Stuart Harmon Wins Carole Joyce Award for Excellence in Documentary Storytelling

Documentary “Hangtown” Examines the Problematic History of California Gold Rush Through the Eyes of Three Women Fighting for Their Identities and Communities

Carole Joyce Award

Still from “Hangtown”

From the Heart Productions, a top-rated non-profit dedicated to helping independent filmmakers fund their projects, is pleased to announce that Director Stuart Harmon has won the second Carole Joyce Award for Excellence in Documentary Storytelling for his documentary “Hangtown”. 

The Carole Joyce Award for Excellence in Documentary Storytelling is awarded to a film submitted to the Roy W. Dean Film Grant and selected as a finalist.  The filmmaker will receive $2,500 to help him continue work on this film.

“Stuart’s film is timely and powerful,” commented Carole Dean, president of From the Heart Productions. “He has done a fabulous job of weaving these stories together from a divided community.”

About the Film

“Hangtown,” a documentary film in production, asks some of the most pressing questions around white supremacy in America today, revealing the challenges small towns must face when grappling with a contentious past.

For generations, the noose scrawled on the city seal and swaying effigy in Placerville, CA was a symbol of pride by locals and a kitschy tourist landmark for those headed to Lake Tahoe. Legend has it that the mostly white, former gold mining town’s moniker “Hangtown” came after three outlaws were hung during the Gold Rush for robbing a saloon in 1849 – the first “official” execution in California’s history – and the community’s ethos has been wrapped around the notion of frontier justice ever since.

Drive down main street and you’ll find scores of businesses named “Hangtown.” Hanging contests used to be a favored pastime at summer festivals and nooses adorned the school basketball gym. The area has staked its entire identity on the noose.

But that’s all changed in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. Lizzie Dubose, a 26 year-old struggling college student and one of the few Black residents of the town, has mobilized a team of activists to target the iconography in the fight for racial justice. To her the noose represents more than mining lore – it’s a symbol of white supremacy and perpetuates a false narrative about “law and order” in the American west.

The activists liken their battle to the removal of Confederate monuments across the South and have led weekly protests, the likes of which have never happened in the bucolic town. Their efforts also spark a deeper look into the problematic history of African Americans during the Gold Rush by descendants of the original pioneers.

About the Filmmaker

Carole Joyce AwardStuart Harmon is an award-winning director and producer. He’s produced a wide range of documentary and television projects for PBS, A&E, VICE, New York Times, Fusion, CNN, MTV, and several other networks and outlets. His short film for the NY Times titled “Guns to Gloves” is one of their top viewed documentaries, garnering over 10 million views across several platforms.

He also shot a harrowing TV documentary about the female FARC guerillas of Columbia for the Emmy-nominated VICELAND series “Woman.” His first feature documentary film THE MONEY STONE won the Roy W. Dean Film Grant.  It premiered on BBC Africa, won Best Documentary at the Black Star International Film Festival and was given glowing reviews by the BBC and The Boston Globe. Most recently he was nominated for a Deadline Club award for his work with The Intercept and received a fellowship with the Logan Nonfiction Program.

About the Roy W. Dean Grant

Now celebrating its 30th year, the Roy W. Dean Grant has awarded over $2,000,000 in cash and donated film services to independent films. The grant is awarded to films budgeted under $500,000 that are unique and make a contribution to society.  It has been an important lifeline for independent filmmakers that help to get their projects started or finished.  Without assistance from the grant, many excellent and important films may never have been made. 

Past winners of the grant include the Emmy winning Mia: A Dancer’s Journey,  2019 Sundance Film Festival selection Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins, Emmy winner and Peabody Award nominee Belly of the Beast, as well as the acclaimed documentary Kusama-Infinity.

Previous winner of the Carole Joyce Award for Excellence in Documentary Storytelling was Alexandra Hildago for A Family of Stories.

About From the Heart Productions

From The Heart Productions is a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to helping filmmakers get their projects funded and made.  Besides providing funding through the grant, they offer film fiscal sponsorship to filmmakers.  This allows donations made to films they sponsor to be tax deductible.  From The Heart has helped independent filmmakers raise over $30 million through its fiscal sponsorship program.  President Carole Dean is the best-selling author of The Art of Film Funding: 2nd Edition, Alternative Financing Concepts and the new online class “How to Fund Your Film”.

“Impossible Town” Captures Roy W. Dean Grant for Summer 2021

Documentary Receives Cash and Donated Production Services to Complete Project

From the Heart Productions, the top-rated non-profit dedicated to helping indie filmmakers get their films funded and completed, awards the 2nd Roy W. Dean Grant of 2021 to the feature-length documentary Impossible Town. Now in it’s 30th year, the Roy W. Dean Grant is awarded 4 times each year to a unique film that makes a contribution to society.   Co-Directed by Meg Griffiths and Scott Farris, the grant will provide the project with $3,500 cash and thousands more in donated production services.

Roy W. Dean Grant Winner for Summer 2021

“This film is inspiring.” commented Carole Dean, President of From the Heart Productions. “It has some wonderful characters and a brilliant story.”

When her father passes unexpectedly, Dr. Ayne Amjad is thrust to the helm of a decades-long struggle to aid a southern West Virginia town beset by cancer-causing chemicals. After formulating an audacious plan to relocate the town’s residents, Ayne must decide how much she is willing to sacrifice – and which of her allies she can count on – to fulfill her late father’s mandate to “help others” at all costs.

