Latest Project: Dust Nuggets

Dust Nuggets Postersmall.jpgI’m on the murky road to film financing. My latest project — following the wild and wonderful ride with Traffic Opera — is called Dust Nuggets.

I’ll be partnering with Andrew Pochan once again. This time we’re going full bore to create a feature film. We shot a teaser for this back in March and finally have it posted:

It’s a mind bending psychological drama with a nod to the Iambic pentameter. It’s Dr. Seuss meets David Lynch. It was originally a web series, but Andrew and I changed things around, got our own minds blown on some big hairy Pharma product, and spit out a script for a full length feature film. With unicorns. We can’t wait to get this mutt financed. If you see us coming, you might want to run in the other direction because we will definitely be asking about money.

See you down at the permit office.


Your Personal Murder Bill

MurderStatAccording to the World Health Organization, a murder in the United States costs the American taxpayers 2 million dollars. First off there’s the loss of productivity and wages the victim would have earned. Then there are the costs incurred during the processing of this murder. The investigation, the prosecution, the incarceration. There are additional costs if the victim is hospitalized prior to death.

With roughly 15,000 murders a year committed in the U.S. that ciphers out to 30 billion bucks. It’s a luxury I don’t think we need.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, most murders are committed against someone known to the perpetrator. Sadly many of these people are victimized by intimate partners. It’s hard to believe, let alone understand, that truth.

The key to preventing such horrible acts is education. There are red flags in a relationship that can indicate a person is at risk. But currently we are not educating ourselves as to what these red flags are. What if there was a vehicle for disseminating this important information? Would you help to get the word out?

If the answer to that question is yes, then get yourself over to the crowdfunding site for the film, “Finding Jenn’s Voice,” and make a donation. The very purpose of this film is to educate and help those of us at risk for intimate partner violence (IPV). It explains what IPV is, how to recognize it, and how to prevent it.

The film’s producer, Tracy Schott, is only 22% funded at this point. She’s half way through the campaign. If she doesn’t reach her goal she will not get her funding. She will not finish the film. It will not get distributed. The word will not reach the people who need to hear the message.

And if you think the number of people dying via IPV is small and so not worth fretting over, consider this:

The FBI has reported that 11,766 American women were killed by IPV between 9/10/2001 to 6/6/2012. According to the Center for Disease Control, every day more than 3 women are killed by their intimate partners.

You can do something about this. You can help educate people. All you have to do is give ten bucks to the film. Ten bucks now might just prevent a 2 million dollar bill later on. And it’s not just about murder. IPV in all its forms incurs costs to all of us.

According to the World Health Organization, from 56% to 80% of the costs of care for gun and stabbing injuries are either directly paid by public financing or are not paid at all — in which case they are absorbed by the government and society in the form of uncompensated care financing and overall higher payment rates.

So you are paying for IPV whether or not you are involved, are related to someone involved, or even remotely know someone involved. If you are a million miles away from IPV, you are still paying for it. So do yourself a favor, take one small step in preventing it.

Sue Lange

Tracy Schott: Finding Jenn’s Voice

tracy01671The “Jenn” in Tracy Schott’s documentary is Jennifer Snyder. In 2011, she was murdered by the father of her unborn child. When Jenn’s aunt Trina called Tracy to ask her to make a movie about Jenn, Tracy shook her head. As a commercial film producer she is too often requested to make a movie about someone’s life story.

But Jenn’s story is different. It’s not so much about the brutal murder of Jennifer Snyder, as it is about an alarming statistic: the number one cause of death among pregnant women is murder.

After Trina contacted her, Tracy did a little research. Although she was dubious about the story’s importance, she Googled “homicide and pregnancy” and was shocked to learn the above statistic. How could that be true, she wondered. And more importantly: what could she do about it.

Before becoming a film producer, Tracy was a Social Worker. She left that field because she knew she could make a bigger impact elsewhere. Her training though, the fortuitous call from a friend, and her subsequent quick research on the subject led Tracy to a logical conclusion. Finding Jenn’s Voice is the film that was waiting for her.

She started doing deeper research and learned how preventable intimate partner violence (IPV) is if we are educated about it. She knew that Finding Jenn’s Voice would be the perfect vehicle for education. She’s been passionately working on it since then.

I spoke to Tracy a year ago about the project. Now that’s she’s in the midst of a fundraising campaign to finish the film, I thought it’d be good to check in on her. I stopped by her office in the Goggleworks of Reading, Pennsylvania for a chat.

Sue Lange: The last time we talked you had interviewed Jenn’s family, a number of the law enforcement officers who had dealt with the case, and a few experts in the field of IPV. Where are you at in the process now?

Tracy Schott: We’re about half done with shooting. Then, of course we’ll have about 100 hours of footage to edit.

SL: Wow, that’s a lot. I remember you were trying to talk to David Rapoport’s ex-wife (David Rapoport is the murderer.). Were you able to do that?

TS: No, she has not responded to our requests. And frankly, she too, was a victim of her husband’s coercion and control, and I feel that it’s important to respect her desire for privacy.

