Have been busy lately working on a non-fiction book, adapting the short film, The Green Bench, into a feature, so lots of writing. Also, we are collecting for post-production costs, including additional photography, color correction, musical score, editing and so on. You can go to this link to contribute: http://igg.me/at/greenbench/x/9140860
This film is one of the best things I’ve done on many levels, the first of which are all the stories I have been privy to. Just about everyone knows someone who’s affected by mental illness. Not all of the stories are sad. Some are great, but too many of the great ones stay hidden for fear of job loss, etc. It’s time to change that and we hope this little film helps in that regard. We will be making it available to mental health organizations for free after we finish the festival circuit. Some festivals have rules about the film being shown in other venues, which is why we need to wait.
IndieGoGo DONATION PAGE (TAX DEDUCTIBLE!)
Last year, I worked on the screenplay for the short film version of The Green Bench. Unlike novels, screenplays are intended to be a group effort. Lots of people bring their abilities and you won’t be happy if you are not flexible. The major plot points and themes, yes, fight for those. However, if you’re fortunate, actors will breathe life into your characters in new ways, chemistry happens between a group of actors that you cannot plan for, the camera crew lights and frames according to their expertise, the director has his or her creative vision, and so on. The director’s creative vision may align with yours and they will still bring new ideas and shading to scenes and to the work as a whole. All of the cast and crew names are on a film for very good reasons.
As with short stories, short films are all about distilling down to the essential elements. Short stories done well are more difficult than novels – in longer works, you might be able to pause to explore or add in another point of view. There is no room for that in short forms. When we got a script that was ready to shoot, it turned out to be an absolute joy on set. Everyone was upbeat and professional. Whenever a crew assembles, sometimes the family is functional and sometimes not. This time it was. There were a handful of smaller parts I wrote with friends in mind and they delivered flawlessly. It’s rare to have that voice in your head be the same one on set and it was pure joy to experience.
Now I am working to expand that short work into a longer one. Oh boy! After all that distillation, now it is time to broaden, develop and enlarge. I’ve had the great good fortune to get to know poet Brendan Constantine and he gave me notes as only a poet can on the short version. Poets look at the small, the minute. If you’ve never asked a poet to give you notes, do. It’s a whole new world! Things I would never have thought of and, perhaps counterintuitively, gave me a few jumping off points to expand the work. For example, is there anyone else in one particular scene that is not referenced who would logically be in the background? Who else is impacted by Evan’s illness? I saw right away that his best friend needs to be a part of the larger story. What is more interesting to explore, before or after? In this case, after is where all the drama lives. I don’t yet know if I will pull it off successfully, but it’s stretching me in unexpected ways and the unexpected journey is the most fun and satisfying.
Sorry, it’s been too long since I’ve posted. Been consumed with pre-production and crowdfunding for The Green Bench. Here’s our video on why we care. Huge thanks to the family members willing to talk on camera as well as Sharon Dunas, former head of NAMI Westside and Dr. Stephen Marder, a psychiatrist who specializes in schizophrenia.
Please watch, share, donate. Thank you. All of us working on the film are passionate about reducing the stigma of mental illness.
A few years ago, The Green Bench was one of those rare writing events that arrived whole. Adapted into a short film, it’s a different story. The first draft I wrote was a literal adaptation – too one note, too depressing. The blessing and (if you’re not with the right people, the curse) of screenwriting is that it’s a collaborative process. Fortunately, I’m with the right people and they’ve been invaluable in shaping the film. If you’d told me even 6 months ago, I’d be writing, producing and acting in my own short film…well, beware of being coached by Craig Archibald. You may find yourself stretching into new territory.
For the short, I did more research and we had the great, good fortune to connect with Dr. Stephen Marder, an expert in schizophrenia (you’ll see him in our promo reel, coming soon). As a result, my language is changing. For example, like most of us, I don’t say “diabetics” or “arthritics” when referring to people with those diseases, so I’ve started paying attention to not using “schizophrenics” or ‘bipolars” etc. to categorize people either. Am taking far more notice in the script of the illness as it most often presents itself and not what we see on the streets – that’s a tiny percentage of the most severely ill. Despite what many movies and TV shows depict, visual hallucinations are rare. Most people with mental illness can function and many do very well. There are many high functioning CEOs, physicians, attorneys and so on with schizophrenia and other illnesses. But the stigma keeps the success stories in the shadows and this time around, I paid far more attention to the stigma and humanizing the person with the illness. Because it is an illness and should be regarded in the same way as diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or other physical illnesses. Thanks to the collaborative process, the film version takes the audience along with the main character through the onset of her son’s symptoms.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still proud of the flash fiction and it was loosely inspired by a real-life incident I’d heard of some years back, but for film, especially with its additional visual impact, I like the step back to the beginning, to the onset, to hope, to empathy.
We start crowdfunding soon on IndieGoGo for a shoot early next year, intending to go to the festival circuit. I want you to contribute to our budget (and you can be sure I will let you know our launch date!) We need to do everything we can to diminish the stigma and let families know that others share their journey.