Dramarama - A feature film about high school drama nerds
In 1994, a closeted teen struggles to part ways with his 4 friends at their final murder mystery party before leaving for college.
This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Sat, May 4 2019 6:59 AM UTC +00:00.
My lifelong dream to make a feature film is coming true! Inspired by my past, this not-quite-coming-of-age film is a love letter to drama nerds to keep their freak flags flying!
Escondido, California, 1994. It's the end of summer and Gene has nothing to wear for his high school drama friends’ final murder mystery slumber party. The theatrical hostess, Rose, will fly off to start college the next morning, followed by earnest Claire, magnetic Oscar, and sarcastic Ally. Gene has bigger problems than being left behind by his best friends: he wants to come out of the closet – but he's terrified of the changes that may bring.
Once Gene arrives, his secret isn't the night's only obstacle. An unexpected visit by JD, a judgmental rebel, sews the seeds for identity crises, tests tight-knit friendships, and makes the sheltered teens question their readiness for the “real world” to come. Will the friends survive the night – and the enormous life changes that loom?
DRAMARAMA is unique as a coming out film because its queer characters are not granted a liberating "coming out" moment. My community in 1994 had no support network for coming out, so all the LGBTQ kids like me stayed firmly in the closet. And while much progress has been made since then, full equality has yet to arrive. To this day, queer kids still worry about what might happen if they come out, and this film reflects that unfortunate reality.
As a coming-of-age film, DRAMARAMA is also atypical because the characters resist change rather than rush towards it. When I went away to college, I discovered my high school experiences were unusual: my friends and I never drank, had sex, or got into trouble. I love films about growing up, but I often feel disconnected from the characters once they lose their virginity or get wasted for the first time. And while I was a late-bloomer, I also know I wasn't the only one! DRAMARAMA fills the gap in the genre for teens who were wary of leaving the bubble of youth - and perhaps even holding back the hands of time out of fear.
The flip side is that all those strong feelings and repressions had to be channeled somewhere. Enter: the theatre! Drama was the space where you could express yourself in boundless ways and rarely get called out for it. It was a license to let it all out. The close friends in DRAMARAMA live off the lifeblood of theatrical improvisation, whether it's bursting into a Sondheim song, inventing a clever double-entendre, or reenacting a scene from CLUE. It's their unique chosen way to deal with their emotions, inspired by the intense energy, passion, and humor I witnessed as a drama kid.
Lastly, if play-acting is the characters' safe space, change is the villain. This is what makes DRAMARAMA universal as well: everyone can relate to fear of the unknown, and the uncertainty of leaving one life chapter for the next. Growing up is awkward and even scary, but these shared experiences around change can also bind us together.
Jonathan Wysocki (Writer/Director) grew up in the theatre, his experiences spanning from Southern California to Europe to Africa. As a filmmaker, he became a Fellow of the Sundance Screenwriters and Directors Labs as well as an Advisor for Sundance Co//ab. His award-winning short films have screened at over 100 film festivals on 6 continents. The latest, A Doll’s Eyes, was even translated into 8 languages. Film accolades include the Sundance Lynn Auerbach Screenwriting Fellowship, the Busan Cinephile Award, the Stanley Kramer Award, the James Bridges Award, and two Annenberg grants. Previously, Wysocki worked as a feature programmer for the LA Film Festival, as a producer on the indie features The Hammer and Thrasher Road, and for major studios such as MGM and ABC. Wysocki is a UCLA alumnus, a Project Involve Fellow at Film Independent, a Berlinale Talent Campus alum, and a lecturer at Chapman University and Cal State Long Beach.
Kimberly Hwang (Producer) is a Taiwanese-American producer from the USC School of Cinematic Arts and NBCUniversal's Page Program. She currently works on ABC's Fresh Off the Boat as a Chinese consultant and produces scripted and unscripted content for many companies including the Los Angeles Dodgers, Dreamworks TV, Lionsgate, and Nickelodeon. She is a Film Independent Producing Fellow and was awarded their Barbara Boyle Scholarship. Her produced work has screened at the Sundance Film Festival, the LA Film Festival and the San Diego Asian Film Festival. Her latest produced features are about to embark on the festival circuit: Same Difference, which features Essence Atkins, Terrence Jenkins and Affion Crockett, and Curtis, starring Dwight Henry, Alex Henderson and Thaddeus Street.
Chelsea Davenport (Producer) is a freelance line producer and film finance consultant. For the last 6 years, she has worked for top line producers on superhero films such as Aquaman and Shazam! as well as Warner Brothers' The Conjuring movies, the highest grossing horror film franchise (The Conjuring 2, Annabelle Creation, and The Nun). She recently produced the independent feature Curtis in Detroit, written and directed by Film Independent Fellow Chris Bailey. A native of Marin County, Northern California, she now resides in Brentwood, Los Angeles.
Todd Bell (Cinematographer) is a cinematographer for narrative films, documentaries, television, and commercials. He shot the groundbreaking 7 Miracles, the world's first feature-length cinematic VR experience. Other indie features include the thriller I Hate The Man In My Basement, Road To Victory, and the upcoming Horse Latitudes starring Caitlin Stasey and Jon Beavers. Todd’s television credits includes Brew Dogs and UFC, and he has lensed many commercials for clients such as Ferrari, Audi, Corvette, Infinity, and Specialized Bicycles. At the Woods Hole Film Festival, he was awarded for his cinematography on Jonathan Wysocki's A Doll's Eyes. Last fall, he ran a workshop for Sony CineAlta's new VENICE camera at the prestigious Camerimage International Film Festival in Poland.
