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Emmy Award Winner, Daniel Skubal, Seeks Your Help For His Short Film, 'Your Milkman'.
Our StoryI'm Daniel Skubal, the co-writer and director of this short film. I graduated from Purdue University in 2008, and have been working as the lead editor, occasional director and part of the production team at a film production company that specializes in web-based content out of Chicago for over a year now. The creative itch has been exponentially getting worse over the past year, and over the course of events that transpired in 2010, I've been inspired to make this project in the first, of several short films that will play out as a series. This series will showcase at least one of several storytelling concepts and ideas that I want to examine and learn from to better myself as a filmmaker. The films will be stand-alone, but the eventual goal will be to feature them in festivals and use them as a basis to backup my thesis.
Over the past year, I've been working on an independent thesis concerning American storytelling through film. I started out with the question, "What makes a good film?" and quickly realizing the broad scope of films that are considered 'great'. Going into this, I knew my question was completely subjective, so I focused more on the WAY these great stories are told and WHAT type of stories were being told. Even further, it would be silly to try to put every motion picture that the Academy has deemed 'great' into one category, I instead tailored the focus of my research to a particular genre: American storytelling through film.
The thesis, in a nutshell, is the use of storytelling through three concepts: American folklore, child wonderment and social constants. I've been studying the philosophies and content produced by many artists who exhibit these ideas as part of their regular aesthetic language and style, but none of which have actually ever classified it in this way. Three examples of these artists are Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Norman Rockwell. All three of them use these devices differently, but all clearly lean on them differently to convey the story they want to tell.
Steven Spielberg uses the mysticism of child wonderment within his works, he has spoken up to the importance of this within his films and recognizes it as an important element within many of his most successful works (E.T, Close Encounters, Jaws and Indiana Jones for example). Using small moments, objects or ideas that nearly every viewer has experienced or is familiar with as a child and can subconsciously connect with, draws the viewer into the film just that much more.
Although criticized for his recent works, George Lucas exhibits these pillars in his masterpieces. He studied American folklore and mythology and applied it to the world created for Starwars with the symbolism hiding behind nearly every facet of the story tying back to some mythological, folkloric story or fairy tale. And again, Lucas did this in American Graffiti. He takes full advantage of American folklore and social constants in "American Graffiti" through the use of American icons such as classic cars, diners, late night burger joints, street racing, and the entire greaser culture associated with the time period. Again, these all help perpetuate the story and help move an audience in ways they can't describe.
Norman Rockwell is a flagship of all three ideas; American folklore, child wonderment and social constants. While most of the social constants he used were lost with the times, many are at least familiar and have become iconic of the "American Dream".
Ironically, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas are two of the largest owners of Norman Rockwell's artwork. Again, to my knowledge, none of these artists have ever stated this idea, but all appear to be influenced heavily by it and all have instinctually incorporated it into their most notable bodies of work.
Many of the great films of the 20th and 21st century use these constants to draw their audience in, and rely on a great story to carry the project through. I've watched nearly all of the AFI top 100 (and many outside of that list) and have been compiling a list of these constants, moments and ideas that show up in films again and again. I'm treating this list as the Rosetta Stone from which I will use to draw from the pool of ideas for my films.
When my father passed away in October, I kicked this theory into high gear as a means for me to keep my head clear, and quickly grew to appreciate the escapism that the theory promotes.
A friend and fellow graduate of the film program at Purdue contacted me at the end of October and invited me into a project for writer/directors to stretch their legs. The challenge: To write and direct a short film that takes place in a diner. The hand full of directors invited into the project would each write and direct and all shoot back-to-back projects in the same diner. The end result would be a potpourri of ideas and contrasting viewpoints of stories all existing within the same location. I graciously accepted, and from this, I went to my Rosetta Stone for ideas.
After a quick scan of the list, I decided on the handful of ideas I wanted to execute and without thinking, I immediately began writing out what was to be the short "Your Milkman". Although the proposed directing project was called off a month later due to lack of interest from other participants, I continued to plow through draft after draft of the script until I found something I was happy with.
The story itself is simple. A milkman looking for a good time, and a bored housewife starving to break the monotony of her packaged suburbanite life cross paths one evening. A recipe for disaster, and the drama plays out. The story is about two individuals who, for a short period of time, fill each others' voids. The milkman is an unintentional playboy who quickly discovered the perks of his job and took advantage of the opportunities as they sprung up.
Peggy, much like the rest of the women in the neighborhood, is a bored housewife stuck in the monotony of maintaining the house while her husband goes off to work and has an affair of his own with his secretary.