Impossible Town is the story of Ayne’s unexpected rise to state leadership and the stalwart citizen activists who subvert so many of the stereotypes that exist about places like West Virginia.

Rural Appalachia is a poorly understood region of the country with a long history of industrial exploitation and a political identity that continues to frustrate coastal pundits. Though the region’s coal industry and labor movements defined a crucial chapter in American history, modern Americans struggle to appreciate the intelligence, resilience, and diversity of Appalachian people.

Impossible Town shows us tireless social and environmental struggle through the eyes of a cast of characters that complicate common rural Appalachian stereotypes. Dr. Ayne Amjad alone is a study in interesting contradictions: a devout Republican with a strong activist bent, a daughter of immigrants who is a pillar of her largely white community, and a wealthy physician-turned-public-servant who spends her time advocating for her disenfranchised and low-income neighbors. With Ayne and the rest of the cast, nothing is as it seems.

In addition to adding to the breadth of stories about how environmental catastrophes disproportionately affect the poor, the documentary has much to say about our complex relationships with home – the connections we form with the places we’re from, and the difficulty we have in letting go of those places, even when they’re killing us. Through the ambitions of Ayne and other Minden activists, the film explores the persistent modern American fantasy that complex issues are best solved through miracle solutions rather than the decidedly grittier work of slow and patient social, political, and legal exercises.

Most poignantly, Impossible Town is an ode to the way we commune with our parents long after they’ve left this plane, their aspirations and legacies lighting our paths to unanticipated destinations, their absence leaving a painful void in our lives that never fully heals.

In addition to the  $3,500 in cash provided by From the Heart Productions the winner will also receive $1295.00 Scholarship to Writers Boot Camp, applicable to Online or live Professional Membership sessions, $429.00 OWC Mercury Elite Pro Dock hard drive from OWC , a major discount on sound mix from Jeff Alan of Alan Audio Works, and more from film industry companies and individuals

About the Filmmakers

Roy W. Dean Grant Winner for Summer 2021Meg Griffiths, Co-Founder, Universe Creative: Meg is Impossible Town’s co-director and producer. She is the co-founder of Universe Creative, a video production company focused on creating documentaries and short content for conscientious brands. Meg began her career as the Houston Chronicle’s first video journalist, and then she held a leadership role at Teach For America where she built the nonprofit’s first video studio. Later, Meg oversaw content development at Redbird, a Los Angeles-based creative agency, as their Vice President of Strategy. Meg’s work has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and she’s also been awarded EPPY, NPPA, CMA, and various film festival accolades. She holds a MA in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin.

Roy W. Dean Grant Winner for Summer 2021Scott Faris, Co-Founder, Universe Creative: : Scott is Impossible Town’s co-director, director of photography, and editor, as well as the co-founder of Universe Creative. Scott has roots in film, education, and advertising. He grew up in West Virginia and graduated with a BFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. After teaching 5th grade on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, he joined Teach For America’s award-winning marketing team as a video producer. He continued to pursue the intersection of education and video storytelling at Redbird, a marketing firm in Los Angeles. Scott’s work has been recognized by the Webbys, EPPY, CMA, and film festivals across the country.

About the Roy W. Dean Grant

From it’s inception in 1992, the Roy W. Dean Grant has awarded over $2,000,000 in cash and donated film services to independent films. The grant is awarded to films budgeted under $500,000 that are unique and make a contribution to society.  It has been an important lifeline for independent filmmakers that help to get their projects started or finished.  Without assistance from the grant, many excellent and important films may never have been made. 

Past winners of the grant include new Emmy Winners Belly of the Beast and The Love Bugs,  2019 Sundance Film Festival selection Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins, as well as acclaimed documentary Kusama-Infinity.

About From The Heart Productions

From The Heart Productions is a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to helping filmmakers get their projects funded and made.  Besides providing funding through the grant, they offer film fiscal sponsorship to filmmakers.  This allows donations made to films they sponsor to be tax deductible.  From The Heart has helped independent filmmakers raise over $30 million through it’s fiscal sponsorship program.  President Carole Dean is the best-selling author of The Art of Film Funding: 2nd Edition, Alternative Financing Concepts and the new online class “How to Fund Your Film”.

For More Information and interview requests, please contact:

Richard Kaufman

richard@fromtheheartproductions.com

www.fromtheheartproductions.com

 

Alexandra Hidalgo Wins Carole Joyce Award for Excellence in Documentary Storytelling

Filmmaker Will Receive $2,500 to Help Complete Work on Project

From the Heart Productions, a 29 year old top-rated non-profit dedicated to helping independent filmmakers fund their projects, is pleased to announce that Alexandra Hidalgo has won the inaugural Carole Joyce Award for her documentary A Family of Stories.  The prize is bestowed on a project submitted to the Roy W. Dean Film Grant that exhibits excellence in documentary storytelling.  She will receive $2,500 to help her continue work on this film.

Carole Joyce Award

A Family of Stories

“Alexandra’s film is incredible and very deserving of this first-time award,” commented Carole Dean, president of From the Heart Productions. “Told from the heart, it is touching and captivating.  We look forward to seeing it completed.”

A personal, true story, A Family of Stories celebrates family bonds even when they are at their most complicated.  It’s a story about facing our familial demons with love and emerging stronger from the experience.

In 1983, Miguel Hidalgo, a Venezuelan writer and inventor, disappeared in the Amazon, leaving behind his six-year-old daughter. Now a filmmaker, her life is transformed as she untangles the mystery of his absence and figures out why her MIT-educated father with a genius IQ ended up buying gold in the Amazon.

