Between Dreamers is a musical short film introducing us to Adrian and Anna, a young couple arriving in Los Angeles with little more than their dreams and their love for one another. Though just on the verge of life, they are already making a break with their past. But they are dreamers too, intent on creating a new life together. Over the course of their first night and day in the city, they are drawn into the excitement of a new world, only to come face-to-face with the harsh reality that their dreams and determination alone will not be enough to sustain them.
Adrian and Anna’s story is a familiar one, shared in different ways by all of us who have risked ourselves to seek something new in life. It is also a story that goes back to the roots of what I love about films, with their tales of lovers on the run, of dreamers striking out into an unfamiliar world, coming to the very end of themselves and finding themselves transformed in profound ways. Such tales touch on something essential about being human – the fact of needing breath and food and water, but also of needing freedom to hope and desire and dare, to plunge into despair and to rise up in joy.
I have long wanted to tell such a story, and have long harbored secret dreams of making a musical. But I did not feel capable of doing either in an authentic way until starting a new life in Los Angeles with my wife and son a couple of years ago. As I discovered the city and witnessed the beauty and the need that characterize it, both in quite stark ways, I began to imagine what the experience of coming here is for those who arrive with so much less than I did. Slowly Adrian and Anna took shape in my mind, and as I have dwelt with them in the writing of the script, seeing their dreams and fear and love unfold, they have only become more vivid to me, their existence more insistent; almost as though they are inviting me to new experience through this project, rather than me trying to bring them to life somehow.
Now, much more than fulfilling a long-held personal wish, my goal is to make a film that creates for these characters the place they deserve; a place where we as an audience can witness right alongside them the world that unfolds through the pursuit of their dreams, dwelling intimately with them as they navigate their way through the chaotic reality of a place, conjuring fragments of song to guide their path.
There are two key ways in which the film will draw us into the characters' experience: firstly, by filming in an intimate and immediate style directly on the streets of the city; and secondly through music. The raw style of the film will suddenly give way at key moments to song, and the film will culminate with a musical number, which the characters will share directly with one another on the street, through it finding the courage to continue forward.
Mixing these styles - putting fast-paced filming on city streets right alongside the care and patience demanded to bring the musical moments to life - will a big challenge, both artistically and practically; but in pushing me and my collaborators to find a new way of acting and living in the city, and by forcing us to rely deeply on one another, it will place us on the same footing as the characters. Between Dreamers will, through this approach, offer the viewer a unique entrance into the freedom - to experience and express our needs and hopes and emotions with abandon - that is the hallmark of the musical.
It is only because of my excitement for the team of collaborators developing around this project that I feel confident in asking for your support – in asking you to play a role in that team as well, and to be a part of the community that will form through this project. Here is a quick introduction to the core members of our team:
Susan Springer Anderson (Art Director & Production Designer) is an artist and art educator based in Los Angeles. Working in a multitude of mediums, she has shown her work in galleries and alternative spaces extensively on the east coast and in California. A regular collaborator on Almond Tree Film productions, she has been a member of the design, costume, and production teams on Lucky Life (2010), Abigail Harm (2012), and a number of previous short films by Samuel Gray Anderson.
Lee Isaac Chung (Cinematographer) grew up in Lincoln, Arkansas, a small town in the Ozark Mountains where his family owned a farm. He studied Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Yale and, after exposure to international cinema in his senior year, dropped plans for medical school to become a filmmaker.
His first film, Munyurangabo, premiered at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival to great acclaim. Variety called the film "an astonishing and thoroughly masterful debut" American critic Roger Ebert called it "a beautiful and powerful film - a masterpiece." His second film, Lucky Life, was developed at the Cinefondation at the Cannes Film Festival and premiered at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival and 2010 Torino Film Festival. His third film, Abigail Harm, won the grand jury prize and best director at the LA Asian Pacific Film Festival. In recognition of his work, Isaac was awarded a USA Artist Ford Fellowship in 2012. He is based in Los Angeles.
Claire Holley (Composer): A native Mississippian, Claire Holley began performing and writing songs in college, but released some of her first recordings while living in North Carolina. She began getting regular airplay on WUNC's Back Porch Music and signed with the indie label Yep Roc Records. Over the last twenty years, Claire has recorded and released eleven albums. On her latest, Time in the Middle,her songwriting is filled with “simple truths and timeless imagery that cannot be worn away with repeated listenings.” (No Depression). Her songs have been featured on NPR's Weekend Edition as well as in films, theatre productions and television shows. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two sons.
A.C. Neel (Producer) is a screenwriter and creative producer originally from Indiana. A.C. co-wrote and produced the feature film We Grew Up Here (2014), which premiered at the Chicago International Movies & Music Festival. He currently resides in Los Angeles, where he recently completed his Master's in Theology and the Arts at Fuller Theological Seminary. He is also the Director of Film Programming for Level Ground, a non-profit seeking to curate community, aesthetic experiences, and film screenings to foster meaningful conversations about contentious topics.
Eugene Suen (Producer) is a Taiwanese-American filmmaker and producer based in Los Angeles. Raised in Taipei and Chicago, he is a member of Almond Tree Films with Lee Isaac Chung and Samuel Gray Anderson, the team behind the award-winning Munyurangabo, an official selection at Cannes, Toronto, Berlin, and winner of the grand prize at AFI Fest. He produced Lee Isaac Chung's Abigail Harm starring Amanda Plummer and Will Patton, an official selection at Busan, Torino, and winner of the Grand Prize and the Best Director award at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. His other filmmaking credits include producing This Is Comedy, a French documentary about the filmmaker Judd Apatow. He is also the Co-Director of the Reel Spirituality film institute at Fuller Seminary.
How you can take part:
We are currently seeking a minimum of $8,000, to go toward the production of the film. We will shoot the film in January around Los Angeles, with the goal of having a completed version edited by the end of May. Your support will impact all of the key elements of production: salaries for the actors and crew, equipment rental, and the costs of securing locations (permits, insurance, and space rental). Because of the unique musical nature of the project, your support will also contribute to the composition of original music, which will happen concurrently with our preparations for filming.
If we reach our stretch goal of $12,000, this will enable us to pay actors and crew salaries that more fully compensate them for their time and dedication to this project. Filming on the streets of Los Angeles is not easy, and your additional support will also help cover additional location costs, making it much easier to secure the exact locations we need and do full justice to the experience of encountering the city for the first time.
Here is handy breakdown of costs we are anticipating:
Actors’ salary: $1700
Crew salary: $2500
Music composition: $1000
Equipment rental: $1500
Insurance & permits: $2300
Marketing / Campaign Perks: $750
Any support beyond our stretch goal will go toward the post-production process: editing, sound mixing, and finishing the film for exhibition. Any head-start we can have on covering this portion of our budget, which will likely cost between $5000 and $7000, would have an immense influence in bringing this story to audiences in a timely manner and in the most vivid form possible.
My deepest thanks for giving your interest to this project, and for considering joining our team of collaborators as we begin the journey with these characters. I feel a deep excitement for the ways in which making this project will shape all of us who are involved, both as individuals and as a collaborative team; and it would give me great joy to partner in this experience with you as well.