Now beyond that, lies several subtexts. One is testing the continuity of my theory. The use of healthy reminders of Americana and American folklore. The period: the 1950's are often considered the 'golden age' of America, where things were thought to be 'simple' and 'pure'. The local political campaign occuring around the two strangers: again, political campaigns of the era were considered 'more honest' and heaven forbid there were ever scandals. The apple pie: a distinct representation of America. Peggy, the housewife: an icon of gender roles at the time-- how things 'should be'. And lastly, the milkman himself: a representation of wholesome purity through his product. All of which act as reminders of something warm. Something familiar.
The remaining subtext of the story lies in the core of the film. The idea of the film is to serve as the antithesis of my entire theory. Using the warm fuzzy notions of an iconic golden era and turning it on its head. All of the icons are flipped as the story plays out. The politician is crooked. The apple pie becomes a symbol of lust. The housewife becomes the aggressor. And the milkman's reputation is quite opposite of its iconic identity painted by society at the time.
I stray from calling this an experimental film, but I would like to study the cause and reaction of how an audience will react to such a subtle idea packaged up in such a simple story.
So with this film, I would like to raise money to direct the project and shoot it with the intention of sending it to festivals. I'm 100% confident in the story because it's designed upon a structured philosophy extracted from some of the greatest films ever to come out of Hollywood. What I want to know is to what level will people identify and bond with the film even though the identifying factors are turned on their head.
Based upon initial projections of equipment rental, set design, talent, hiring crew and general production costs, our budget is right around $9,000. I'm contributing as much as I have saved up at the time of production (which is roughly early May at this point), but beyond that, my intention is to shop the idea around and raise the kind of funds I need to do this project correctly. I will not cut corners unless I have to in order to produce this properly.
Once funds are raised, I intend to shoot this in and around the Chicagoland area on a three day shoot in May with the best crew I can assemble within the means of my budget.
The ImpactThe impact intended is to create a film with a solid, entertaining story that exists within the confines of my theory, and gauge audience reactions towards the ideas expressed within the film. The project will happen no matter how much money is raised. If anything, I will save up money over the next year and produce it myself, but this needs to be the first project in testing the idea.
I've worked on enough projects and been to enough pre-production meetings to recognize the pitfalls of producing a low-budget film, and have learned how to avoid letting a project fall through the cracks and fizzle out. The impact if this isn't made, is less about others, but more about losing the incredible learning experience as a filmmaker; furthering my knowledge of the craft and figuring out my voice and style as a filmmaker. Hypothetically, if I fail, I'll just be one step behind everyone else who actually has made a project of their own. This, I will not let happen.
The impact of a short film NOT being viewed by an audience is a difficult thing to gauge. Short films shoud be entertaining and typically showcase a filmmaker. They allow a filmmaker to learn the language of film without wasting incredible amounts of money on a feature. If anything, I argue, that a short film is more for the filmmaker themselves than for the audience. But if anything, I hope the impact upon the audience is to provide an entertaining short dramatic piece that sheds a different perspective on that 50's "golden era".
What We Need, Why Me & What You GetAs I said, I'm aiming for $9,000 as my budget to cover a three day shoot (plus a day of pickups). This should include day rates for a DP, AC, AD, Producer, Set Designer, Talent and all meals, location rentals, equipment rentals and travel costs required for the film. This also includes about $250 left over for DVD duplication costs and festival submission fees.
What I can't raise, I'll cover myself, but I'm barely scraping by as-is and to speed up this process, I'm asking you for additional funds. The goal will eventually be reached, either by your help, or on my own so there is no question of the project falling through.
I've recently received an Emmy through the company I work for, for the first web documentary recognized by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. My accolades beyond that mainly exist through Purdue University's film program, winning best cinematographer, and best short film for two separate years in Purdue's Digital Cinema festival, and most recently received an award for Outstanding Career Achievments as a graduate in the film program at Purdue. I feel qualified to pull off the project, given the right means. With this, I'm anxious to grow as a filmmaker and expand my knowledge of the craft. The only way to do this, is to produce smaller projects such as this one and learn from them. The drawback to growing is, even though the films are short, to tell them well, they still cost a pretty penny. This is hopefully where you come in.
There are VIP perks listed on the right. Of which, the amount of donation places each individual into a different qualification bracket as a benefit for your contribution.
All contributors will receive credit on the film.
Other Ways You Can Help
you can't contribute financially, I would greatly appreciate it if you
can tweet the link, blog about it, or share it on your Facebook page to
help spread the word to reach my goal. Any little bit helps and word of mouth is the only
way this is going to happen! Again, I thank you, sincerely, for reading
through my spiel and considering my project for contributions. I look forward to making this happen!