As she uncovers secrets about him, her family, and herself she must come to terms with the fact that she based her identity on a mirage created by her ancestors. Having completed her quest, she starts over, aware of how her past shaped her but ready to move beyond the wounds she has carried since childhood.

A Family of Stories is written and directed by Alexandra Hidalgo and produced by Hidalgo and Natalia Machado.  The film is co-produced by the US-based company Sabana Grande Productions and La Pandilla Producciones, a Venezuelan production company.  

They’ve completed the film’s fine cut and the filmmakers are seeking finishing funds and European co-productions.  You can learn more about A Family of Stories on its website: https://afamilyofstories.com/.

About the Filmmaker

Alexandra Hidalgo is an award-winning Venezuelan filmmaker, memoirist, film and TV critic, and editor whose documentaries have been official selections for film festivals in 15 countries and been screened at universities around the United States. A Family of Stories is her second feature as director and producer. Her short documentary Teta has been selected for 30 film festivals and won 8 awards, including best short documentary at three festivals.

Her videos and writing have been featured on The Hollywood Reporter, IndieWire, NPR, The Criterion Collection, and Women and Hollywood. She has a PhD in English from Purdue University and an MFA in Creative Writing from Naropa University and is associate professor of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures and co-director of the Doc Lab at Michigan State University.

Her video book Cámara Retórica: A Feminist Filmmaking Methodology for Rhetoric and Composition received the 2018 Computers and Composition Distinguished Book Award. Her academic video essays have been published in Enculturation, Kairos, Present Tense, and Peitho, among others. She is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the digital publication agnès films: supporting women and feminist filmmakers.

About the Roy W. Dean Grant

Now celebrating its 30th year, the Roy W. Dean Grant has awarded over $2,000,000 in cash and donated film services to independent films. The grant is awarded to films budgeted under $500,000 that are unique and make a contribution to society.  It has been an important lifeline for independent filmmakers that help to get their projects started or finished.  Without assistance from the grant, many excellent and important films may never have been made. 

Past winners of the grant include the Emmy-winning Mia: A Dancer’s Journey,  2019 Sundance Film Festival selection Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins, Emmy winner and Peabody Award nominee Belly of the Beast, as well as the acclaimed documentary Kusama-Infinity.

About From The Heart Productions

From The Heart Productions is a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to helping filmmakers get their projects funded and made.  Besides providing funding through the grant, they offer film fiscal sponsorship to filmmakers.  This allows donations made to films they sponsor to be tax deductible.  From The Heart has helped independent filmmakers raise over $30 million through its fiscal sponsorship program.  President Carole Dean is the best-selling author of The Art of Film Funding: 2nd Edition, Alternative Financing Concepts and the new online class “How to Fund Your Film”.

Using the Mighty 990 to Fund Your Film

Before You Apply for a Grant, Take a Peek at Who Grantors Funded in Past

by Carole Dean

Where do you start? I read thousands of proposals a year for my Roy W. Dean film grants. I know what wins grants and what turns judges off quickly. Getting it right can be a piece of cake.

Documentary film funding starts with a well-written, organized proposal. It outlines your film’s story, background, and need. It also outlines the approach, structure and style in four to eight pages of dynamite passion.

It continues through finding the right grant for your film, by investigating a funding organization’s 990 as well as reaching out to the right person at that organization who can help you get funded. 

Getting started may be the hard part, when really, this is the best part

Just write page after page of your visions for the film. Don’t worry if you only need a 6 page proposal and you now have 25 pages, just keep putting down what you “see” happening in your film. Focus on your vision of the film.

I realize that you are not sure what your subjects may say in the interviews, but if you did your research thoroughly, you know the subject matter. So, tell it to us as a compelling story and any people you have secured for the film, tell us their story.

Your proposal needs to be a visual description of your film

It’s there somewhere in those 25 pages of written material so read them carefully and find the best visual sections to paste into your proposal. Now, read it over and create your first three dynamite paragraphs that tell me a compelling story.

Put time into this because it is my introduction to your film. You may have been working on it for over a year, but this is my first look. You need to condense the film to three paragraphs to engage me because the first paragraphs are the most important part of the application. It tells me you are a good writer and it shows me your vision of the film.

Don’t start by writing in your proposal how much this film is needed

With our Roy W Dean Grant, we fund stories about interesting characters and concepts. The biggest mistake is to tell us the history in the beginning or to tell us how much this film is needed or that you want to send a message.

Remember, Harry Warner said, “If you want to send a message, go to Western Union, if you want to make a picture, tell me a story!”

That’s just what we want, stories, keep telling us the story and let me see the film it as I read the story.

Who is your audience?

Now, take those 25 pages, cut and paste the information into the background, and keep that separate from the theme and separate from the approach, structure and style. We also want to know how you will market your film. Only 1 in 1000 docs gets a theatrical release and that does not always have a financial return.

Creative filmmakers are building audiences for their films on the web by organizing communities around the film’s issues and these people are donating to their films and waiting to pay for downloads. You should consider distributing it yourself to sell on your website.  Instead of a percentage of each download, you will make the full price.

What are your marketing plans? 

Outreach is a major key to socially oriented films; we want to know that the people who need the film will see it so put outreach in the budget. Did I lose you with that last word?

