American Gunslingers: A New Western Series & What it Means to Me

I want to take this moment to talk personally to everyone who has been following the progress of our next film production American Gunslingers from the beginning. If you visit the crowdfunding campaign link at Seed&Spark, we have given potential backers a lot of insight about the story, the production, our team via Team Highlights, and why we need funds for the production. What I have rarely talked about is why this project is personal to me.
With every past project that I have completed, I am usually drawn to story elements that I can relate to in my life. Chris Corulla and I knew we wanted the basic premise to be about two brothers finding a treasure by following a map tattooed to their arms. But it was Drew Henriksen, our screenwriter, who came up with the backstories and found ways to make each character three-dimensional. What ultimately came out of his script that made it personal for me was how this story talks about depicts innocent children who are forced to grow up after tragedy, the life choices they make that set them on opposite paths, and how they are reunited to right the injustice of their past. There is no better way to tell this kind of story than in the old west where those themes and conflicts are directly in your face.
On a professional level, I have made several projects set in current times where I have had to work with the resources that I had available. After the success I enjoyed with my last feature film, Vendetta Games, as well as my award-winning short, The Saxophonist, I felt that I needed to push myself to another level. It could not be more of the same. There had to be a push to make something that forces me to be detail specific in all my artistic choices and elevate the quality of my work as a filmmaker. I believe a western gets me out of my comfort zone and there will be a great deal to learn from this experience not only as a filmmaker but also as a human being when the time comes to be away from city life to shoot this project out in natural locations.
No matter how this campaign pans out after Saturday morning, this journey will continue one way or another. I really hope each of you will continue to support the American Gunslingers team past these remaining 48 hours that we have left to reach 80% of the Seed&Spark goal. Thank you.
-Andre Joseph

Special Message from THE SAXOPHONIST Writer/Director Andre´ Joseph

We are a week away from the first screening of what I consider to be my most personal film to date, The Saxophonist. When I wrote the original draft of the script 13 years ago, I would have never dreamed of how important it was going to be for my career. As I reflect on the years leading up to this moment, I feel very humbled by how far this project has come.

I had the privilege of seeing legends like Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter perform live at Carnegie Hall; Wynton Marsalis at Lincoln Center; Stanley Clarke with Marcus Miller and Victor Wooten at the Nokia Theater; and Lou Donaldson with Dr. Lonnie Smith at the Village Vanguard. The latter of those shows was one where I attended with my late stepdad, Addison Branch, Jr., the man I consider to have introduced me to jazz in the first place. Their instruments spoke to my soul in ways that popular music never did as each artist projected their own story through the music.

There was always a burning desire to make a film with a real jazz soundtrack since I was in high school. It was only after taking a History of Jazz course at Emerson College that I found part of the inspiration I needed for the foundation of the story. In this case, I wanted to tell a romantic tale that mirrored my own personal struggles as an artist and I felt that the saxophone had a distinct kind of feeling that can be uplifting, somber, and sexy all at once. With every new draft that I wrote, more of my own personal experiences were incorporated to increase the reality of the tale.

The decision to finally put this film on screen was made two years ago after a very dark period of my life where I needed a strong feel-good story to give me hope again. Even in the most divisive times that we live in today, there’s so much that this film has to offer in the celebration of jazz music as well as having African-American characters that young audiences can look up to as role models. I truly believe I found such a role model in Beavin Lawrence who is without question one of the most generous people I’ve ever had the chance to work with. Being a talented saxophone player as well as a strong advocate for underprivileged kids are just some of his many incredible traits. It is through this film that I can honestly say I found a brother for life.

Whether it’s screening the trailer at the Emerson LA Film Festival or doing a sit-down interview with WBLS legend Jeff Foxx, it had been such an exciting time with every opportunity to promote this film. But the true recognization should also be extended to the crew and my actors Nadya Encarnacion, Michael Anthony Roberts, Ann Flanigan, Ron’Netta, Zoiea Ohizep, Ronnie Caldwell, and Jarett Smithwrick. These extraordinary actors went out of their way to work as hard as they could to breathe life into their characters and to instill confidence in Beavin who was making his acting debut. For that, I am grateful to each of them. I extend the same thanks to the New York Foundation for the Arts for all of their support and guidance with their fiscal sponsorship which added more credibility to the project.

