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BLESS tells the story of a family roadtrip. Two sisters, Lourdes and Cecilia, take their terminally ill mother, Annie, from the sandhills of Nebraska to the Gulf of Mexico.
Lourdes is a performing artist based in New York City, who lives with her sister Cecilia. On the eve of their mother Annie’s sixtieth birthday, Lourdes and Cecilia find out that Annie’s health has reached an irreparable state. Annie, who has been suffering from multiple sclerosis for the past twenty-five years has given up hope in the face of death, and now asks her daughters to take her to the ocean for her sixtieth birthday. Lourdes and Cecilia return home, to Nebraska, and they set off, with Annie, towards the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way, in order to find new solutions for their mother’s health, they experience a series of strange and poignant encounters with renowned doctors, healers, a shaman and estranged family members. The road trip becomes a journey about healing, about connection, and about the bond between mothers and daughters.
Why this story?
From the director:
BLESS is a story about my mother. When my mother was thirty-seven years old, she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). I was seven years old, and the diagnosis and its ramifications became one of the most significant events in my life.
Over the years, my close friends and family have supported and encouraged me through doubtful moments. They kept up my spirits so I would never quit doing what I love: telling stories. Storytelling is the ultimate collaborative process. Even as a director, I'm just one element in the completion of this film - in this spirit that I sincerely invite you to be a part of bringing BLESS to life through this campaign.
-- Maria Dyer
What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) involves an immune-mediated process in which an abnormal response of the body’s immune system is directed against the central nervous system, which is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. The exact antigen — or target that the immune cells are sensitized to attack — remains unknown, which is why MS is considered by many experts to be "immune-mediated" rather than "autoimmune."
Within the CNS, the immune system attacks myelin — the fatty substance that surrounds and insulates the nerve fibers — as well as the nerve fibers themselves. The damaged myelin forms scar tissue (sclerosis), which gives the disease its name. When any part of the myelin sheath or nerve fiber is damaged or destroyed, nerve impulses traveling to and from the brain and spinal cord are distorted or interrupted, producing a wide variety of symptoms. The disease is thought to be triggered in a genetically susceptible individual by a combination of one or more environmental factors.
BLESS is Maria Dyer's first feature film. It is also her thesis film for NYU's graduate film program. It will be shot in New York, Texas, and Nebraska in the summer of 2015. NYU provides support in the form of production equipment, production insurance, and post-production facilities, allowing us to make the film at a fraction of what feature films normally cost. Despite this incredible support additional funds are necessary to meet BLESS's budget needs.
How will the money be spent?
Your donation will help pay for crew fees, transportation, and food for our cast and crew as well as production design and wardrobe so everything on screen looks great and authentic. It will also pay for post-production processes including color-grading and sound design.
For more details about the project, and if you are interested in investing in the project beyond a donation please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Who is the creative team behind BLESS?
Maria Dyer, Writer & Director
Maria is a writer, director, and producer. Maria was born in the bluebonnet fields of Austin, Texas - the arc of her childhood stretched from Texas and Brazil through Nebraska and eventually to Minnesota where she spent her final year of high school studying astronomy and physics at Macalester College. She studied art and semiotics at Brown University, where she discovered a deep and profound love for telling stories and began making films in the form of large scale stop-motion animations.
Maria continued to study film directing and writing at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts where she has been mentored by John Tintori, Spike Lee, Todd Solondz, John Hamburg, Jay Anania, Mick Casale, Robert Warren, Gail Segal, and Barbara Sukova. She helped adapt Jennifer Egan’s pulitzer winning novel "A Visit from The Goon Squad" with Rabbit Bandini Productions for HBO. Maria created Piecemeal, a surrealist cooking show that combined documentary, scripted action, animation, and a sense of humor for PLUM TV. She taught Puppet Animation at the Art Institute of Chicago. She directed "The Challenging Patient" for Hasbro Hospital and Brown University’s Medical School. Her award-winning short films "And Lo, Guilharmenia" and "Little People" have been screened nationally and internationally. She was awarded the Dean's Fellowship at New York University, the Cary Grant Filmmakers Award from the Princess Grace Foundation, the Merit Scholarship from the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Weston Price Filmmakers Award. She has received grants from The Princess Grace Foundation and the Creative Arts Council. She is a member of the Brooklyn Filmmakers Collective. In 2014, she founded a filmmaking collective with Shruti Ganguly and three other female classmates from Tisch to develop and craft short and long-form content, with strong female voices, attempting to bridge the gender gap in Hollywood. Maria is a certified yoga teacher, she likes both cats and dogs, and she lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
Shruti Ganguly, Producer
Shruti is a filmmaker and digital video strategist based in New York City. She is currently the VP of TV and Video at NYLON. Previously, she was a producer at Conde Nast Entertainment focusing on the Vogue brand and produced the company’s highest performing series, 73 Questions. She has worked as a Senior Producer at MTV Networks and as a Producer at NYLON Magazine/NYLON TV. She has produced and been on the directing team on various feature-length movies, numerous short films and video content, which have premiered at Sundance, SXSW, Venice, Telluride, and so on, and is in development on more. Some of the feature films include The Color of Time, Black Dog, Red Dog, and Yosemite, made with James Franco and his production company, Rabbit Bandini. Another feature, H., by Rania Attieh and Daniel Garcia, screened recently at the Venice Film Festival winning the Venice Biennale College Cinema prize and will next go on to the Sundance Film Festival. In 2014, she started a filmmaking collective with Maria Dyer and three other female classmates from Tisch to develop and craft inventive short and long-form content, with strong female voices, attempting to bridge the gender gap in Hollywood. She is a partner at two production companies, Fictionless, which focuses on branded content and docu-series, and WEG, which crafts inventive films for the financial sector. Shruti is currently on the jury for the CLIO Awards, focusing on the Film and Digital Video category. She holds a B.A. from Northwestern University, and an MBA from NYU where she co- taught a Grad Film class with Dean’s Council member, Robert Warren. Shruti hails from India by way of Oman.