Well, you have to face the music and go to the left brain now and do a budget but never fear Maureen Ryan www.producertoproducer.com  is perfect for you.  Maureen is an award winner producer of many great documentaries including Dick Johnson is Dead

Her website has sample budgets on her website which is dedicated to supporting independent film producers by sharing helpful and essential information about practical film production.

Using 990’s to find grants that match your project

Finding grants that match your material is paramount to the funding process. Go to
www.grantsmart.org and search for granting organizations by key words.  Once you find them; go to https://candid.org/.

You want to find and check out the Corporations 990 form which is part of their income tax, and candid.org has a slick 990-PF that shows you exactly where the most important funding information is located.  You can find the most recent 990’s at https://www.guidestar.org/

I know is sounds sneaky, to look into some corporation’s income tax, but all is fair in love and doc financing. You can access info on over 200,000 U.S. private and community foundations for free and you will find how much an organization donated in contributions, gifts and grants for prior years.

Don’t enter grants you don’t think you can win

Find a potential funder that matches your film and find the name of the operations officer and, most importantly, find who won last years and prior year’s grants. Is your film a fit? The biggest complaint is that too many people apply for grants that do not fit. See if you can find the prior winner’s web sites, they might even be willing to give you tips on entering this grant.

Don’t enter grants you don’t think you can win. Your time is too valuable, it is best to find grants you think you have the best chance of winning and then write a few more paragraphs in your proposal to tailor it just for them.

I know when someone reads my grant web site information because they say, “My film is unique and makes a contribution to society.” That’s my mission statement and I like to see this because I know they read the guidelines.

While you read each potential funder’s site, keep looking for questions that are not answered, like how many apps did they have last year and what is the amount of money they are giving this year.

Don’t be shy

Now comes the best part of funding. Get the list of corporations or non-profits you think are the best ones to submit your film. Find your question that was not answered on their web site.  Then, search for the name of the granting officer and phone number because you are going to call them!

Don’t be shy. You would never enter a grant without first making contact with the grantor. This is your great opportunity to introduce yourself and make an important connection.

Place your call in “prime time” from 10 to 12 or 2 to 4 and ask to speak directly to the operations officer in charge of the grant. If they don’t answer, try again later or get information on the best time to reach them.

“Touch my heart and I reach for my pocket book.”

Your job is to touch them, remembering that we communicate through the heart chakra.
I say, “Touch my heart and I reach for my pocket book.” Keep this in mind when creating your short pitch. This connection puts energy to your application; it is the voice behind the film.

Now what will you say when you get them on the phone? Go back to your 25 pages and create two lines that bring your film to life and tell them this story as your pitch. Tell them the title of your film and give them this short pitch. Don’t over pitch, that’s the worst thing you can do. Just tell them enough of the story line for them to remember you and the pitch.

You read this person’s bio on the site and you know the films she/he funded in the past.  You want to compliment them on their past selections, for their on-going contributions, and support of filmmakers.  Ask your question that was not answered on the web site.

Be relaxed, have your check list of these things in front of you and make a good impression and keep this phone call under three minutes. Be sure to listen to what they say. Let them talk.

Don’t forget to write and never give up

Once you hang up the phone, write them a nice Hallmark card and mail it that day. Be sure to thank them for the information. Give them your short pitch again in the card. You now have two connections with this person and when they see your application they will remember you through the call and the card and the story of your film.

Realize that we want to fund you; we are looking for emerging and established filmmakers with engaging stories to tell.

We know you are talented, most of the people who give grants are not filmmakers, we are your admirers, and we are astonished at your talents.

The golden rule in applying for grants is “never give up.” Keep going back, I have funded 2 films that entered my grant 3 times, I love filmmaker’s tenacity.

 

Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-The Art of Film Funding Podcastprofit that offers the Roy W. Dean Film Grants and fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers. She hosts the weekly podcastThe Art of Film Fundinginterviewing those involved in all aspects of indie film productionHer new class “How to Fund Your Film” is available on Vimeo on Demand.  She is also the author of  The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts.  See IMDB for producing credits 

“Scared to Debt” Wins Roy W. Dean Grant for Spring 2021

Investigative Documentary Dives into the $1.8 Trillion Student Loan Debt Crisis

Now celebrating its 30th year of helping indie filmmakers realize their dreams, the first Roy W. Dean Grant of 2021 goes to the documentary Scared to Debt.  The non-profit From the Heart Productions awards the grant 4 times a year to a unique film that make a contribution to society.  Director Mike Camoin and his team will receive $3,500 cash and thousands more in donated production services and products to help them complete the multi-chapter documentary.

“Sallie Mae Not” – First Chapter in Scared to Debt Six Part Series

“College graduates face a tremendous burden throughout life from their student loans ” commented Carole Dean, President of From the Heart Productions. “The film does an excellent job examining the roots of the crisis and showing the damage it has done to young people.  Hopefully, it will finally spur politicians to take action to remedy the situation.”

A feature documentary shown in six chapters currently in post-production and seeking finishing funds, Scared to Debt reveals the student loan crisis to have grown wider and deeper over the years placing in excess of 45 million Americans who collectively owe $1.8 Trillion in debt.  All of whom are under unprecedented financial hardship and chronic economic stress. 

Most Americans wonder why college costs have outpaced the rate of inflation. Many still believe student debt is a case of the “Bad Borrower.” Scared to Debt reveals how the federal government, financial institutions, and universities are responsible and carry most of this blame.

