Feb. 18, 2013

Winter Shorts

"Death in the Family" has been selected as one of the Winter Shorts at the inaugural Red Hook Film Festival on Saturday, Feb. 23.

Robert George, founder of the festival, says he was actually inspired by our film to start a film festival in Red Hook, New York. That's upstate, near Rhinebeck, not Brooklyn -- for you New Yorkers!

Red Hook is the home of Roland Vazquez, the fabulous composer who provided the music for DITF.

I am looking forward to showing alongside some wonderful filmmakers I met on the circuit last year. I am also excited to see the works by Bard and Red Hook High School students and to see where the discussion afterward takes us.

If you are in the area, come out and see some great films!

Aug. 22, 2012

We are heading back to where we started!

"Death in the Family" has been selected for the Harlem International Film Festival!

Nearly one year ago, we shot the film in Harlem and now we are returning to the place where it all began.

This is the seventh year for the festival, which boasts Susan Sarandon and Mira Nair on its board and has presented films by Adrian Grenier and Mario Van Peebles.

The festival runs from Sept. 19-23. Stay tuned for details on when the film will be screened.  

July 10, 2012

Silver Award

June was a busy month for "Death in the Family." The film was screened at back-to-back festivals
, the Philadelphia International Film Festival and the Litchfield Hills Film Festival in Connecticut.

"Death in the Family" was awarded the silver award for short film in Philadelphia!

Actor J Leon Pridgen II, who plays the father in the film, joined Zainab Ali and I in Philadelphia, where we had a crowd of about 50 for the screening at the African American Museum.

November Rawlings, the production designer and film's publicist, came to Torrington, CT, for the Hills Film Festival, where I answered questions about the film along with a panel of other short filmmakers.

We were in great company with so many other wonderful films and filmmakers.

Details for Film Festivals:


2012 Philadelphia International Film Festival
Saturday, June 23 at 4:30 pm

African American Museum

701 Arch St.
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Tickets available at museum box office or by calling: (215) 849-2716

For more information on festival:

2012 Litchfield Hills Film Festival
Saturday, June 30 at 9:45 am

The Warner Theatre
68 Main Street
Torrington, CT 06790

Tickets available online and at Warner Theatre Box Office:

For more information on festival:

June 13, 2012

Around this time last year, Zainab Ali, the executive producer of "Death in the Family," suggested we make a short film. Not only have we made the film, but we will be screening our short at its first festivals this month.

Up first, the Philadelphia International Film Festival, where the film will make its Philadelphia premiere! The film is scheduled to screen at 4:30 pm Saturday, June 23 at the African American Museum in Philadelphia. We are also up for an award.

A week later, the film will screen at the Litchfield Hills Film Festival at 9:45 am Saturday, June 30 at the historic Warner Theatre in Torrington, CT. We're very excited to screen on the same day that Campbell Scott will show his latest independent feature and the festival gala will be held.

I hope you can join us for one of these events. Spread the word! And hope to see you there!

Mar. 27, 2012:

What a whirlwind month! We began with the premiere screening of "Death in the Family" in New York City, returning to the place where we shot it, Harlem!

At the wonderful Maysles Cinema -- yes, as in Albert "Grey Gardens" Maysles -- about 60 friends, family and supporters of the film gathered for two screenings.

Zainab Ali, the executive producer, and I hosted the screening and were happy to be joined by our talented young actress Alexis Donovan and members of the crew, including November Rawlings, Vanessa Lapolla, Lorielle Mallue and Arvolyn Hill. Artist Michael Cummings, who provided his fabulous quilts for the film, also attended.

My sister Crystal Fisher, whose story is told in the film, drove all the way from North Carolina to be at the first screening!

The response to the film was overwhelmingly positive. As hoped, the film provoked a lively discussion afterward and left the audience hungry for more (can you say feature!).

Here's one of the comments:

"I was very impressed with the film...the story was extremely moving and can easily be a full length feature...I  was left with so many questions and emotions and wanted to know more about each of the characters and the journey they were each facing both as individuals and as a family." -- Jackie Rada

After the NYC screening, I traveled to Atlanta to visit with my best friends Tananarive Due and Olympia Duhart and shared the film at a gathering of writers and artists. The response left me glowing.

West Coast friends of the film gathered in San Francisco March 21 for the film's second screening. Major contributor Eddie Blough flew up from San Diego to be there. Zainab and my sister Leslie Fisher, one of the film's producers, hosted the event, and were joined by Daniel O'Neill, our esteemed cinematographer.

There were more tears and laughter for the two screenings. Here are a couple of the comments:

"The film really moved me. I'm still processing it." -- Lynda Jordan

"What a great job. I left the place wondering about their path ...  I loved the fact the end is so open to imagination." -- Martha Aquiar

On the heels of our successful screenings, we learned that "Death in the Family" was officially selected for the Litchfield Hills Film Festival and will be shown at the historic Warner Theatre in Torrington, CT.

The festival is June 28 through July 1. Start making your plans to attend now!

We're still submitting to other festivals and waiting to hear back from some others. And we're continuing to schedule screenings around the country. Our goal remains to get the film out to the widest audience possible. With your help, we're doing that!

Dec. 5:

Apologies that it's been nearly two months since my last update!

I'll cut right to the chase: "Death in the Family" is finished!