Now The Saxophonist will make its way out for the world to see. A project so personal to the extent that I expect no monetary gain or feel any validation by any film festival award wins. The true victory I hope to gain from this film is if it inspires at least one person out there to pick up a musical instrument or a camera and tell their story wherever they can. Just be true to yourself. Then the success will follow.

Sincerely,
Andre´ Joseph
Writer/Director, The Saxophonist

THE SAXOPHONIST premieres on Friday, May 4, 2018 at 7:30pm at Brooklyn Fete (1515 Nostrand Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11226) followed by very special LIVE JAZZ PERFORMANCE by the film’s star Beavin Lawrence and his quintet. This event will be open to the public.
RSVP today at our Facebook invite link here.

Sax Premiere Invite

Indieactivity Interview with Filmmaker André Joseph

Just released today is my latest in-depth interview for the filmmaker community website, Indieactivity. We talked in great detail about my career upbringing, past successes, and my upcoming short film, THE SAXOPHONIST which makes its NYC premiere on Friday, May 4th. You can read the full article at this link.

André Joseph

Important Message About THE SAXOPHONIST Film Production

I want to take this time today to thank those of you who have supported us on this journey thus far as we are exactly 3 weeks away from the start of production on The Saxophonist. The cast (Beavin, Nadya, Michael, Ann, Zoiea, Ron’Netta, Jarrett, and Ronnie) and crew (Myself, Bill, Charlie, Joan, etc.) have devoted so much time working very hard in rehearsals and fundraising efforts to get this special short film off the ground. Even though we are getting closer to shooting, we are really just getting started on building the word of mouth.

For those of you who have been following our efforts and are still on the fence about donating to the production or sharing the links to potential contributors, let me explain why supporting this film will matter. Without your help, it will be extremely difficult to pay for specific location fees for the jazz club and ballet theater locations in Manhattan. It will also be difficult to have a sizable crew to ensure the professional quality that this movie cannot work without. Most importantly, we want the overall look and scope of the film to be as cinematic as possible while also providing a comfortable working environment that will ensure all actors and crew can do their absolute best work.

Then there’s the cultural relevance of the film. Jazz music is truly an American art form. The legends most associated with the genre were African-American musicians (i.e. Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Coleman Hawkins, Miles Davis, etc.) who pushed the music and broke new ground for the generations that came after their time. They also made music that was socially relevant in each decade. I personally look at the sensitive times that we are living in today with Black Lives Matter and what is reflected in our films and TV shows that often focus on the pain and struggle of being black in America. Some are well made and have serious impact on viewers while others tend to be exploitative. With The Saxophonist, I truly want to make this particular film special by depicting more positive representations of African-Americans characters that young people can look up to and relate to their real world struggles for success in the big city. I plan to present it not only at film festivals such as ABFF and Urbanworld, but also to schools for prospective students of the arts.

This is my seventh film project since earning my BA in Film: Media Production at Emerson College in 2006. Of any project I have ever worked on, this is the most personal story that I want to share to the world, honor my family as well as the legendary musicians who inspired me to write this script.

Whether you can contribute a significant amount or simply a dollar to support our production, all you have to do here is visit the SUPPORT section of The Saxophonist website to learn how to make your donation with a credit card or check. All donations are 100% fully tax deductible due to our fiscal support from the New York Foundation for the Arts. Please note that NYFA is not funding this project; however, their support allows us to raise funds using their tax-exempt status as a 501(c)(3)-classified organization. If you want to donate directly now, visit the NYFA donation page link. We also have a Kickstarter campaign with 16 days left to raise half our budget if you are interested in obtaining rewards for your contribution.

Every little bit of support will be one step towards a great movie. I hope you can help us make this big dream of mine a reality. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Andre´ Joseph

Writer/Director of The Saxophonist

 

The Urban Action Showcase & Expo Recap

When I started production on my second feature film Dishonorable Vendetta back in 2009, I was determined to make the most success out of it than I had with my previous work. Film festivals had discouraged me with my first film Priceless because I agonized over spending hundreds of dollars on entry fees only to be turned down constantly with no refund. Though DV had a lot of help along the way to its completion, my producers and I felt we needed to go straight to distribution which turned out to be a mistake.