In Scared to Debt, you’ll meet key insiders and hear credible voices expose an inept, corrupt Department of Education, leading to anguish experienced by student and parent borrowers across all demographics. Anyone aspiring to or working for higher education will benefit from the solutions shared in the film to restore America’s confidence in the opportunities afforded by higher education.

Sallie Mae Not, Chapter One is completed and premiered virtually at the Whistleblower Summit + Film Festival on July 26, 2021.

In addition to the $3,500 cash prize, Michael Camoin will receive $1,600 value sound mix session from Silver Sound, 40% deduction on color, editing, and sound & all production services from ProMedia NYC, 30% discount in equipment rental from AbelCine Tech, Inc. NYC,  and more from many other heartfelt film industry donors.

About the Filmmaker

Mike Camoin is best known for his documentary series on Adirondack culture: Inside the Blue Line, How to Make an Adirondack Packbasket which has screened in northeastern U.S. and Canadian television markets.  From the Mountaintop: The History of Adirondack Fire Towers is now in development will complete the trilogy.  On a cinematic mission, Camoin is releasing Sallie Mae Not: Chapter One in the documentary, Scared To Debt

Mike founded the 501(c)3 non-profit Capital  Cinema Cultural Exchange, Inc. which hosts the annual Northeast Filmmakers Lab in upstate New York.  Camoin works closely with consultants and board members to establish strategic plans.  He is also host of the new series Check the Gate:  One On One with the Northeast Filmmakers Lab.

About the Roy W. Dean Grant

From it’s inception in 1992, the Roy W. Dean Grant has awarded over $2,000,000 in cash and donated film services to independent films. The grant is awarded to films budgeted under $500,000 that are unique and make a contribution to society.  It has been an important lifeline for independent filmmakers that help to get their projects started or finished.  Without assistance from the grant, many excellent and important films may never have been made. 

Past winners of the grant include the Emmy winning Mia: A Dancer’s Journey,  2019 Sundance Film Festival selection Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins, Peabody Award nominee Belly of the Beast, and acclaimed documentary Kusama-Infinity.

About From The Heart Productions

From The Heart Productions is a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to helping filmmakers get their projects funded and made.  Besides providing funding through the grant, they offer film fiscal sponsorship to filmmakers.  This allows donations made to films they sponsor to be tax deductible.  From The Heart has helped independent filmmakers raise over $30 million through it’s fiscal sponsorship program.  President Carole Dean is the best-selling author of The Art of Film Funding: 2nd Edition, Alternative Financing Concepts and the new online class “How to Fund Your Film”.

For More Information and interview requests, please contact:

Richard Kaufman

richard@fromtheheartproductions.com

www.fromtheheartproductions.com

Sammy’s Love Note

by Diane Estelle Vicari

2001 is a year to remember. My first co-directed and produced independent feature film opened theatrically. SUGIHARA: Conspiracy of Kindness is the story of Japanese Consul General Chiune Sempo Sugihara, who during World War II saved the lives of thousands against his government’s orders. I was finally going to share this inspiring story of how “one man can make a difference” with a live audience. That is, until I received an invitation from scoring and recording mixer Tommy Vicari.

 

 

Tommy invited me to visit the famous Hollywood Capitol Records recording studios and to document a five-day recording session. I would “bear witness,” he said, “to history in the making.”

Being a one-woman band with a scheduling conflict on the same week of my Première, I kindly declined the offer. Tommy kept insisting — which was so uncharacteristic of him — until he eventually broke down my resistance. I agreed to hire a crew of four camera operators, direct them on the first day, and then leave them to continue filming, so that I could attend my special date with my audience.

As long as I live, I will never forget witnessing through my viewfinder, as this Geppetto-like figure walked up to his podium. The energy of the room immediately shifted. I watched the musicians straightening themselves in their chairs, as if a four-star general had entered the room. Then, Maestro Sammy Nestico gave the down beat.

Sammy Nestico and Me

I had been around music since I was a child, playing the piano for seven years, attending weekly rehearsals and performances of my Grand-Maman Estelle’s choir at church, being always a step behind the fanfare during parades, and of course having been married to a recording and scoring engineer for nearly twenty-five years. None of it prepared me for the moment when Sammy Nestico’s music began to play.

I was awestruck and overcome with a sense of pure joy and wonderment at this humble man, who was yet a force to be reckoned with. This tangible magic continued to fill the  studio for days and I was moved to keep filming.

What I experienced during these five days; the world had to see. I missed my own opening night in order to capture the enchantment.

On that day, our twenty years journey together began.  I entered his world and committed to making a documentary film about his life story but mostly to share his message to: “Never Let anyone steal your dreams.”

Sammy passed away January of this year, one month short of his 97th birthday, As his wife Shirley entered the painful process of letting go, she invited me to come to their home to see if there was any items I may need for the film. At one point, I noticed his ties collection, which she had prepared for a donation. 

At the age of 16, this first-born son of Italian immigrant began wearing ties so that he could be considered a “serious” musician.  He began his collection of ties, and that tradition continued throughout his life. He often wore them only once, and purchased another for a new occasion!  I asked Shirley if I could keep this collection.

For Sammy’s 86 Birthday and his 4th Grammy nomination, jewelry designer Pepi© exclusively created “Sammy’s Love Note©.”  

After sharing this story with her, she suggested we bring back his “Love Note” pin and offer it with a collectible tie.

For a $179.00 donation towards the completion of the film, you will receive “Sammy’s Love Note©” and choose one of Sammy’s collectible tie. 

