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unscarred
   blog

9/20/2021 - entry 06

Making a documentary is TOUGH! It's exhausting! But boy is it fulfilling.

 

You know what is not fulfilling - not being able to finish it in the time frame you want. 

 

I put a lot of hard deadlines on myself. It motivates me. It gives me something to work towards but there are factors I can not control and this past month has thrown a lot of them at me. That is why I’ve been so delayed in writing this blog entry, and why its gonna be a long one.

Personal life

If you didn’t know, I own my business with my husband. We also have three children — two human, one canine. As much as I love making this film, I also love them. This has been a year wrought with stress, anxiety, and a lot of frustration and recently I’ve noticed how much I’ve allowed the happiness I experience making the film overshadow all of our connections. They've supported the making of this film since the beginning (Carmen has even donated two of her own dollars!)... but I need create a better work/life balance. With the kids back at school full time, this will be easier to accomplish.

But I have to balance one more thing - I’m now a student. I was accepted into the Goldman Sach’s 10K Small Businesses program, which I hope will help me grow my business but also learn how to fundraise and connect with people more efficiently for the film. But, classes take time, a lot more time than I anticipated.

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health & covid

All of UnScarred has happened during Covid-19. The idea was born, the research and “casting”, the filming. We have followed precautions; we have delayed shoots due to exposure but what we didn’t fully anticipate was one of our own testing Covid positive just a week before our shoot. Immediately the shoot was postponed as we worried and worried about Melvric’s health, checking in often. As Melvric is an immunocompromised lung transplant survivor, I was even more concerned that he wouldn’t pull through. It was heartbreaking to be in Colorado at the concert I was supposed to go to with him, at the hotel where he works scouting for a future shoot date, knowing he was knowing he was struggling with his health. And while he’s certainly struggling to get his lungs back to tip top shape, he seems to be on the up and up and hopefully we’ll be together in person in October!

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The other thing we have to postpone or at least reconsider are the fundraising events we had started to plan in NYC and Philly. Both involved IN PERSON gatherings to help woo donors. But with the Delta variant, we have made the decision to not plan anything in person at this point. While outdoor events could work, especially if we required vaccinations, fall and winter weather are hard to plan around. So, we have to be creative while not bombarding people with virtual events. Send ideas our way if you have any!

Fundraising

It’s hard!!!  We have put our feelers out in every which way. We’ve contacted surgeons, survivors, artists, family foundations, philanthropists and more. We’ve applied for grants, done virtual fundraisers, gone to conventions and stayed on top of our social channels. Still, we have only managed to raise a small percentage of what we need to finish this film. That, of course, is the largest road block. And as we continue to talk about UnScarred any chance we get, all we can do is HOPE that the right person hears about us, the right person with a lot of influence and hopefully enough money to move us forward.

No matter what, I want to be submitting a finished film to festivals next Summer/Fall. There is no part of me that is going to stop that from happening. It just means things will happen a bit slower than my anxious mind would like!

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8/11/2021 - entry 05

I can’t believe I’m home from Philadelphia. I was so looking forward to that trip for weeks and weeks and now it is behind me. It was well worth it and oh so much fun but also OH SO MANY STAIRS TO WALK UP WITH GEAR, a good workout for the calves.

Hiccups:

 

There may or may not have been a tapping a bumper incident in which our PA was yelled at by a woman on the street. Perhaps no one will ever know what truly happened.

  • We fought against the timing of a thunderstorm to try and get an interview done outside - an interview in which did get done but during which we... 

  • Got locked out of Molly’s building with the keys just inside the door after a delivery man neglected to acknowledge our door stop.

  • Likely the biggest hiccup of them all…the Tornado watch in Philly that was a warning closer to Molly’s parent’s home. So, they turned around enroute to Philly. And while not IDEAL we were able to get a nice interview with them through Zoom certainly opening us up to more variations on footage look/feel.

  • Due to our aggressive schedule (yet again) we had to scrap a few of our shots: Molly and one of her oldest friends on FaceTime and footage of Molly doing her work as a Physical Therapist - may just mean going back another time : ) 

  • It took a lot more time than expected to get Molly’s wardrobe/microphone figured out

  • I realized after camera wrapped that I didn’t ask Molly any questions about a key topic - so troubleshooting has already begun.

  • Probably the biggest hiccup at all - Hard Drives… we shot A LOT and we maxed out our drives (without backing up twice). To add to it, Carlos forgot his computer at the final location so there was a slight panic at 1:30am. I boarded a plane back to Chicago without all the footage. Giving me heightened anxiety which has only been added to the fact that the upload of the remaining footage is just not working so well. .

 Don’t fret, the computer has been retrieved!!!

