Friday, June 16, 2017

Our New Films 20 Weeks at the Los Angeles Film Festival and Pitching Tents Release and more!

I can't believe it's been a year since I've last posted on this blog. It's a testament to how crazy busy my work and life has gotten. I've been making movies one right after the other these past couple of years. It's a wonderful problem to have, but it also means I have less time to do other things like write this blog. So let's do a little catch up since last summer...

In the summer of 2015, we filmed a coming-of-age teen comedy set in 1984 titled Pitching Tents. I've always wanted to produce a film in the vein of the films by John Hughes, Richard Linklater, and Cameron Crowe. And I felt that the script of Pitching Tents, written by Rob Fox and Jayme Petrille, had a lot of those qualities. It's zany and fun but it has a lot of heart. The story follows Danny (played by Michael Grant) who is graduating high school and doesn't know what to do with the rest of his life. He goes on a camping trip weekend with his friends, where he meets Alison (played by Samantha Basalari), who helps him uncover his true destiny. The film is hilarious and a bit raunchy (with help from comedian Jim Norton who plays our wacky guidance counselor Mr. Mulligan), yet it has a lot of heart (and I'm all about a movie with heart). Since it's set in 1984, I knew we could have fun with the soundtrack and I can say after 9 months of searching and locking in music, we have an amazing 80s soundtrack, including tracks from Run DMC, The Plimsouls, Big Country, Billy Squier, XTC, Red Rockers, Missing Persons, Icicle Works and more!

Check out our poster by Hillary Gronvold:

We finished editing Pitching Tents in 2016 and decided to work with the company Quiver on a VOD release and put together our own theatrical run. This was a huge undertaking as well. I always say that 50% of making a film is marketing it and Pitching Tents has proven that philosophy to be very true. We spent about 4 months doing the theatrical. Our director Jacob Cooney and the rest of us spent weeks hitting up theaters and getting the film booked. And after all that grit and perseverance, we played more than 20 cities (including LA and NYC) and for a small indie film that's pretty darn good. We sold out at some screenings and had a ball sharing the film and hearing lots of laughter. What a joy to hear an audience laughing throughout your film! That is what we filmmakers live for!

And now, Pitching Tents is available on a number of VOD platforms, including Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, DirectTV, Comcast, Vubiquity, Sony Playstation, and it will be released on DVD on August 22nd! We're over the moon about the future of the film. I hope you check it out!

CUT TO: my other film 20 Weeks! One of my creative collaborators Leena Pendharkar is a very talented writer/director. She and I love working together and when she decided to write a script loosely based on her own experience about a young couple who finds out that their baby may have a genetic issue at their 20 week scan, I was on board immediately to produce. Many parents like Leena and her husband go through this scary experience of hearing tough news at the 20 week scan and they're often left to bear the weight of the news alone. They suffer in silence for weeks on end, worrying about their baby's health and being tested on a weekly basis - never really knowing the full extent of their baby's condition. And to add to the uncertainty, there are laws throughout the U.S. that make the journey of figuring out the best path forward even more difficult. With 20 Weeks, Leena and I wanted to explore the effects genetic testing can have on a family and spark conversations about women's rights and the very personal decision-making process of dealing with a pregnancy in crisis.

Thanks to Leena's husband Ameet Mehta for the beautiful poster:

We made 20 Weeks on a wing and a prayer. We never knew if we would have enough money or support but miraculously, everything fell into place and we were able to film and complete the film within a year. We took part in the amazing US in Progress program through the American Film Festival in Poland and we are now having our World Premiere screening at the Los Angeles Film Festival on this Monday night June 19th at 7p at the Culver City Arclight. Tickets should still be on sale here!

Leena and me on the red carpet :)

CUT TO: Additionally, I am so honored to be a producer on a new documentary on pro surfer Bethany Hamilton titled Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable. Another producing partner of mine Penny Edmiston and I have been working really hard to find projects that speak to the kinds of films we want to be making - those with strong women at the helm and those about people who inspire. And that is what this documentary is all about. We have been working the past few months in post on this incredible new film by surf cinematographer Aaron Lieber. Bethany is such an inspiration and beautiful person and talented athlete. I can't wait to share her story of all of her amazing accomplishments since her shark attack more than a decade ago. You will be blown away. I am!

Love our powerful poster by Hillary Gronvold!

CUT TO: AND I am in pre-production on a beautiful new film titled Epiphany! We start filming next month in Tarpon Springs, Florida. I am really looking forward to this production. It's super ambitious, just like all of my other ultra low budget films. I have a compulsion for taking on the most ambitious films with little to no resources. It may be an illness, I think. But I keep doing it. There's nothing quite like having a gazillion locations and actors on a small budget. But I just love supporting projects by up-and-coming filmmakers who put their heart and soul into their work. I feel compelled to help their visions become a reality. The story of Epiphany, written and to be directed by sisters Koula and Katina Sossiadis, is so beautiful about a young girl who tries to connect with her biological father who is a Greek sponge diver off the coast of Florida. I'm stressed out of course because every film production is hard, with the million things you have to do and think about, but it's important to enjoy the journey along the way.

A beautiful image for Epiphany:

And that's what I'm setting out to do! I'm enjoying the journey of my life and career and pinching myself each day that I can honestly say that I'm doing what I love and I'm living my dream! The key to it all has been to never give up and embrace that you are on the right path for you. Here's to living your dreams everyone! See you at the movies! xoxo

Friday, June 10, 2016

Our New Movie 20 Weeks Begins Production!

We are two days into production on our new film! We are filming in Los Angeles and it's awesome to be home making a movie. Though the permit process in LA is intense and most locations require a fee for use, it's nice to be able sleep in my own bed at night.