Charlotte Rabate, Producer
Charlotte Rabate is a French writer/director and producer. She signed a film for Durex involving two playful kids, which attracted a major level of interest from the public and international media like Stratégies magazine and websites like Fubiz, Docnews or Paperblog. Charlotte was awarded the Best Student Commercial award at the 2013 AICP awards and a Porsche Design award. She also received a nomination in 2014 for a Young Director Award, part of the Cannes Lions festival. She’s been directing several short films which involve a fascination for youth, the passing of time and solitary characters evolving in a dreamlike atmosphere which echoes their inner thoughts. Her films have premiered at the Edinburgh Film festival and her latest short "Man," shot in Thailand, won the Amazing Thailand Film Challenge, competing with over 50 teams of filmmakers. Charlotte has a background in Economics having graduated from the London School of Economics and received a MFA in Filmmaking at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, with the generous support of the W.T.C Johnson Scholarship. Charlotte has produced over 20 short films and commercials and has worked with renown London-based production company Number 9 films.
Chananun Chotrungroj, Cinematographer
Chananun Chotrungroj is an award-winning filmmaker and artist based in New York City and Bangkok. Chananun recently shot the feature film “Karaoke Girl,” as co-director of photography with Sandi Sissel which premiered at the 2012 Rotterdam Film Festival. She was an Artist-in-Residence at the Korean National Contemporary Art Museum in Seoul and her photography and installations have been exhibited in Bangkok, Seoul, and Beijing. She received “Best Cinema- tography” for her first short film, “Sink,” at the 2010 Singapore Short Film Awards, “Best Director” for short film “ Home Coming” at the 2011 Fusion Film Festival “Best Cinematography” for “Karaoke Girl” at Bangkok Critics Assembly Awards 2014 and “Best Cinematography” from Starpics Thai Film Awards 2014. Her latest works include the upcoming feature film “Yosemite,” featuring James Franco and Henry Hopper. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Film at NYU, where she was awarded the Ang Lee Fellowship and Department Fellowship and received Nestor Almendros Award for Outstanding Cinematography by a woman 2013.
Henry Rich, Executive Producer
Henry Rich is a writer, musician, producer, and serial entrepreneur from Brooklyn, New York. Henry associate produced "The Seventh Fire," a documentary about Native American gangs co-executive produced by Natalie Portman and Terrence Malick and directed by Jack Riccobono. Henry has opened and managed three Brooklyn restaurants, Rucola, Fitzcarraldo, June. Prior to opening restaurants, Henry co-founded and managed Oral Fixation Mints, a specialty manufacturing and distribution company with operations across the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia from 2002 before selling it in 2010. Before beginning his career as an entrepreneur, Henry has toured the world multiple times as a musician. He holds a BA with high honors in philosophy from Harvard University.
WHAT OTHER WAYS CAN I HELP?
FOLLOW OUR JOURNEY:
On our blog: http://blessthisfilm.tumblr.com
On facebook: https://www.facebook.com/blessthisfilm
On Instagram: #BLESSTHISFILM
On Twitter: @blessthisfilm
Risks and challenges
In making BLESS, we will experience the inevitable challenges of the filmmaking process. On every film set, there are many elements that aren't entirely predictable. Equipment could malfunction or weather conditions could force us to adjust our shooting schedule. One of the biggest challenges in shooting a feature film on such a modest budget -- we can't go "over budget". We won't be able to add countless shooting days to our schedule, and we won't be able to re-shoot a scene unless it's absolutely necessary. However, all of our talented crew members are enthusiastic problem-solvers and have a lot of experience working on film sets of this size. And shooting with a small crew will allow us to move quickly. Our fantastic team is 100% committed to meeting all the challenges that may arise and producing a quality film.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (25 days)