My sister Terri, a New Yorker and Thomas' widow and keeper of his musical legacy, visited Kaua'i and our family for Christmas, and I said to her, "I think it's time to make a film about Thomas, before he is forgotten and before all those who knew him and can speak about him forget the details and stories about his short but remarkable life." He died on Feb. 13, 1998, and it was now nearly 15 years later. It was time, I felt, to do the film I had imagined for many years, and I believed I was the one to do it.
It would be my 10th film, in a filmmaking career that had spanned nearly 25 years, one EMMY Award, and numerous other awards, plus several PBS broadcasts of my work. Clearly, though, I was not looking for another film to make when I spoke those words to Terri. I was satisfied with my track record of 9 successful films, some of them made with film partners, but all of them major involvements for me. But I could be compelled to venture in again if a film idea evoked worthiness and certainty that an excellent story needed to be told. And this I felt about the Thomas Chapin Story.
As a long-time filmmaker, and former journalist, I know a good story when I hear one. All of my films have been compelling documentaries (What are they? Go to www.olenamedia.com), watchable and of interest to audiences curious about something they probably knew nothing or little about. In J-school and as a working journalist for a local newspaper, I learned how to sniff out good stories and recognize them; in filmmaking, it's the same but you have to think of millions of viewers and whether your film can appeal to that kind of reach.
By March of this year, I felt compelled enough to build this website about the Thomas Chapin film. By May, I travelled to NYC to begin my research and to interview the primary storytellers, witnesses to Thomas' life and career. By June, the flood of doubts came; you really have to be sure you want to climb this mountain!! Three to four years of committed attention; the slippery money slope to find the funding to make the film; and the confidence to surmount every obstacle and barrier (mental, emotional and physical) that would come against you finishing your film. By July, I had found my way back to courage and commitment, and began making plans to forge ahead.
In August-September, I finished up my paying gig and proudly premiered Grace and Beauty, a documentary made for the celebration of 150 years of the Episcopal Church in Hawaii. And deposited my final paycheck from the project.
In September, I found an editor in New York City who was willing to defer payment to cut the needed fundraising trailer, my next necessary step in launching the film project. I bought my plane ticket with plans to land in NYC on Oct. 20 to start work with editor Laura Corwin, a professional and seasoned filmmaker herself who could see the worthiness and excellence in telling the Thomas Chapin story.
Oh. And I decided ten days before leaving for NYC to give up my beautiful cottage on Kaua'i, to put all stuff in storage, and to let go and Let God, as is the vernacular in the journey of Faith.
I am now settled in with my sister Terri in Jackson Hts., Queens, not too far from Manhattan where the Thomas Chapin story played out. Terri and I decided to take a "chill" day the day after I arrived and headed for Woodstock to see the brilliance of the leaves and to spend some sisterly time together. On our way back to NYC, we listened to a preview copy of Thomas' new 3-CD release, NEVER LET ME GO. It is as BRILLIANT as the leaves of God we encountered that day. I can't wait to share it with you!
More settling in at Terri's. I have bought a work table and a computer chair, and my Metro pass. Laura, the editor, is just two Metro stops away from me, and we had our first person-to-person meeting yesterday. Unfortunately, or fortunately if we want to stay confident and in Faith, already she has been called away from me to a paying gig that got pushed up. With the excellent work she has already done to begin the trailer and organizing the workflow of its editing, the hand off to me was smooth. I will finish the editing myself, with her looking over my shoulder from afar. She plans to stay involve with the project, and will resume her involvement next year sometime when her paying gig is up. By then, I hope to see the money mounting up for us to speed ahead into the actual making of the film.
The path before me is clear. Finish the trailer, launch the fundraising. It's the day to day work that keeps me stepping forward into the life of making a film. And it's being made in Thomas' city, the Big Apple, where he took a huge bite for his short-lived life.
I attended a film fundraising workshop the other night at the offices of Women Make Movies in Soho. I brought my grant writer Marti Fischer with me to give her an orientation about raising money for films. It's something I've been doing for years, and have raised almost $2 million over the course of my nine films. For Marti, it's all new, but she is a fast learner and has already identified possible funding sources and partners.
Two questions were asked at the workshop: Why is the film you want to make important? Why is it URGENT to make this film now (an element the presenter felt must be considered). Part 2 of this blog is coming, and I shall articulate the answers.
Thanks for staying with me. It's going to get exciting!!