It is 1946. The war is over. The world has changed. But what will it look like for the American GIs who now wait for their redeployment? In the war’s aftermath, they have time to contemplate the forces that have brought them here. They know they are faced with urgent new questions, but they are unsure of what will save them. And so, on the cusp of a new era, they talk and confront their fears.
From the question of race in America to the legacy of British imperialism and the rise of the American dollar, from industrialization and job-mindedness to the fading of critical judgment in the modern world, Stein’s GIs leave nothing unquestioned. What they say is as addressed to our own moment as it was to theirs, more than 65 years ago.
At the end of her life, after enduring two world wars, and having transformed the future of both art and American literature, Gertrude Stein had a change of heart. The result was Brewsie and Willie, a novella whose publication she did not live to see. War demanded realism, she said, and so, after decades of literary cubism, she returned to the ordinary speech of ordinary people and gave them the task of speaking and re-imagining the world in the middle of catastrophe.
When I read Stein's novella for the first time, I was astonished. It seemed to be speaking directly to our contemporary scene. And with that genius for which Stein is so famous, it posed fearless questions with uncanny insight. This is the Stein that the critics forget, the one who dares to change her mind, who recognizes complication but who speaks plainly about complex issues, and who loves a good rhyme or a punning joke even when she is being deadly serious.
Every lover of Stein knows you have to read her work aloud to grasp its rhythms and ideas. With Brewsie and Willie, I wanted more than a reading; I wanted to experience the conversation of these characters completely. Unlike the other two adaptations of this novella (one in the 1950s, and recorded for television, and one an avant-garde performance work produced in 2010), I wanted the women to retain their strength of character in relation to the GIs. And I wanted the men to appear as they would have in the 1940s--before video games and Hollywood made soldiery seem like a game in which everyone looks like a superhero.
With that thought, the idea for the film was born. The first step was adapting a script. The second was assembling a team of brave and intelligent artists. I am writer, director and producer on this film, but I've been helped along the way by a stellar crew, some fantastic friends in the film business (thank you Bette Gordon and June Stein!), and a superb cast.
This film is a hybrid piece. It combines the immediacy of the theatre with the realism of cinema in an homage to Stein's own formal inventiveness. Susan Zeeman Rogers's set design evokes the collage tradition of Stein's contemporary artists, while establishing the claustrophobic aura of a warehouse in which everyone is, as it were, taking stock. Lighting by Rocco de Villiers gives the space its theatrical ambience, and this was captured with exquisite sensitivity by veteran cinematographer, Milton Kam. Rocco also composed original arrangements of the music for the film, based on Edith Piaf's 'La Vie en Rose' (you can hear it played by Rocco and Sergio Zampolli in the trailer!). The true life of the piece emanates from the brilliant ensemble of actors who work-shopped and rehearsed the script for weeks before shooting.
I love these actors! They gave their heart and soul to the film, and the result is a dazzling performance led by Eric T. Miller and Bill Griffin in the title roles of Brewsie and Willie respectively. They are accompanied by Kyle Knauf (Jo), Andrew Ramaglia (Donald Paul), LeeAnne Hutchison (Pauline), Karl Hammerle (Jimmie), Julia Watt (Janet), David Sedgwick (Brock), Harrison Hill (John), and Lowell Byers (Sam). Casting by Judy Bowman Casting.
THE KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN
We're now in post-production, which is where the money comes in. We have an outstanding team of creative talent working on this film. With prize-winning filmmaker, Sara Zandieh, at the editing table, and with sound design and mix by John Moros, we're close to completion. But the sound mix and color correction, printing and other costs of the final post-process have yet to be covered. We need to raise at least $15,000 for this last stage of the project.
No amount is too small. If you can give a little, that's fabulous! If you can give a little more, that's even better.
Kickstarter is a community of supporters. And it makes everything remarkably simple. You pledge what you can and wish to pledge. It's as easy as buying something on AMAZON. In fact, it is actually an AMAZON process -- if you've ever bought anything that way, you'll know how straight-forward it is. Your contribution is billed to your credit card, but only at the end of the campaign. If I reach my target, you'll be billed on the date that the campaign closes. If I don't reach my target, you'll not have to pay a penny, and you won't have to wait for a refund. You'll just never be charged! KICKSTARTER is an all-or-nothing kind of campaign.
It goes without saying that a project like this is in every way, shape and form, an independently spirited one. That's given us absolute creative freedom. With freedom comes courage--to push the envelope and to imagine what can be done, and not only what has already been done. Gertrude Stein's Brewsie and Willie isn't like any of the films you've every seen. And hopefully, you'll remember it forever.
Although we're only seeking to raise $15,000 here, we need much more. We're actually reaching for at least $20,000. Which means that, if no amount is too small, no amount is too big either. Your help can ensure that this film gets out in the world, finds its audience, and incites a conversation that we all need to have.
THANK YOU IN ADVANCE!
- (30 days)