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Highlights

  • Seeing Shalik and Kevin twice in 8 days and watching Shalik FINALLY get her tattoo completed 

  • Meeting Todd in Person

  • Reuniting with Molly and getting the chance to stay in her home with the adorable Mindy Sparkle and get to see her life in action.

  • THE SCONES and Almond Croissant from the Bakehouse right around the corner Molly’s 

  • Monk’s Belgian cafe: Incredible Belgian beers and (make fun of me all you want) Seitan cheesesteak.

  • The love and dedication of Molly’s friends - a particular shout out to Dana for opening her office and her home for us. 

  • The post shoot day Yoga class at Maha yoga which just made me realize how little I had taken care of my body over the past 2 weeks but felt amazing.

  • The crew! Carlos, Guido, Alex and Brandon. I just love working with a team that gels + discovering that Carlos just “gets me” - I’m blown away by the footage we got and can’t wait to put the pieces together.

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And now I rush back to doing the work that is the hardest for me… fundraising!  While also planning Chicago, Denver and NYC shoots. Please, if you are reading this, spread the word about UnScarred. We need all the support we can get to bring this film to life. 

8/2/2021 - entry 04

Over week ago I landed in Cleveland, spent a quiet night with my mom and a bowl of chicken and rice soup from Corky and Lenny’s, and tried to convince myself that my super aggressive schedule for Shalik’s shoot day would go off without a hitch.

I can say with absolute certainty it did not! But that does not mean it wasn’t wonderful.

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Hiccups:

  • Shalik’s parents' very quiet neighborhood was not so quiet on Thursday Morning, July 22. I think everyone on the whole street was having construction done or mowing their lawn.

  • I got a bit concerned for Steve (cameraman)’s health in the back of the car filming while holding the camera for so long.

  • We had a couple conversations with the cops at the Akron Children’s hospital to buy us some time

  • We had a miscommunication of where to meet for one location and ALMOST missed the very small window we had with a key interview. 

  • It was VERY sunny and for those of you who are production folks, you know, that’s never ideal.

 

Lesson’s Learned:

  • The size of the camera makes a huge difference. Sometimes you have to go with the person over the right camera but if you’re trying to hit 5 locations in 1 day - GO LIGHT!!!!

  • Always have postcards about the film on hand. You never know who you will meet who is VERY Interested in what you’re doing.

  • It may actually be better to shoot guerilla style and ask for permission later (or after you get stopped by the cops)

  • It's not easy to back up footage in the back of a car

  • Shalik is amazing! And I can’t wait to see her again in Philly! Ok, Kevin is pretty darn cool himself. 

  • I definitely don’t need to tote my clipboard around, but a fanny pack… that’s useful.

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And now, I’m on to Philly with 2 key days of filming ahead of me. And if I'm being honest, these two days are certainly putting me in a financial hole. I have complete faith that I can bring this money in at some point and I guess deep down I know I will or I wouldn't spend a large chunk of my own to make this shoot happen. And boy oh boy do I have another whirlwind shoot planned but I’m pumped.

It better be less turbulent than my flight here was. I hope the pending storms stay far away from me and I hope that Molly and her infinite amount of friends actually have fun and enjoy their time on camera. I hope that very much for Shalik too even though I know she’s currently tossing and turning thinking about how nervous she is for part two of her tattoo. 

7/20/2021 - entry 03

When I was in the “casting” process for the film, never in my life did I expect to find someone from Northeast, Ohio! I thought for sure my stories would hit NY, LA and of course Chicago but to tell someone’s story who grew up less than an hour from me, that was kismet. I’m extremely proud of my hometown of Cleveland and feel an immediate connection to people from that general area (even the Westsiders). When Shalik’s story fell in our laps, or shall I say “inbox”, and we had our first call, I felt an immediate bond. Who knows, Shalik may feel differently but I’m telling you from my perspective, the energy, the passion and the general midwestern vibe (despite her living in the east coast now) just hooked me. And from that moment until now, despite never being in the same physical space, we have continued to bond, and laugh ourselves to tears. 

This woman is a force and to have the chance to film her in her hometown, in the place where life changed for her as a teenager is very special. To get a glimpse into her younger years is something I’m very much looking forward to. I’m also looking forward to lunch from Aladdin’s which happens to be one of her favorites and carries a lot of memories for me! But mostly, I’m looking forward to meeting the people who raised her cause they did a damn good job. 
 

7/14/2021 - entry 02

Rochester is now behind and from what little I saw, I certainly enjoyed it – especially staying directly across from the art museum in a converted school building (named for Alexander Hamilton). And despite some next-door neighbor partying until after 4am (thank goodness I sleep with a sound machine) I’d go back and stay there again (just maybe not on a Tuesday night when 80% of the restaurants in the area are closed!)
 