I am producing Leena Pendharkar's new feature film titled 20 Weeks. Leena and I have been creating content together for a few years now (remember our So Natural TV shoots?) and with the support of a number of people such as our executive producer Renuka Pullat, who has been key to making this shoot possible, and those contributing to our 20 Weeks IndieGoGo campaign, we have been able to greenlight Leena's second feature 20 Weeks.

DP Daud Sani and Writer/Director Leena Pendharkar

The script was inspired by Leena's own experience: 

In the summer of 2014, as I was pregnant with my second daughter and making my short film, Dandekar Makes a Sandwich, my daughter was diagnosed with a serious issue health issue at the 20 week scan called micrognathia, in which the baby’s chin is undersized. My husband and I were just shocked as it seemed to come out of nowhere.

The doctors knew the measurements weren’t coming out right, but they couldn’t definitively diagnose what she had or what the issue might be when she was born. We had to undergo genetic testing, and we also were forced to come in and do sonograms every couple of weeks to make sure her growth was on a typical curve. It was a very difficult experience, so many thoughts were going through my head….

My daughter was born in October of 2014 with a serious but treatable health condition called Pierre Robin Sequence. We didn’t know exactly what her prognosis would be when she was in utero, but the doctors had given us a range from not being able to breathe at all and having to wear tubes in her neck for two years, to something as mild as not being able to breastfeed. Me and my husband told no one we were going through this, I think we were in shock, and both of us on some level, were hoping it was nothing.

But when she was born, all of the in utero testing prepared us to be ready. We gave birth at a major trauma hospital, with doctors who knew how to treat her condition. There was a huge learning curve because we had to learn how to feed her with special bottles, and she had to undergo four surgeries… That first year was so tough… I almost don’t know how we made it through.

Going through this experience, I was really struck by the marriage of science and ethics, and how fragile the balance really is. Sitting in the room, looking at a sonogram the doctors ask you to make decisions that are tough, that are not easy, and you have to go on faith to move forward…

The part that was so challenging for us was just not knowing, staring at these images of a sonogram that feel like nothing but light and sound, and yet… It’s so much more….

I am so honored to be producing this heartfelt story. We have a phenomenally talented cast and crew. Here are a few pictures from set showcasing a few of them:

Anna Margaret as Maya & Sujata Day as Ruby

Anna Margaret Hollyman and our DP Daud Sani

Amir Arison as Ronan, Anna Margaret Hollyman, and Leena Pendharkar 
We have a three week shoot and we already have our editor David Hopper working. But we need your help! We need additional financing for our post production and we have 5 days left on our IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign. We have partnered with the Make-a-Wish Greater Los Angeles on the campaign and every dollar contributed will have a portion going toward a young child's wish.

Click on the below widget to be directed to our campaign where you can learn more about the film and contribute toward its creation. Thank you so much for helping us make this important and special film.


Me, Sujata, Anna, Leena - Women Making Movies!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

I'm Doing a Reddit AMA Today about Indie Filmmaking!

I'm doing a Reddit AMA about independent filmmaking at 3p PST/6p EST. If you have any questions for me hop on. I'll share link once I have it. More soon!

Here's the link!

Join me!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Help Us Secure an Awesome Soundtrack for Our '80s Film!

We have been editing our new film Pitching Tents this past year - ever since we returned from Connecticut in August of 2015. And we finally have a picture lock - yay!!!

But we're definitely not done yet! We need to sweeten the sound, do some color correcting to smooth out the look, and get those rad '80s songs that will really help us portray the era.

Songs like:


And we have a sneak peek of some of the film in our campaign video! Please check it out and help us finish Pitching Tents and get your own graduation photo in the end credits!!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Dandekar Makes a Sandwich - A Vimeo Staff Pick! & a new film 20 Weeks

Our short film Dandekar Makes a Sandwich was recently selected as a Vimeo Staff Pick! Thanks so much for the honor Vimeo!

DANDEKAR MAKES A SANDWICH from Leena Pendharkar on Vimeo.

Writer/director Leena Pendharkar and I are over the moon about the staff at Vimeo highlighting our short. It's hard to get films to stand out above the rest so recognition from highly regarded sites goes a long way. We couldn't be more pleased! We hope you check out the film on Vimeo here.

We made this little short film in order to have fun with the Dandekar character who is the main character in Leena's full feature screenplay Days with Dandekar. We had planned to make Days with Dandekar as a follow up to Dandekar Makes a Sandwich, but we soon came to the conclusion that we wanted more resources for the full feature of Dandekar's story and decided to make a smaller feature first.

That said...

20 Weeks

We're tremendously excited to announce that we are in pre-production on a new feature that Leena just completed writing, titled 20 Weeks. This story is very near and dear to Leena's heart. She and her husband recently had a scare with their own pregnancy (everything is fine now and they have a healthy baby girl) and Leena wanted to write a story about a couple going through a similar situation of finding out their baby may have a genetic issue at the 20-week scan, a mid-pregnancy scan to check on the health of your baby. Check out Leena's story on her blog here.

20 Weeks is an intimate romantic drama about a couple dealing with the news that their baby may be born with a serious health issue. Inspired by true events, 20 Weeks goes behind the often-closed doors of a stressful pregnancy and its effects on the mother and father. This story comes from a very honest place and gives a voice to the mothers and fathers who have or are struggling during one of the most joyful experiences of their lives - having a child.

Check out Leena's look book for 20 Weeks here. She is inspired by films like Her, Blue Valentine and even The Notebook.

Please follow us as we navigate the development and creation of 20 Weeks on Facebook and on Twitter!

Thanks for all your support as we continue to make movies!!