this cool backpack or your name in the credits. Check out all the rewards in the column to the right.  And thank you in advance for your contribution! 

You know you want one :)
You know you want one :)

PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD 

If you can’t donate, you can help us in other ways by spreading the word. Do you know someone who is a WAT worker? An employer of a WAT student? Or a family member of someone doing WAT? Or some who likes to help independent filmmakers? Please “follow” or “like” us and share if you can. Spread the word on Facebook. Spread the word on Twitter. Follow us on Instagram (we are posting  pics of students in their WAT jobs the hashtag #TheSummerHelp- see pic below) and you can also follow our web page www.thesummerhelp.com.  Also, please share a link to our campaign with your friends via email. It’s been proven that successful campaigns happen when supporters share the campaign directly via email and ask them to get involved with the campaign. Thank you!

Sample of Instagram pics
Sample of Instagram pics

OUR TEAM 

DIRECTOR: MELODY GILBERT

PRODUCERS: MELODY GILBERT AND MARTICHKA BOZHILHOVA (AGITPROP)

EDITOR: NINA ALTAPARMAKOVA 

ASST. EDITOR: HRISTIANA KIROVA 

ASSOCIATE PRODUCER: DUMITRITA PACIOCOVSCHI

PRODUCTION ASSISTANT: IGOR MYAKOTIN 

CINEMATOGRAPHER: MELODY GILBERT

ADDITIONAL CINEMATOGRAPHY: IGOR MYAKOTIN, HRISTIANA KIROVA, DIMA VITANOVA

GRAPHICS: ANI DEVDARIANI

TO READ MORE ABOUT EACH TEAM MEMBER, CLICK HERE 

NEWS UPDATE!: Newly added to the team is NuBoyana Film Studio, the largest film studio in Eastern Europe. They have generously offered to help us with the final post-production of this film (sound design and color correction), so we are over-the-moon happy about this new development! 

For more information about me and my filmmaking, you can read these  articles that have been written about me recently:

Profile about me on Inverse (click here to read the article):https://www.inverse.com/article/5764-melody-gilbert-independent-documentary-filmmaker-job-hacks

 Article on AUBG website (click here to read the article)http://www.aubg.edu/news/aubg-professor-launches-new-documentary-792

Here's another one, but you have to be able to read Bulgarian! Click here to see it all!

Thanks for your support and being part of my newest filmmaking journey!

Yours in Docs, Melody Gilbert

Poster designed by AUBG student Ani Devdariani
Poster designed by AUBG student Ani Devdariani

Risks and challenges

Documentary filmmaking has inherent risks and challenges. One of the biggest challenges is anything that can stall production. Because we’ve completed the filming and the vast majority of the editing, we feel confident we can deliver a finished film in the next six months. All of my previous films have screened internationally at prestigious film festivals and been broadcast around the world as well as on iTunes and Netflix. I am well known for finishing the projects that I start. For now, the fundraising has been the biggest challenge, and with your help we will finish this film and share it with the world and get some conversations started!

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    Hand-written POSTCARD from a student working their summer job somewhere in the U.S. + THANKS on Social Media

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  2. Select this reward

    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    Stream the Film + Thanks on Social Media
    When the film is finished, we’ll send you a link so you can watch it in the comfort of your own home.

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  3. Select this reward

    Pledge $40 or more About $40

    "The Summer Help" Backpack (you know you need one!) + Stream the Film (we'll send you a link when it's ready) and THANKS on Social Media.

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    See your name on the big screen! You have always wanted to have your name in the credits of a movie, so now is the time! You will get a "special thanks" in the credits of the film + a "The Summer Help" backpack + a pair of "The Summer Help" sunglasses + a digital download (we will send a link when it's ready) + big shout out on social media and the website! Plus pick a free DVD of any one of Melody's films (www.frozenfeetfilm.com). Just tell us which one you want!

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    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    See your name on the big screen! You have always wanted to have your name in the credits of a movie, so now is the time! You will get a "special thanks" in the credits of the film + a "The Summer Help" backpack + a pair of "The Summer Help" sunglasses + a digital download (we will send a link when it's ready) + big shout out on social media and the website! Plus pick 2 DVD’s your choice of any of Melody’s previous films (www.frozenfeetfilm.com).

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    Pledge $300 or more About $300

    NEW REWARD! TWO GUEST PASSES TO THE PROVINCETOWN FILM FESTIVAL! This pass is valued at $300, but if you buy one, you get one FREE! So, a $600 value is waiting for you for just $300. You'll get to SEE any and all films at the festival...plus you'll get to help MAKE a film + see your name on the big screen! We'll even toss in a "The Summer Help" backpack to tote around your things while you attend the festival next year :)

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    Pledge $400 or more About $400

    NEW REWARD! FLY FISHING RETREAT IN COLORADO! How would you like to escape for a day of serene fly fishing in the Los Pinos River in southwestern Colorado, followed by a home-made dinner and an overnight stay at the Los Pinos Ranch near Durango? Support "The Summer Help" and be the guests of fellow "The Summer Help" supporters Curt and Adele Brown. Only one available! Reel in this great deal today.

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    Lunch with the Director + Stream the Film: Join director Melody Gilbert in Minneapolis or Chicago for lunch (Melody's treat!) where she’ll spill her secrets for telling compelling stories as a documentary filmmaker.Plus, if you have a film you are working on, she'll take a look and offer you feedback. Plus, she'll give you a "The Summer Help" backpack and sunglasses when lunch is done + you wlll receive a DVD collection of all of Melody’s films (value $100) (www.frozenfeetfilm.com) + and an on-screen credit, of course!

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    The director will bring the film to your home or community event and stay for a Q&A with your audience. Must be within 500 miles driving distance of Chicago or Minneapolis (unless you pay for the airfare to bring her somewhere else). Digital download of "The Summer Help" included for the host along with a "Melody Gilbert DVD Collection" of all of Melody's previous films (value $100) + a pair of "The Summer Help" sunglasses for everyone who attends the event + backpack for the host :)

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    Pledge $2,500 or more About $2,500

    Tickets to the World Premiere + Dinner with the Crew + Associate Producer Credit!
    Wherever the film makes its world premiere, we’ll get you two tickets to that screening! We’ll also invite you to dinner with the crew (travel/accommodations not included). You will be happy to see your name as "Associate Producer" in the credits :). Of course you will get a big social media shout out, a digital download of "The Summer Help" along with a "Melody Gilbert DVD Collection" of all of Melody's previous films + a pair of "The Summer Help" backpack and sunglasses to wear so you will look cool when the paparazzi will be taking your pic on opening night :)

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    Pledge $5,000 or more About $5,000

    Admit it! You have always wanted to be an Executive Producer of a movie :). Now is the time. See your name scroll by on the big screen with your name in lights at a film festival. You'll get the Executive Producer credit, 2 tickets to the world premiere (travel/accommodations not included), a big social media shout out, a digital download of "The Summer Help" along with a "Melody Gilbert DVD Collection" of all of Melody's previous films + "The Summer Help" backpack + sunglasses to wear so you will look cool when the paparazzi will be stalking you for a pic on opening night :). Oh, and enormous gratitude from me.

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Funding period

- (32 days)