SL: I agree. So let’s talk about your process. The new trailer you’ve put together is fantastic. And I noticed you added interviews with more experts on IPV. Now you’ve been reaching out to survivors. What have their stories been like?

TS: I’ve talked to over 30 survivors of attempted murder, many of whom were pregnant at the time. These were all women who contacted me after the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence posted information about my project. These women have had unbelievably harrowing experiences. And they are all incredibly strong. They want to tell their stories. They want to help other people that may find themselves in similar situations.

SL: How will their stories help?

TS: Each one of these women is unique—their scenarios are all different in terms of specific events, murder weapon, location and such—but there are strong commonalities.

SL: Such as?

TS: Each of the survivors I spoke with described the perpetrators as charming and likeable. One woman felt like she’d “hit the lottery” because he was so perfect. But eventually, these men became intensely jealous many resorting to stalking and monitoring the women’s activities. They were very controlling, financially, about what the women could wear, who they could see, and their communication with friends and family. All described how they became isolated so that when the abuse escalated or they realized that the relationship was dangerous, they had nowhere to turn. If we can educate women about these red flags in relationships, I do believe we change the outcomes.

SL: So how will this film do that? How will it have an impact?

TS: In addition to the normal distribution channels—film festivals, online distribution, and possibly television—we plan to directly distribute to college campuses. I hope to travel and do talks along with the film. We want to educate women, especially when they’re young. And men. One in four women, and one in six men, will find themselves in an abusive relationship. It’s important for people to start talking about this. It’s surprising and disconcerting how uncomfortable people are with this topic. That needs to change.

SL: Yes. You need to get this film out there. It will be a starting point for the conversation. So how is the fundraising at Seed & Spark going?

TS: Seed & Spark is an amazing crowdfunding platform. There are a lot of platforms out there, but Seed & Spark is the best for our purposes.

SL: Why’s that?

TS: They only do film and it is curated.

SL: I saw that at their website. In fact I posted about that at my blog. I think curation is so important these days with anything, but it’s especially helpful here. We may want to support a project that we know nothing about. If the project makes it to Seed & Spark, at least it’s been vetted.

TS: Also Seed & Spark is woman-run. And they are extremely supportive.

SL: Those two things might go hand in hand.

TS: Maybe. All I know is that within an hour of my launch, I had three donations from Seed & Spark staff. The first one was from the executive director. They know how important it is to have something in the pot right away. They also tweet my project every day. Crowdfunding is about getting the word out on the Internet. Facebook and Twitter are key.

SL: I know you’re looking for funds mostly because you’ve still got shooting to do. Why is that so expensive?

TS: We’ve still got to fly to where the interviews are going to take place. We’re scheduled to be finished on October 10th, but I’ve got about a dozen survivors to shoot yet. They’re located all over the country. One is in the U.K. We might not be able to get to that one. The final shoot is going to be a group interview with as many of the survivors as we can get together.

SL: Where are you going to do that?

TS: I think right here in my office.

SL: Perfect. It’s so comfortable here and conducive to conversation. I look forward to seeing that on the screen. Good luck with all of it especially the crowdfunding. With the funds, you can make all the rest of that happen. Thanks for talking to me about this crucial project.

TS: Thank you for your support and getting the word out about the film!

Tracy Schott is in the process of raising funds to complete Finding Jenn’s Voice. She needs $50,000 to conduct the final interviews and get through post-production. Please help.

Pregnancy and Intimate Partner Violence

FJVsmallTracy Schott’s documentary, FINDING JEN’S VOICE, is about half-way completed. She’s still got some shooting and interviewing to do before she begins the editing process. To get all of this done, she’s launching a fund-raising campaign  on July 29th. More about this below.

Finding Jenn’s Voice concerns the difficult subject of intimate partner violence (IPV). Tracy became involved  with IPV when a friend related the story of her niece, Jennifer Snyder, who had been murdered by her boyfriend. The boyfriend was married to another woman at the time and when he discovered Jennifer was pregnant he killed her.

Tracy was reluctant at first to work on a project that seemed more appropriate for tabloid journalism. But after doing a cursory search on the Internet, she discovered a horrible fact: murder is the number one cause of death in pregnant women. After overcoming her initial shock, she asked herself what could be done. What could she do about it? Tracy is a movie and tv show producer. The logical answer for her was to use her skills to tell Jennifer Snyder’s story with an eye to educating the world about the larger problem. The result is Finding Jenn’s Voice.

In Finding Jenn’s Voice, Tracy is offsetting the sensationalism the media initially gave Jennifer’s story with a clinical look at the wider problem of IPV. The movie will be a clarion call to our society: we must talk about this, we must make ourselves aware, we must change the story.

The fundraising campaign for the movie will launch at the end of the month. I’ve signed up to help get the word out. I’ll be following along on Facebook and reporting her progress back here. I’ll also be posting general  information on IPV as Tracy continues her research.

For more information on Finding Jenn’s Voice, visit the website. To help in these pre-launch days, you can “like” the Facebook page for Finding Jenn’s Voice, and pass along this information to everyone you know.

Stay tuned.

Sue Lange