Shoot day - what a thrill. The anticipation made it hard to wait until the camera was ready to see Loo in person for the first time but I did!

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Hiccups: 

  • We were fighting a weather forecast that called for storms all day and with more than ½ of our filming planned for outdoors the producer in me stressed the whole time, even when I knew hourly we were in the clear. 

  • Our Rented camera showed up missing 2 items so we were delayed starting as we waited for them to be delivered. 

  • A last-minute funeral took one of our featured players out in the middle of the day (activating Cecilia and I to quickly swap things around) 

  • One of our “talent’ had a few family emergencies pop up so we had to move forward without her.

  • And…there may have been a little “lost in a cemetery” action going on too. I should note that in regards to cemetery shoots, I am extremely creeped out being in cemeteries. But that shoot, with my mind focused on other things (like an eminent torrential downpour) I began to get over my fear. So much so that by the time this is published I will have been at 3 more cemeteries and likely not panicking while there.

One thing I’ll be including in all my shot day blogs is my list of lessons learned. Hopefully other filmmakers out there will already know some of these or could learn from them, though each film is quite different and some of my lessons may be a bit more person (like #2 on today’s list)
 
Lessons learned:
1.     Always have a dedicated audio person on each of my “day in the life” shoot days and have them keep rolling even if the camera’s off.
2.     Make sure the person you are featuring takes you to at least one of their favorite spots for a treat: coffee, juice, ice cream….(ok, this is just a personal note!)
3.     It’s okay to not make advances in your friendship with the folks you’re interviewing on that day – there is plenty of time for that in the future. Your goal, get a glimpse into their life without you in it!
4.     Capture the mundane: The sitting, the thinking, the cooking – and don’t make them talk while doing it!!!
5.     If at all possible, especially with a small crew, make sure you, as the director have a direct line to the cameraman’s ear. The risk of ruining a wonderful and real moment is certainly more likely if you have to walk into a room!

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Highlight of the day: A home cooked “Garbage Plate” made by Bonnie and Loo. A Rochester tradition that may sound a bit weird but tastes a lot good!
 

But boy, what a day. I truly feel I know Loo’s life just being in their home, seeing their world and dining at their table. Our team was made to feel so welcome. I know that Loo wants their story told just as much as I want to tell it and I’m so honored to get to do so! 


That’s all for now! Thanks to Bonnie, Loo, Olivia, and of course, the adorable Kevin!

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6/29/2021 - entry 01

Fifteen months, that’s how long I’ve been working on my first feature documentary, originally called, The Untitled Tattoo Documentary, Jews and Tattoos, My Body My Canvas and what finally became…. UnScarred. Fifteen months in which I have thought about the topic day and night, met countless people who are touched by the subject or passionate about having their voices heard.

 

When I say “met” I should clarify - the amount of zoom meeting recordings I have is insane. Actual personal interaction has been limited. Yet somehow in the midst of the pandemic I, along with the fearless Cecilia, my Associate Producer, have garnered support, connections and friends all over the world. 

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Thus far we have had five shoot days for the film, only two which we physically attended, behind masks in Chicago, many feet apart. And while I think I managed remote directing the best I could, nothing compares to being there in person. And now, the summer of 2021 is the time. This week I embark on the first of at least 6 days of filming before September. This week, I head to Rochester, NY to film with Loo and I can’t wait to give them a BIG HUG. I feel like I know everyone so well at this point and as a hugger, it pains me to have not physically touched ANY of the survivors throughout this process. 

 

Then in July it's off to Philly and in August New York, another couple days filming in Chicago and then Colorado - So Molly, Shalik, Shako, Quemuel, Laura, Stephanie, Brenda and Melvric, I’m coming for you and you better be ready!

I won’t lie, I’m a bit nervous - I haven’t been on a plane in fifteen months, the filming timeline is aggressive and I haven’t raised the money I need to do all of this, but nevertheless I’m gonna power through. After all, as I sit here watching my children avoid going to bed, running around screaming, I think about all I have juggled over the fifteen months - all the pressures of keeping a business alive, supporting two elementary school aged children as they navigated virtual school (one in spanish immersion), being a short order cook, serving on three non-profit committees or boards and trying to maintain relationships with my friends and family who don’t live in my home.

 

But what rises above all of that, when I really reflect on the past 15 months, is the education I've received, what the survivors in the film have taught me, and what my own deep dive into understanding hate, both of oneself and of others has allowed me to understand and fight to change. It's all of this that makes me realize I will persevere, this film WILL be made, no matter what! So stay tuned for more behind the scenes posts as I make my way through this nutty production schedule!