Crowdfunder Pick: “Learning to Drive”

Crowdfunding has become an invaluable tool for the indie filmmaker seeking funds for the start or completion of a project.

And here at MovieMaker, we applaud and champion workman-like campaign efforts. To raise awareness of great ideas and future talents, we will be highlighting a unique project every month during its funding campaign. If you have a project you’d like us to consider, drop us a line at: crowdfunder@moviemaker.com.

We hope you’ll share, support, and be inspired by their stories.


Crowdfunded Pick: “Learning to Drive”

Genre: Short – drama, comedy, road movie

Synopsis: Michael’s always wanted to drive a car, just like his momma, his brother Red and Marcia on The Brady Bunch. The problem is he has Down syndrome. During a road trip to scatter their recently deceased mother’s ashes at the Grand Canyon, Michael is determined to convince his scatterbrained brother to teach him how to drive. Red is overwhelmed by this new responsibility, but is also distracted by a sudden turn of events that has changed their travel plans and possibly their lives. In a dramatic, sometimes humorous, turn, Michael takes it upon himself to prove his resolve, forcing Red to face his own fears, let go and just be Michael’s brother.

Director Roderick Stevens and Cinematographer Danny Gonzalez go over the upcoming shot list on the stage built motel room set

Director Roderick Stevens and cinematographer Danny Gonzalez go over a shot list on set

Cast: Connor Long, Kevin Coubal, Nicole Carter-Lyde, Caleb Dykstra, Xander Mason, Candee McKnight

Crew: Roderick E. Stevens II (writer/director/composer), Daniel Alexis Gonzalez (DP), Duane “Peaches” Ayers (co-producer), Josh Greer (co-producer), Andy Wheeler (co-producer), John Carrithers (editor), Christopher M. Wick (art director), Greg Cosh (sound), Cass Rasmussen (gaffer), Tony Whitman (key grip), Lane Luper (1st AC).

Says Stevens: “‘Learning to Drive’ is a project I’ve been developing off and on for over 15 years, inspired by my brother Andy, who has Down syndrome, and his incessant requests that I teach him how to drive. As a series of events revealed my flawed thinking with regard to his capabilities, his desires and the opportunities the world might afford him, I came to recognize a story that a great many people might relate to. In 1998 I copyrighted my first draft of a feature-length script called Learning to Drive and over the next decade and a half, I wrote 15 more versions, trying to capture two challenging principles. Firstly, I was ever determined that this would be Andy’s story and not my own, something we just don’t see enough of in film. This was my biggest challenge. Additionally, I feel the circumstances have drama built into them, so I always sought out the humor.

The script went on to accumulate awards from both the LA New Wave Film Festival and the Life Fest Film Festival. In the spring of 2014 I secured fiscal sponsorship through the 501(c)3 From The Heart Foundation. This helped us acquire an incredible camera package from Clairmont Camera and a loaded grip and lighting package from Monsoon Production Services in Tucson, Arizona, as well as meals from assorted restaurants in and around the southeastern Arizona shooting location, and plenty more. A fantastic crew of working professionals, including veterans who’ve been working in film almost as long as I’ve been alive, came out to the desert from Los Angeles in January, 2015 to get the project in the can. We shot on multiple formats including 35mm anamorphic, 4K Raw (Sony F55/anamorphic) and even Super 8 film.
When completed, we look forward to presenting a fun, adventurous film with a focus on entertainment (as opposed to preaching) that just happens to get the audience considering their perspectives on people with disabilities, and might even empower and inspire those with disabilities while we’re at it!”

About the Moviemaker: Roderick E. Stevens II is an award-winning painter, assemblage artist, filmmaker and screenwriter. Roderick lives in a remote corner of the desert in Arizona, in a home and studio he designed and built with his family.

Platform: Seed&Spark

Campaign End Date: Nov 28, 2015

Red gets a scolding from Officer Zalena - raw vs composited comparison

Red gets a scolding from Officer Zalena in this Raw (top) and composited (bottom) comparison

Request: Stevens says, “As mentioned, we shot the bulk of the film in January, 2015, but unfortunately we lost a day and a half to nasty winter weather, so we’re now gearing up for our second unit shoot to get the film done. We’ve spent much of 2015 on editing, effects work and compositing (most of the driving footage was shot green-screen) and have 23 minutes of the estimated 29 minute film done (about 80 percent). Once again Clairmont Camera has offered us an incredible camera package for free and most of the volunteer crew have set aside the first week in January, 2016 to help get it finished. All contributions are tax-deductible via the FTH Foundation. We have a list of incentives that appeal to art lovers, as well as those looking to change the way people with Down syndrome are perceived.

The majority of our remaining expenses are needs that we just haven’t been able to get donated. Following is a summary of the primary expenses:

  • $2,400 Production insurance, required by the vendors donating their equipment.
  • $1,500 Lodging for cast and crew in southeastern Arizona
  • $1,500 Travel expenses for cast and crew to get to our remote locations
  • $1,600 Fuel expenses during the production
  • $1,200 Meals for cast and crew for the four-day shoot
  • $ 600 Transpo rentals (production RV and truck for towing our hero car)
  • $1,200 Misc. art department, wardrobe, expendables, etc.
  • $ 750 35mm film processing
  • $2,250 35mm to 2K Datacine
  • $1,500 Marketing expenses during pre-production and principle photography
  • $1,000 Contingency
Our incentives include artwork by [Stevens], from paper prints, to limited edition canvas reproductions, to one-of-a-kind original paintings.

Additionally we’re offering some unique opportunities to make “Learning to Drive” a part of donor’s lives or even allow donors be a part of the film themselves. For instance for $500, we’re offering folks the chance to feature their favorite ‘homie with an extra chromie’ in a photo montage part of our end credit sequence. Or for just $75, donors can send a photo and stats and we’ll send them a printed, laminated custom “Learning to Drive” driver’s license.” MM

Crowdfund by visiting: Learning to Drive

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