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With nothing to lose once that company fell apart, we decided that festivals were the answer for DV. Only this time, I had enough success with my short films to take a big risk. The first official screening at Anthology Film Archives for NewFilmmakers NY last February was a very good turnout overall. But it would be a shot in the dark to take a chance on the Cinemax-sponsored Urban Action Showcase and Expo. To my delightful surprise, we were accepted!

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The UASE event was founded by martial artist and filmmaker/actor Demetrius Angelo and it celebrates achievements in independent films in the action, sci-fi, horror, and fantasy genres. More importantly, this festival promotes minority filmmakers like myself who do action films. This year’s event was set to be jam packed with anniversary screenings of The Last Dragon, Mortal Kombat, and American Ninja as well as big name stars in the martial arts world. Since my short film Tempted had played at Garden State Film Festival, UASE would be the next truly legit festival that I would be attending.

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The night before the event, my dad and I attended the VIP event at HBO’s headquarters in Manhattan. We took part in a panel about self-distribution through Vimeo on Demand which I found to be very informative. As some of you know, I already have a Vimeo channel with some of my films on sale now; however, I learned a lot about marketing strategies and new ways to reorganize my videos on the site. With the exception of getting interviewed on the red carpet, I didn’t network as much as I would the next day. But the biggest moment of the night for me personally was seeing the DV trailer play on the TV monitors in the VIP room. The fact that it was happening at HBO was a little dream come true.

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The UASE screenings and expo took place the following morning at AMC theaters on 42nd St. My dad and I were surprised by the way in which the 4th floor of the theater was converted into a mini con filled with comic book artists, independent filmmakers, and celebrities. I got to meet Taimak aka Bruce Leroy from The Last Dragon and we chatted for a bit about potential sequels and the work that I’m doing now. No pictures were taken, but it was wasn’t the last time I would run into him that day. I also met Jose Hernandez Jr., was one of the stars of HBO’s Oz and also a mutual friend of Robert Clohessy who was in my first film. He actually mixed up my dad for another famous martial artist who fought Bruce Lee in the 60s!

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As for the film screenings, some were really good and some left our heads scratching. Among the ones I liked included Super Debt (a superhero comedy short about a female superhero forced to sell her gear when she’s overdue on rent), a Mortal Kombat fan short with Scorpion against Noob Saibot, a Last Dragon fan made sequel, and a cute webisode pilot for a series called The Invaders which we thought had potential to go on Nickelodeon one day. The best screening of them all was a showing of The Last Dragon. People went nuts in the isles reciting lines, cheering the fights on, and even throwing high kicks out their seats! When it was over, Taimak and screenwriter Louis Venosta did a Q&A where I was able to ask some burning questions about the writing process on the movie.

At night, Dishonorable Vendetta would play at the end of the last film block. There was one problem: The time would overlap with the awards show as this was a one full day event. I figured between limited seating and the small chance of me winning anything that I was better off watching my movie again. My lead actor J.R. Carter and one of my supporting actors Zoiea showed up along with their guests. At first, the turnout was very small. But something interesting happened midway through the movie where more people started to come in. Of course they were waiting for the next movie to play. Either way, I was just happy to see fresh new eyes on the movie and I even thanked them on the way out.

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The overall experience at UASE was very positive. I learned a lot about to help me along in my profession and got a lot of inspiration from the people that I met there, especially the founder Demetrius who took the chance to give me this opportunity to show my film. That experience would soon be punctuated by an email sent by Demetrius yesterday when I learned that DV had won an award for Best Firefight! A win like that is a big victory for the film overall.

VENDETTA GAMES Kickstarter Update & Movie News

In the past three days since the launch, the VENDETTA GAMES Kickstarter campaign has raised $1,105! A huge special thanks to our first 4 backers! But we still have another $1,395 to raise in the next 28 days in order to reach our minimum goal. So we ask all of our supporters to please contribute what you can and/or share the Kickstarter link on all social media platforms and beyond:

http://kck.st/1XAnQPP

Also on the Vendetta Games front, the 5th and latest edition of the Vendetta Games Diaries has been published thanks to my good friends at CosBlog. The new piece goes more in depth into the audition and casting process of the film! Read this and the past 4 editions of the diaries on CosBlog at your leisure!