Please click on this link that follows to make a selection. 

https://www.sammynesticofilm.com/rewards/1dof5en3ox3gt3sebg1h97pbe6d8cb

I am privileged to be the messenger of this world-renowned musical legacy and one of our National Treasure, Maestro Sammy Nestico. 

 

Trailer Tips

Bill Woolery, the editor behind the trailers for such films as “ET” and “The Usual Suspects”, was known as “The Trailer Specialist.” 

This blog was written for us by Bill when he was a donor to the Roy W. Dean Grant. In this, he offered his advice on documentary trailer editing drawn from his 25 years of experience. He also wrote a chapter in Carole Dean’s book, “The Art of Film Funding.”

by Bill Woolery – Guest Contributor

In the complex business of getting your documentary funded and distributed, having a dynamic, well-edited video promo has become a critical element in a successful strategy.  But often when the producer/editor turns his attention to creating this kind of trailer, the results can be less than satisfactory. 

Why?  Because long-format pieces and trailers are two completely separate video realities.  Each has its own rhythm and energy; each uses a different language to express the same emotions.  Editing a documentary benefits from a well-developed, logical Left Brain …while trailer editing is much more a Right Brain exercise.  Structurally existing in different worlds they nevertheless are both true and faithful to the concept and the heart of the overall project. 

Trailers for documentaries are used in two ways.  One format’s goal is to impress funding entities with the importance of the project and the value of contributing to it.  In this case, the editor takes whatever footage is available and attempts to recreate the theme and quality of “whole picture.”  The other trailer format is created from the completed documentary and is used to showcase it to potential distributors, broadcasters & home video releasing companies. 

RHYTHMN & PACING 

You’ve worked hard and are satisfied with the pace and rhythm you built into your doc. This is surely an asset that you want to preserve in the trailer, yes?  No!  Taking various chucks from your doc and assembling them into a promo without totally rethinking the editing will produce a clumsy, ineffective result.  Individual & overlapping arcs, the “build” in momentum, the emotional “gear changes” that characterize a great trailer have little in common with the corresponding elements in the full-length piece. 

Yes, the trailer will try to cover all the salient points and emotions it can, but the way that these play off each other and contribute to the whole requires a different construction.  True, the trailer may be 50 or more minutes shorter than the doc, but if it’s a great cut nothing will be “lost” from the integrity of the full piece.

VOICE OVER 

Few things will reduce the impact of a trailer more than the use of an amateur Voice Over

A RULE THAT NEVER FAILS  

LET THE MATERIAL LEAD YOU.

“We’re thinking it should be 3 minutes,” I sometimes hear. “Does that sound right to you?”  In theory, yes.  But, as the cut begins to hone down into a solid form, the intrinsic qualities of the material become the determining factor in these kinds of decisions. 

In the trailer mind-set, you’ll find that the material will “tell” when it’s been on the screen long enough.  It will tell you when you’ve revealed too much of it, or if you need to add a bit of setup so that it can “speak” more clearly.  It will tell you if the music cue is wrong.  I usually like to build a long sequence first and then allow the scenes to tell me which of them are superfluous and which should remain in the cut.

“BUT WE ALREADY PAID FOR THIS MUSIC” 

In scoring your doc you’ve probably made many choices using music sensitively and episodically.  But music in a trailer runs continuously -with rare exceptions for dramatic pauses.  It must have momentum, a pulse that propels the trailer (either strongly or gently) from top to bottom.  If your doc already has such a cue, you’re in luck.  If it doesn’t, there’s little alternative to finding a new cue.  You could also ask your composer to create faster tempo versions of the existing cues. 

If you use several cues in the trailer always start with the slowest tempo first and proceed with quicker and quicker ones.  This rule can be broken …but the only exceptions I’ve encountered were due to unusual circumstances, say when the trailer has to end on a tragic note that follows a more active and expositional middle section.  It’s not a particularly good idea to end a trailer tragically.  No need to devise a “happy” ending, but it’s a better choice to leave it open ended with a bit of mystery about the people and the outcome.

 MAKE SURE IT ENDS 

Avoid a slow music fade out at the end.  Yes, your doc may have a beautifully constructed, delicate ending that leaves the viewer in tears.  Your trailer can also invoke a similar poignancy …but it must have a definitive ending.  Why?  The viewer may leave your doc a changed person, pondering a new awareness. 

But when the trailer ends, he or she needs to be thinking, “Hmm, I really want to see that.”  That’s the “new awareness” you want to create here.  This need not be seen as a “selling out” or a commercializing of your project.  It’s just the way a trailer has to work.  A good trailer cut will not compromise the integrity to your project.

 AN EDIT ROOM SECRET 

Invite the clients to sit down the first time they view the trailer cut on the monitor.  A standing person can be uncomfortable and will perceive the cut to be longer than one who is sitting.  Whenever I hear, “It feels just a bit too long,” it’s always from the person standing. 

Roy W. Dean Grant Winner Helen Hall Awarded Puzzle Theory Grant

Filmmaker Will Have 3 Years Use of Innovative PR and Marketing Platform for her Documentary on Nikola Tesla

From the Heart Productions has awarded Helen Hall 3 years of use of Puzzle Theory which will assist her in building a marketing and PR campaign for her Roy W. Dean Grant winning film “Pictures of Infinity”.   Valued at $5,000, the Puzzle Theory Grant is made possible by a donation from Puzzle Theory and its creator Ina Sofia Kalo.   The award will not only help Helen create buzz for her in progress documentary on Nicola Tesla, it will provide an example to show other independent filmmakers how Puzzle Theory will revolutionize their marketing.