Christine Kim (Editor) is a narrative film editor who was recently praised by Variety as achieving "a John Hughes-inspired emotional energy" on the award-winning comedy Babysplitters. In addition to cutting Quentin Lee's indie feature Ethan Mao, her extensive studio experience as a first assistant editor include Solo: A Star Wars Story, Sully, Alice in Wonderland, Gangster Squad, and Deja Vu. She's also served as an assistant editor on many features, including David Lynch's Mulholland Drive, Maleficent, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Recount, The Taking of Pelham 123, Unstoppable, Too Big to Fail, The Lucky One, and the TV series Battlestar Galactica. Currently, she is working on Elizabeth Banks' reboot of Charlie's Angels.
Chanda Dancy (Composer) is known for her rich musical scores for narrative and documentary films that have screened at festivals worldwide, including Cannes, Sundance, Tribeca, and Slamdance. Chanda is a recipient of the BMI Pete Carpenter Fellowship for Aspiring Film Composers, the APM/YMF Music Business Award, the Time Warner Foundation Fellowship, and was selected for the Sundance Composers Lab. Her feature work includes Everything Before Us, New Year Baby, The Things We Carry, Peru's La navaja de Don Juan, the Chinese horror hit Lift to Hell, the upcoming American indies After We Leave and Thrasher Road, and TV movies for networks such as Lifetime. Besides composing and running her company CYD Post, Chanda is also a versatile multi-instrumentalist and gifted vocalist, having performed across the United States.
Meg Morman and Sunday Boling (Casting Directors) of Morman Boling Casting began their casting partnership with indie hits like Waitress (starring Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Jeremy Sisto, Cheryl Hines, and Andy Griffith), which premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. Since then, their commitment to independent cinema is evident in their roster of award-winning films, including Hello, My Name Is Doris (starring Sally Field, Max Greenfield, Stephen Root, and Tyne Daly), Mississippi Damned (starring Malcolm Goodwin, Tessa Thompson, DB Woodside, and Malcolm David Kelley), The Ballad of Lefty Brown (starring Bill Pullman, Tommy Flanagan, Jim Caviezel, Peter Fonda, and Kathy Baker), Natural Selection (starring Rachael Harris, Matt O’Leary, and Jon Gries), Take Me Home (starring Sam Jaeger, Victor Garber, and Lin Shaye), Magic Valley (starring Scott Glenn, Kyle Gallner, Alison Elliott, Brad William Henke, Johnny Lewis, and Will Estes), I Believe in Unicorns (starring Peter Vack and Natalia Dyer), and Dear Lemon Lima (starring Melissa Leo, Beth Grant, Elaine Hendrix, Meaghan Jette Martin, and Vanessa Marano). Meg also cast Me and You and Everyone We Know, which went on to win the Special Jury Prize for Originality of Vision as well as the Golden Camera Award at Cannes. The Casting Society of America has awarded Meg and Sunday for their work.
Kari Cassellius (Costume Designer) is a costumer, cutter/fitter and assemblage artist who has been designing and building clothing creations since childhood. Her work has been seen on ABC's Castle, Fox's So You Think You Can Dance, Ellen, and Ryan Murphy's upcoming Netflix show Ratched. She designed the costumes for the LGBTQ hit feature Hollywood, je t'aime as well as all of Jonathan Wysocki's short films. Previously, she made custom wardrobe for the renowned costume house Muto-Little. Kari loves the outdoors, wine, and cats.
With its small cast, character-driven action, and largely contained single location, DRAMARAMA is specifically designed to be made on a low budget. Our amazing team is already getting the ball rolling, but now we're at the point where we need money to kickstart us into production!
Unfortunately, LGBTQ stories are still considered niche stories, and thus difficult to finance. Add drama nerds to the equation, and it's extra niche! Thankfully, Kickstarter allows us to reach out directly to our audience who want to see films like DRAMARAMA get made.
The $60,000 we raise here gets us through the rest of pre-production and into production! This moment is the hardest part of getting a film made. With this money, we can continue the casting process to find the perfect teen actors, secure the rest of our crew, lock in our key location, costume our costume-loving characters, set dress for 90s realness...this money goes a long way! We are amazing at pinching pennies - but none of us can finance this film on our own. We need your help to bring the wonderful world of DRAMARAMA to the screen.
Each dollar we raise here will go directly to producing the film. Kickstarter is all-or-nothing, meaning if we miss our goal by the end of the campaign, all donations are automatically returned...and DRAMARAMA will not get made! Every little bit helps to reach the finish line. We are SO GRATEFUL for your support!
DRAMARAMA is created by a queer man and a diverse key crew whose goal is to expand roles in the film industry for marginalized identities.
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Risks and challenges
Thankfully, this is not our first rodeo! Our crew has worked on giant, multi-million-dollar studio productions as well as tiny, low-budget indie features. Both extremes are incredible learning experiences in crafting a film. The challenges of the low-budget feature, however, are especially unique. The lower your budget, the harder it is to put out the inevitable fires that start. We don’t have the luxury of shooting for months with a giant crew and ample resources to support us. Fortunately, we do have the experience to handle the specific low-budget obstacles we will encounter.
As with any indie film, it's impossible to predict if the film will make money after distribution. For this reason, we are keeping the budget ultra-low to limit the risk for our investors. The script is also designed to keep logistics simple and lower risk: it’s a very small cast and almost entirely set in one location. Cast availability is also unpredictable. The film’s start date may change based on actors’ busy and ever-changing schedules.
Our largest challenge is making sure enough people hear about this Kickstarter so we can make our funding goal! THANK YOU in advance for supporting us and spreading the word to your network!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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