Please don’t forget that this is happening next Saturday:

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The Next Level – A Motivational Blog by Andre´ Joseph

The Next Level
By Andre´ Joseph

No path is easy in the pursuit of a dream career. When it comes to the entertainment business; however, there are no guarantees of financial comfort. This era of YouTube, Vine, Facebook, and any other outlet for displaying motion picture work to the masses has opened up doors that seemed so hard to open a decade ago. More competitive now than it has ever been.

To be in such a spot where I’ve devoted my life and career to moviemaking, I have had my dark lows and my humble highs. It is still an ongoing rollercoaster of a ride. No successful project has been made without personal and professional conflicts, financial setbacks, or self-doubts. I’ve learned from the times when people tried to steal my vision or were not present when my projects needed the most help for exposure. Even as of today, it is hard to tackle such ambitious work when some people around me will not go the extra mile to help because “it’s not their problem.”

So why keep pursuing your dream career when the odds are stacked against your success? Why go after something impossible as opposed to settling for a quick paycheck job? In an interview that my mom once shared with me from Success Magazine, the Oscar winning actor Michael Douglas said, “When there’s a good wind behind you, sailing is a breeze. But how you conduct yourself during the difficult times is what’s really important. That’s what separates people.” I’m not afraid to admit my failures in the classroom as a kid, lack of success with women, the number of jobs where I was not hired, or the 70 plus times my movies were rejected by film festivals. Yet, it was the experience those failures and building a more firm backbone that defined who I am as a man once I achieved any level of success.

To be very honest, my first three relatively ambitious feature films did not go as far as I wanted because I relied too much on what other people thought. They did not spend those restless nights writing the script and worrying about actor schedules, how they were going to pay the crew, or how to release it properly. When I decided to do the short film Night Stream, I felt alone in the struggle to bring a technically simple but emotionally complicated story to life. Money was tight, crew members dropped out after three days, and even one actor chose to walk off set for no explanation. Part of me wanted to throw my hands up and cry off to bed. But I listened to my heart and I kept on going. The inner strength to stay focused led to two film festival acceptances, four award nominations, and one win for my co-star Reginald L. Barnes. His victory was a win for the entire film.

Night Stream set the gung-ho tone for my next two shorts, Tempted and The Dinner. Though both films were nowhere near as difficult to make, they still presented their individual challenges and eventually led to even bigger film festival acceptances to places like the Garden State Film Festival and the Hoboken International Film Festival. Again, they would not be possible had I not built up courage to make them because of their challenges.

Of course no success can be achieved through individual effort. Anyone can have the inner will to achieve success if they set a goal. But we all need the extra help and to find ways to give back. I have been blessed to have worked with many talented actors and crew in the 8 years I’ve been making movies professionally. At the same time, I’m proud of my ability to support other people’s dreams like shooting event videos for the website of Amelia Meloni’s Vintage NYC Magazine; working as a cinematographer for Jim Harkins’ first feature film Leo John Ain’t Dead No More; shooting youth crime prevention videos for Dr. Robert Goldman’s T.A.S.T.E. and Tikkun Long Island programs; directing a Casablanca-style music video for the incredibly talented singer Tina Siciliano; and the list goes on. I believe in what they do and I try my very best to bring the passion I have in my work to support their dreams and goals. Sometimes I wish the companies I would send my resume to would see that.

In the end, failures and successes come hand and hand. Without failure and rejection, there would be no motivation to go after success. I used to be that overlooked kid in the school who was sensitive about every challenge both academically and socially. Now I understand why I had to endure those hard times. Why I’ve been prepared for the challenges I currently face with creating my work, finding work, and finding true love. It was about becoming an effective leader. I’m not quite where I want to be. But I’m damn sure going to do everything in my power to get there. If you’re reading this wherever you are in life, I hope these words can inspire you to do the same for your dream.