Puzzle Theory Grant“I am so grateful to receive this grant from Puzzle Theory, and excited to begin working with such an innovative and inspiring platform!” said director Helen Hall upon learning of her being chosen for the award. 

“Puzzle Theory is everything I could have hoped for, and have been missing, until now – a way to document films as they are being made, and a place to create a ‘behind the scenes’ story about the making of the film.  I have been doing this on different social media platforms, but in pieces.  This platform brings all those pieces together in one place, and there are still many more dimensions to explore. 

“Thank you Ina Sofia Kalo and Carole Dean, for this generous gift, and I look forward to sharing all that I learn from this experience.”

About Puzzle Theory

Developed by Ina over two years, Puzzle Theory is an exciting tool for independent filmmakers.  With it, Ina has created a way for filmmakers to attach to their audience while making their film. 

“You or your production company can register a film at any stage of production,” Ina explained on a recent The Art of Film Funding Podcast. “It can be any genre. Our categories are fiction, documentary, TV series or animation. You build your own page. It will have your unique URL and you can post the link anywhere.

“You have different modules that give information about you, you but basically you start curating your film using storyline. You combine original pictures and video or production shots and video with hand selected content from your existing social media accounts and pages.

“Using our proprietary technology, you can tag and extract any information from current content of your existing social media. We give you the tools to hand select only the most special pieces that you want to include with the making of your storyline.”

At this point Puzzle Theory is by invite only.  The company is curating their own platform with a lot of attention to detail, and though some films may contain some nudity and violence, the staff has to make sure that such content is not inappropriate.  She has a brilliant website and best of all she has a question-and-answer session monthly.  You can find that on her site and get to hear her personally. 

About “Pictures of Infinity”

Recipient of the Roy W. Dean Grant for Spring of 2013, “Pictures of Infinity” is a feature documentary about Nikola Tesla’s discovery the Earth produces an unlimited reservoir of natural electricity and the system he invented to harness it to provide an infinite, nontoxic and renewable resource for the shared benefit of all humankind.

More than 100 years ago the great scientist, engineer and visionary Nikola Tesla predicted the current environmental crisis and knew we would need a radical solution. He devoted the last part of his life to providing one, with his discovery that the earth produces an unlimited reservoir of natural electricity and his invention that harnesses it, based on an entirely new understanding of physics. Tesla’s ideas were so advanced for that time, and challenging to mainstream science, that all funding for his projects was withdrawn, his name seemed to disappear from the history books, and since then all of this visionary work has remained veiled in mystery.

What Nikola Tesla discovered is a natural form of electricity produced by the spinning earth, within stars, in the cosmic vacuum of space, and Tesla found a way to produce it with his invention known as a ‘Tesla coil’. The film follows the events in Tesla’s life, and reproduces the groundbreaking experiments that led to the discovery he called his ‘greatest achievement’. Independent scientists and engineers provide solid scientific evidence to confirm it. In the process Pictures of Infinity reveals the soul and spirit of a true scientist and humanitarian whose passionate quest for knowledge was always at the service of humanity.

About the Roy W. Dean Grant

Now in its 30th year, the Roy W. Dean Grant has awarded over $2,000,000 in cash and donated film services to independent films. The grant is awarded to films budgeted under $500,000 that are unique and that make a contribution to society.  It has been an important lifeline for independent filmmakers that help to get their projects started or finished.  Without assistance from the grant, many excellent and important films may never have been made. 

Past winners of the grant include the Emmy winning Mia: A Dancer’s Journey,  2019 Sundance Film Festival selection Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins, and the acclaimed documentary Kusama-Infinity which is now in distribution showing in theaters around the US and world.

About From the Heart Productions

From The Heart Productions is a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to helping filmmakers get their projects funded and made.  Besides providing funding through the grant, they offer film fiscal sponsorship to filmmakers.  This allows donations made to films they sponsor to be tax deductible.  From The Heart has helped independent filmmakers raise over $10 million through its fiscal sponsorship program.  President Carole Dean is the best-selling author of The Art of Film Funding: 2nd Edition, Alternative Financing Concepts 

“Keeper of Time” Wins First Roy W. Dean Grant for 2020

Winner to Receive $30,000 Cash and Production Services to Complete Project

From the Heart Productions has announced that the winner of their Spring 2020 Roy W. Dean Grant is the documentary “Keeper of Time”.   Awarded 3 times each year by the non-profit organization, the grant goes to a unique film that makes a contribution to society.  Director Michael Culyba and his team will receive $3,500 cash and thousands more in donated production services and products to help them complete post-production.

 

Roy W. Dean Grant Winner

 

“This is such a beautiful and thoughtful film” commented Carole Dean, President of From the Heart Productions which sponsors the grant. “All of us at From the Heart Productions are very excited that we are able to help this film get completed.”

“Keeper of Time” is a feature length documentary film that explores the history of horology, mechanical watchmaking and the very concept of time. With interviews from top horological experts and the finest watchmakers in the world, it delves into the world of timekeeping by examining the planets and stars above, the astonishing engineering of mechanical watches, the sophisticated atomic clocks that keep our modern world running and much more.

All the while, “Keeper of Time” contemplates the theoretical and physiological notions of time, aging, and human mortality with interviews from cutting-edge scholars in the fields of theoretical physics, quantum mechanics and philosophy.

