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One young West African's quest to transform himself into an international Opera star, despite all odds.
One young West African's quest to transform himself into an international Opera star, despite all odds.
367 backers pledged $25,571 to help bring this project to life.

Out of sight, but not out of mind.

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I'm the worst, I'm well aware.

It has been a LONG time since I last updated, and for that I apologize. Please know that it's not because I've forgotten about you -- quite the contrary. But a major development has been brewing in the past few months, and I was afraid of "jinxing" it by talking about it before everything was confirmed, 100%. I'll get to that in a minute, but just in case there was any doubt (and because we're all adults here), remember:  

TFAB = Totally F***ing Awe-inspiring Backers. Forreals.

As you should know by now, none of this would be possible without you. This project is as much yours as it is ours, because, with all of your help, kind words, contributions, and occasional constructive criticism, this film is becoming more than I had ever hoped it could. And for those of you who wrote, called, or messaged asking for updates: THANK YOU. I love hearing from you, and it reminds me just how lucky I am to have people that care enough about what we're doing to reach out.

One (wo)man band on the day of Landry's audition.
One (wo)man band on the day of Landry's audition.

The last time I wrote I was in the Netherlands, filming Landry while he prepared for his audition at the conservatory. But because I'm a lover of cliffhangers, I'm going to tell you everything else that has happened before getting to the juicy stuff. What kind of a director would I be if I gave up all the goodies at the beginning, right? Bear with me, then, while I take you back to May...

"Spring" in Amsterdam.
"Spring" in Amsterdam.

As you'll remember, I was cold. And after 3 weeks of filming and freezing in The Netherlands, I headed back to Rome to thaw and watch footage. Fear not, my dear backers: we have about 40 hours of beautiful, uncut material from the shoots in Abidjan and the Hague, and the task of watching all of that, cataloguing, and constructing a foundation for the film has been an indescribable experience. Daunting, moving, exhilarating, and joyous, to say the least. I am very proud of what my crew was able to pull off (with your help), and think you'll be pleased with the results. In fact, I hope to have a short clip ready for you in the next couple of weeks. It'll be rough, of course, but enough to give you a window inside both my head and this (ridiculously fulfilling) process.

Still from the film: Landry's sister, Grace.
Still from the film: Landry's sister, Grace.
Another film still: Abidjan at sunrise over the Lagoon. I know - too hot to handle.
Another film still: Abidjan at sunrise over the Lagoon. I know - too hot to handle.

So, do you guys remember that stretch goal we had (and the pay-it-forward promise attached)? Well, I'm happy to say that, thanks to your generosity, we were able to make good on the offer.

You may not know this, but one of the first operas Landry ever heard was Carmen, and it has long been a favorite of his. I couldn't bring myself take him to his first opera in the Netherlands (sorry, but when you live in Italy there are things you simply cannot tolerate, and this is apparently one of them), and discovered that the opera house in Rome was putting on a production of Carmen. So, in late June, Landry - our Tenor from Abidjan - flew to the Bel Paese to see the opera, and we were there to film it. Take a moment congratulate yourselves on a job well done, friends. Boom.

Landry, ticket in hand, before the show.
Landry, ticket in hand, before the show.
Super excited for the show to start!
Super excited for the show to start!

After the show Landry confirmed that he did indeed still want to be an Opera singer (phew!), and that he was incredibly grateful for the experience. I told him I knew that he, too, would pay it forward in due time, and we went to get gelato. We spent a few more days wandering around Rome and filmed a bit more, and then he went back to the Netherlands for his last couple of weeks in Europe while we went back to TFAB.

A bit of singing in Campo de' Fiori, Rome.
A bit of singing in Campo de' Fiori, Rome.

What do I mean by that, exactly? Well, I'm glad you asked.

The plan all along has been to use the Kickstarter funds to shoot and cut a powerful first act, in hopes of finding an official funder and/or distributor to take care of the rest. With lots of editing, writing, and soul-searching, Elaine and I have been working on grant applications, funding requests, and pitching sessions, trying to create a package that does justice to the potential of the project. We've managed to apply for a Sundance grant, the IDFA forum, and Creative Capital, and are preparing a bunch more applications for the coming months. Of course, this is a long process with some wins and some losses, but we feel really good about where things are going. Hopefully we'll have something to report on that front soon.

The Tundra, or the cloud cover over Amsterdam. You choose.
The Tundra, or the cloud cover over Amsterdam. You choose.

Are you bored yet? Well sit down, 'cause I'm about to blow this ship out of the water.

The fact of the matter, TFABs, is that I'm currently writing you from Amsterdam, on the couch of an old and dear friend Miriam (who is generously hosting me and my gear). I arrived on Saturday, camera in tow, because the show must (and if fact will) go on. If I waited this long to write it's only because I'm superstitious (again, I live in Italy) and I needed to see it with my own eyes, but: Landry has been accepted for a preliminary year of study at the Hague Conservatory. He received his visa a few weeks ago, made it safely to the Hague, and started orientation yesterday. Do WHAT, now?

The schedule of events for the First Year Festival, or orientation week!
The schedule of events for the First Year Festival, or orientation week!

Yesterday he had a full schedule: morning choir rehearsal, a meeting with his mentor and singing instructor, the orientation assembly, a technique workshop, and a vocal improvisation class with the formidable soprano Claron McFadden. He was visibly nervous, excited, and a bit overwhelmed -- but most importantly he seemed happy. And ready to get to work.

Choir rehearsal yesterday morning.
Choir rehearsal yesterday morning.

This is all pretty mind-blowing when you remember the fact that Landry has never, not once, worked with a professional voice coach. Though he is in the "trial" program, over the next year Landry will study alongside other students in the school. He will get the same attention and dedication as the freshman, and take the first real steps towards realizing his dream, effectively upping the stakes for both himself and for our film. He must use this time to train as much as possible, because in order to be fully accepted into the program he must pass another audition at the end of the year. 

A rare sunny day in Den Haag.
A rare sunny day in Den Haag.

So, like that, we have a journey on our hands, and a "hero" who is making moves. The next year will be tough and trying for him, but from a director's perspective, this is where the weight of the film lies. This is the make-or-break part of the story, where we really see what Landry is made of. And to top it all off, the conservatory has agreed to let me film all of it! Double Boom.

As a result, we've been busy restructuring the film. The exciting thing about documentary filmmaking of this nature is that you don't really know what's going to happen next, and it's all about adapting to new circumstances. Because of these developments, we now need to film through the end of the school year -- something that comes with a bigger price tag. To make the project as fabulous as possible, we need to do at least three more shoots, which means we really have to buckle down and work on hardcore fundraising in the coming months... but, as I said earlier, the response we've had has been wonderful, so we're quite hopeful!

Love coming from all sides, even from my takeout.
Love coming from all sides, even from my takeout.

The past four months have been an emotional and spiritual journey, but the number 367 has been the driving force behind this project. The few times that I did feel in over my head, I remembered the outpouring of support that this project received so many months ago, and all seemed right again. I have no tattoos, but have seriously thought about getting one to tribute the incredible people that made this journey possible. Something like CCCLXVII. Sorry* (*not sorry), Mom.

With that, I'm off to plan the shoot tomorrow, and then to get some much needed shut eye. Over and out, TFABs.

<3 Taneisha

PS, here's a little throw-back action to the moment we reached our goal in February. Love you!

Tears of joy, people. That's what you do.
Tears of joy, people. That's what you do.

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