July 25--Independent filmmakers Paul Rothbart and Cooper Campbell haven't followed the most traditional paths to the movie industry. But with the release of their first short film last year, "Isn't it Romantic?," the two reached a milestone they hope to expand upon.
"At a very early age we decided to be artists and it didn't matter where or at what level of success ... honestly, we're living our dream," said Campbell.
Their 13-minute flick, "Isn't it Romantic?," centers on a bemused film director, famous for his romance movies. The twist -- he's completely oblivious to all romantic signals at home.
"A long time back I told my girlfriend (at the time) that I would write her a romantic comedy and she told me I didn't have a romantic bone in my body. So, I wrote one that she liked," said Rothbart. "It gave me the idea for this character."
The film has had a favorable reception, receiving a positive review on filmthread.com and amusing the audience at the Carmarthen Bay Film Festival in Wales. It's on the docket for some upcoming festivals in New York, and the two hope it will air at DC Shorts in September.
Rothbart, 52, grew up in the same Brooklyn neighborhood as Woody Allen and had been motivated to make a movie since high school. He spent more than 10 years as a stand-up comedian, inspired heavily by Allen and Richard Lewis, working the clubs of New York City and traveling the East Coast. After having a son, he decided to put his show business career on hiatus and move to New Milford where he resides.
Campbell, who is in her 40s, grew up in Torrington and earned a bachelor's in theater from Southern Connecticut State University. She moved to Los Angeles where she worked as a model and actress for 13 years. She began writing in California and brought the practice back to the East Coast.
The two met a couple of years ago at a screenwriting group based out of New Milford. Rothbart introduced a concept script for "Isn't it Romantic?" to the group, and Campbell provided valuable insight. They have been writing partners ever since.
"It's been such a blessing, we're so like-minded ...The group went the wayside and we just kept going," said Campbell, who lives in Torrington.
Now, with one notch on their filmmaking belt, the two face the challenge of balancing their daily lives with the pre-production phase of their next film, "My Spirited Sister."
Rothbart is employed at his mother's and brother's laundromat in New Milford, where his supportive family grants him flexible hours to accommodate his writing.
"I look at it (working at the laundromat) as taking on a role," said Rothbart.
Cooper works as a substitute teacher, mostly at the elementary school where she attended and performed in her first play.
"They turned the theater into a library," said Cooper. "It's like I came full circle. I started as an actor and became a writer." She and Rothbart take on various writing assignments in addition to their film-related efforts.
The two are still working on the script for their next film, and begin fundraising this month with a campaign on kickstarter, a global crowd-funding site for the arts that has helped fulfill dreams in an array of artistic disciplines.
"It's like the Renaissance when people who loved art gave money to artists," said Rothbart.
Donors can allot certain amounts to a project and often receive perks depending on the value of their contribution. For instance, during the fundraising campaign for "Isn't it Romantic," Rothbart offered donors an array of benefits, such as producing credit, chances to come on the set and opportunities to be an extra.
Rothbart and Campbell aim to raise $20,000 by October, at which point they will begin shooting their next flick. The filmmakers hope to incorporate a better production value with "My Spirited Sister," about a young girl haunted by the spirit of her deceased sister. Rothbart is excited to use more creative shots and visual effects in the ghost scenes.
While this next film probably won't be much longer than their debut feature, Rothbart and Campbell have big aspirations for the future.
"Ultimately, we would like to be co-writing and co-directing feature films down the line," said Campbell.
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