I had the honor and privilege of being asked to share my thoughts about the current events in our country by my friend, author, and nurse Elena Murzello for her article “Optimism from Oppression” on the website Thrive Global. As one of four people who took part in Elena’s piece, we tackle systematic racial injustice, our feelings about it, and our hopes for where things go from here. Read the full article here and follow Elena on social media @ElenaMurzello.
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.
Writer/Director of The Saxophonist
Last month, I volunteered to be interviewed by author and artist coach Gigi Rosenberg for an article she was writing for Professional Artist Magazine called “Making the Transition from Amateur to Pro”. 5 artists including myself discussed the moments when we decided to take our work to a professional level and how our work habits have changed over the years. Gigi also wrote a book called “The Artist’s Guide to Grant Writing” which I have used for applying for film production grants in preparation for my next film, The Saxophonist.
To see the full article and my interview, you can buy the Aug/Sept issue of the magazine at these links:
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.