When I think of the word “recession,” I don’t normally then think of the words “love story.” Writer/Director Marty Lang and Lead Actor/Producer Gary Ploski, however, are hoping to make that connection stick with their feature film “Rising Star,” set to begin filming in early October. Continuing our showcase of films going the crowdfunding route, Film Threat takes a closer look at the Connecticut-based “Rising Star”…
Can you both please give us a brief rundown of your background in filmmaking? How did you two meet? What made you decide to work together on “Rising Star”?
MARTY: I went to film school at Florida State University, and I’ve produced six indie features in Connecticut since 2000. I’ve written and directed nine short films (only one of which I’d actually show to anyone; thankfully, it’s the one that was reviewed on Film Threat), and I’ve written and produced short films created through the Connecticut Film Industry Training Program, a workforce development program I helped create. I’ve known Gary since my freshman year of college. Back then, he was a soccer player at Teikyo Post University, and I was a basketball player there. He wanted to get into computers, and I wanted to get into print journalism. Now, 15 years later, it makes perfect sense: he’s the lead actor in a film I’m writing and directing. We had talked about making a feature together for a long time, and when we went to see the film “Medicine For Melancholy” at the IFC Center in New York City, something sparked. We both started talking about how we could make a small, contained film like that, only in Hartford, Connecticut instead of San Francisco. We brainstormed about what kind of movie you could make in a city called the “Insurance Capitol of the World.” We started batting ideas around, I started writing, and 18 months later, here we are, about to actually make the thing.
GARY: Something Marty should say about Teikyo, now Post Uni., is that it is a business school. Sure, filmmaking is a great artistic form but without the know how to budget, market, etc. the film will hide out on store shelves, retail or online, or worse, on your own shelf in the closet. My background in film is, in my opinion, short. I’ve acted in a number of short films and been on set for a couple feature films but my background is in the theatre. The computer stuff Marty talked about is where I play when not on stage. I’ve been into computers since the Tandy TRS-80 and have been online blogging since 1997 – before it was called blogging. Working together was a no-brainer… We’ve been doing so for the past 5+ years.What is “Rising Star” about?
MARTY: “Rising Star” is a movie about Chris, a 20-something insurance adjuster who finds out one Friday there’s going to be layoffs at his company, and that he’s going to have to now work weekends. Freaked out, he tries to drink his troubles away that night, but instead he meets Alyza, a free-spirited, artistic woman who he has an instant connection with – and who just happens to be the girl he’s been talking with on an online dating site. They spend the night together, and the next day together, roaming through Hartford, with Chris trying to get back to work, and Alyza trying to get him to come out and enjoy his life a little bit. It’s really about the struggle people have between working a job they may not love, and finding time for hobbies, passions and people that they do love.
Why make this movie? What makes this film idea the project to produce above any other ideas you may have had?
MARTY: There’s two reasons why I want to make this movie. The first is personal. I’ve been laid off four times. Being laid off sucks. And knowing you might be laid off is almost worse. It consumes your every thought; will it happen? Where will I go next? Will I be able to last here a while? With this horrible economy, workers are almost always at risk of being laid off now. I found that when I had a job, I put way too much of an emphasis on it, at the expense of things I love doing (basketball, making movies, etc.) So making this film is cathartic for me, because I can explore a personal issue I’ve dealt with. The second reason is technical. “Rising Star” is the most contained idea for a movie that I have. I have ideas for road movies, movies that follow a character over 10 years, things like that. But this movie takes place over three days, all in one city, with two major characters, and a few smaller characters. In terms of scope, this film is the one of mine that I think can be made the easiest.
Why did you decide to use crowdfunding for this project?
MARTY: I’ve produced a number of feature films in Connecticut (including “Being Michael Madsen,” which is about to come out on Netflix, and “The Other Side of the Tracks,” which will air on Showtime this December), but I’ve never directed one before. Add an unknown cast to a first-time director, and you’re not going to have financiers beating down your door. If we crowdfund, we can use our friends, family and connections to help us make our movie, and we can reach out to other fans of indie film as well.