In addition to the $3,500 cash prize, Michael Culyba will receive an G-tech ArmorATD drive from G-Technology,  40% deduction on color, editing, and sound & all production services from ProMedia NYC, 30% discount in equipment rental from AbelCine Tech, Inc. NYC,  and more from many other heartfelt film industry donors.

About the Filmmaker

Michael Culyba – Director/Producer/Editor – Michael has been editing documentary films in New York City for over seventeen years.

Some of his credits include Dixie Chicks: Shut Up & Sing (Toronto International Film Festival 2006), Gary Hustwit’s Urbanized (Toronto International Film Festival 2011), Running from Crazy (Sundance Film Festival 2013) and My Own Man, produced by Edward Norton (TriBeCa Film Festival 2014).

Most recently he edited two-time Oscar winning director Barbara Kopple’s film This is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous, which premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.  Keeper of Time is his directorial debut.

About the Roy W. Dean Grant

From it’s inception in 1992, the Roy W. Dean Grant has awarded over $2,000,000 in cash and donated film services to independent films. The grant is awarded to films budgeted under $500,000 that are unique and make a contribution to society.  It has been an important lifeline for independent filmmakers that help to get their projects started or finished.  Without assistance from the grant, many excellent and important films may never have been made. 

Past winners of the grant include the Emmy winning Mia: A Dancer’s Journey,  2019 Sundance Film Festival selection Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins, and the acclaimed documentary Kusama-Infinity which is now in distribution showing in theaters around the US and world.

About From The Heart Productions

From The Heart Productions is a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to helping filmmakers get their projects funded and made.  Besides providing funding through the grant, they offer film fiscal sponsorship to filmmakers.  This allows donations made to films they sponsor to be tax deductible.  From The Heart has helped independent filmmakers raise over $30 million through it’s fiscal sponsorship program.  President Carole Dean is the best-selling author of The Art of Film Funding: 2nd Edition, Alternative Financing Concepts and the new online class “How to Fund Your Film”.

For More Information and interview requests, please contact:

Richard Kaufman

richard@fromtheheartproductions.com

www.fromtheheartproductions.com

“How to Have an American Baby” Wins Roy W. Dean Grant

Winner to Receive $30,000 Cash and Production Services to Complete Post-Production

Awarded to an independent film that is unique and makes a contribution to society, From the Heart Productions announced that the 3rd and last Roy W. Dean Grant in the 2019 cycle goes to the documentary “How to Have an American Baby”

Roy W. Dean Grant Winner Fall 2019

Directed by Leslie Tai, “How to Have an American Baby” is a kaleidoscopic voyage behind the closed doors of the Chinese birth tourism industry—a booming shadow economy catering to Chinese tourists who travel to Southern California on “birthing vacations” in order to obtain U.S. citizenship for their babies.

Through a network of stories, the film traces the human supply chain from Beijing and Shanghai to Los Angeles—chronicling the fortunes and tragedies that befall the ordinary people caught in the web of its influence.

“We are very honored to support a this very talented filmmaker and help her to complete this moving, powerful film” commented Carole Dean, President of From the Heart Productions which sponsors the grant. “It provides a fascinating look into how those from other countries view American society.”

In addition to the $3,000 cash prize, Leslie and producer Jillian Schultz will receive  $6,000 in animation services from Emmy winner Charlie Canfield, $500 expendable, lighting and grip equipment from Filmtools, one week DSLR camera package rental from Birns & Sawyer, and more from many other heartfelt film industry donors

About the Filmmaker

Roy W. Dean Grant Winner Fall 2019

Leslie Tai – Her work chronicles the dreams, anxieties, and consumer desire of China’s rising middle class and the Chinese diaspora from a distinctly female perspective.

A Chinese-American filmmaker hailing from San Francisco, Leslie moved to China in 2006  on a U.S. Fulbright Scholarship after graduating from UCLA with a B.A. in Design|Media Arts. There, she earned her filmmaking chops in the underground Chinese documentary world as a student of Wu Wenguang, a founding figure of the New Chinese Documentary Movement. From 2007-2011, she made and exhibited films as an artist of Wu’s Beijing-based studio, Caochangdi Workstation.

Tai is recipient of a 2019 Creative Capital Award and a graduate of the MFA Program in Documentary Film and Video at Stanford University. Her short films have premiered at Tribeca Film Festival, Visions du Réel (Nyon), International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and broadcast on The New York Times.

About the Roy W. Dean Grant

From it’s inception in 1992, the Roy W. Dean Grant has awarded over $2,000,000 in cash and donated film services to independent films. The grant is awarded to films budgeted under $500,000 that are unique and make a contribution to society.  It has been an important lifeline for independent filmmakers that help to get their projects started or finished.  Without assistance from the grant, many excellent and important films may never have been made. 

Past winners of the grant include the Emmy winning Mia: A Dancer’s Journey,  2019 Sundance Film Festival selection Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins, and the acclaimed documentary Kusama-Infinity which is now in distribution showing in theaters around the US and world.

About From The Heart Productions

From The Heart Productions is a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to helping filmmakers get their projects funded and made.  Besides providing funding through the grant, they offer film fiscal sponsorship to filmmakers.  This allows donations made to films they sponsor to be tax deductible.  From The Heart has helped independent filmmakers raise over $10 million through it’s fiscal sponsorship program.  President Carole Dean is the best-selling author of The Art of Film Funding: 2nd Edition, Alternative Financing Concepts