How did you come to select $15,000 as the goal for this project? What does this amount of money pay for?
MARTY: We looked at other successful Kickstarter projects, and saw that many movies were able to raise between $12,000 and $20,000 in a 45-60 day span. Our time frame was going to be around 45 days (since we’re going to start shooting two weeks after the campaign is done), so we found a dollar amount that’s a little below the mean. As for what this will pay for, it’s really paying for three things: 1) The crew members we’ll need to shoot, 2) The equipment those crew members will work with during the three weeks we’ll be shooting the film, and 3) Food for the crew to eat during the shoot.
Why should people see, let alone fund, “Rising Star”?
MARTY: I think people should see this movie because this is a story about us. Chris and Alyza are characters who are dealing with the recession, and trying to figure out how to live their lives. Right now, I think everyone is trying do that in one form or another. I always enjoy films with characters I can identify with, and I think people will be able to relate to them, and what they’re going through. Also, this isn’t a downer movie; it deals with some pretty harsh economic realities, but at its heart, it really is a love story. (Well, my version of a love story, anyway. 🙂
GARY: Are you struggling to figure out how to find time for your personal passions? Are you working so much that your life seems to be totally devoted to paying your bills? Or do you want to support a state on the cusp of creating a new marketplace for film? If you answered yes to any or all of those questions you will want to see “Rising Star.”
Why go with Kickstarter over IndieGoGo or other crowdsourcing options?
MARTY: Some of my friends have experienced great success raising money for their movies on Kickstarter. David Branin, a friend of mine from high school, raised
$20,000 $16,000 for his feature “Goodbye Promise” on Kickstarter, and another friend, Bridget Stokes, raised $20,000 for her feature “Herman & Shelly” there (a movie Gary and I both acted in).
GARY: For me it’s a one word answer: Deadline. How many times have you said to yourself or someone else that you’d do something and then days, week and years pass by with it being done? Yea, we’ve all been there. Kickstarter puts it in your face: “Are you going to put your money where your mouth is or not? If so, here is how much time you have to pledge to make the project succeed or fail. And by the way if they fail they get nothing.” That is an incentive to pledge! It’s gotten me to pledge and to help projects succeed. The IndieGoGo option to have all pledges be tax deductible is awesome but it doesn’t resonate for most people. Nearly everyone I speak with wants to be a part of something bigger than themselves or to get something for their pledge. Taxes don’t come to mind. Of course, there are people out there who want a tax deduction but the ‘crowd’ out there on the Intertubes wants to help make something happen and to be a part of it. I said it was a one word answer didn’t I? I think I miscounted.
If you do not hit your financial crowdfunding goal, what then?
MARTY: If we don’t hit the goal, we’ll still go ahead with the production of the movie, but it’ll just be a little more scaled back than what we’re planning for now. I’m hoping, though, that our impending production start (next month) will be an added incentive for people to pledge to the movie.
What’s next for you and “Rising Star”? What’s the plan for the rest of the year?
MARTY: We’re going to start shooting the movie on October 3rd (next month!), and when we finish shooting, we’re going right into post. Our editor will start cutting by the end of the year, and if all goes well, we’ll have the film ready to submit to the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
What advice would you give to other filmmakers thinking of crowdfunding their film?
MARTY: Don’t take crowdfunding lightly. This is a job that you need to be focused on every moment of every day, and the more people you have working on it, the better off you’re going to be.
GARY: It’s not about you. It’s about your future audience. Our Awesome Videos and The Alyza Challenge have inspired our fans and news sites to spread the word. Finding ways to engage with them and building trust takes time. And of course, creative thinking will get you far. Talk to the “TILT the Movie” team about that. Mamma mia, they are good!
If you’d like to know more about “Rising Star,” or we didn’t ask all the questions you’ve got, go ahead and comment below or head over to the “Rising Star” Kickstarter page and comment there. Next week we’ll be back with a new project for you to check out but, until then, we hope you enjoyed this closer look at Marty Lang and Gary Ploski’s “Rising Star.”
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