We finished the final edit and sound mix just ahead of the Nov. 14 submission deadline for the Berlin Film Festival.

Zainab Ali, the executive producer, and I started this process with that one deadline in mind. The Berlinale has a rich tradition of screening some of the best short films in the world and we want to be a part of that.

We also met the Nov. 15 deadline to submit for South by Southwest in Austin, Tx.

Last week, I submitted the film to the San Francisco Film Festival and the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.

We've got a few others we will submit to by late December, early January. Fingers crossed, the film will be accepted at a festival near you!

Many of you have been asking: when can we see it??

I'm eager for you to see it too. While we submit to various festivals in America and abroad, we have to be careful about screening the film or putting it online.

In the meantime, Z has arranged a screening for friends of the film in San Francisco for Dec. 14.

I am looking into doing the same thing in the New York area soon. So stay tuned for that.

When I look at this film I see the fingerprints of all who have contributed, financially or otherwise. For me, it makes the film so much more special.

I'll never forget the flurry of donations near the end of our Oct. 31 deadline. As many of you know, we had a fluke winter storm just before Halloween in Connecticut and lost power, including heat and running water, for six days.

Your generosity toward the film kept my spirits bolstered!

We continue to receive donations from people, putting us just a few hundred dollars away from our original goal of $15,000. Thank you!

We are still paying for the post production of the film as well as submission fees for various festivals, so your contributions are greatly appreciated!

Oct. 13:

The response to the trailer for "Death in the Family" has been incredible!

In just over 24 hours, it's been viewed 250 times. And the response we've been getting has been overwhelmingly positive.

People are moved by the performances, the photography, the music, the tone. They are sharing the link and getting the word out about the film.

Today, the New York Daily News, with 40,000 followers tweeted about the film and our "give a dollar" campaign.

People are also sharing their stories. I heard from one woman through Twitter today who thought of her own childhood experience while watching the trailer and decided to go for her dream of becoming a filmmaker.

I'm hoping we can capture some of those stories on the site here very soon.

Oct. 7:

We did it!

We shot the entire film in two days. Many people told us it couldn't be done. One person who never stop believing was our esteemed executive producer, Zainab "Z" Ali.

Without Z, there would be no film. Z (bottom, left) was the one who got this crazy ball rolling.

True, I was ready to tell my story. It is not lost on me that in a few months I will be 45, the same age my mother was when she lost her battle to breast cancer.

My mother completed her college degree after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She taught me there is no expiration date on your dreams.

I think Mom and the film gods were shining on us last Friday and Saturday. We managed to get all our outdoor shots done between rainy days. Our crew worked long and hard without complaint but with plenty of laughter. You can read about them on the Bios page.

I was so privileged to work with a wonderful cast. Each of them turned in riveting performances. You can also read more about them on the Bios page.

I can't wait for you to see the film!

Look for a trailer and photos from the shoot very soon.

The film is being edited as I write. We've got some deadlines to meet. First is Oct. 18, when we submit it to the African American Women in Cinema Film Festival in New York City.

Cannes and Berlin film festival deadlines follow in mid November.

We've managed to raise over half our goal, which allowed us to shoot the film. Now we've got to raise the other half to pay for the post production.

If you're on Twitter, please follow the film at!/DITF_film

We have a "give a dollar" campaign going and we can use all your help to spread the word.

Thank you all for your love and support. We feel it!

Sept. 21:

Just over a week until we shoot and we've hit our share of speed bumps, but we keep on rolling!

I won't go into all the details. We'll save that for the behind-the-scenes footage on the DVD. Needless to say making a film in a perfect world isn't easy, and making one in my "perfectly imperfect" world -- to borrow a phrase from Victoria Rowell -- is even harder.

Today, Victoria, who just returned from a two-week jaunt in Turkey, asked me, "Are you stressed or managing?" I paused and said, "Both."

Little signs like the message on my Yogi "stress relief" tea bag let me know to stay the course.

Your contributions and continued support for the project also keep our spirits lifted and allow us to keep going with the film.

Thank you to all of you who have made a contribution, financial or otherwise. Even though we shoot next Friday and Saturday, we will continue to need your help for post production -- editing, color correcting, sound mixing, etc.

People continue to respond to the film's story with their own similar stories. Another friend recently shared her battle with breast cancer and her gratitude at being able to watch her  daughters grow up.

My friend Susan, the author SARK, tweeted earlier today: "Write your life so that others may be illuminated."

I hope this film will be a light in the world.

But first we've got to make it!

Check out the bio for Alexis Donovan, our fourth cast member. At 12, she's already a rising star and will appear in the directorial debut of Geoffrey Fletcher, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of "Precious."

We've got a wonderful cast and crew and we're all excited to roll camera next week!

Look for pictures and more here.

Sept. 10
Hi everyone! Welcome to the "Death in the Family" film website.

I hope to keep updating this blog as we go along so that you follow the progress of the film.

First of all I want to say thank you and thank you again to all the people who have already donated to this project. You are helping to make this film, which makes you a part of it.
Keep the donations coming! We shoot on Sept. 30, less than three weeks and we are literally paying for this as we go along.

Some of you may wonder how in the world I'm doing this. For my friends, you know I just had a baby boy a year ago. And I have two older boys, both in school, a part-time job at ABC, a loving husband and way too many commitments like most of us. What I realize amidst my crazy busy life is that there will never be a "good" or "right" time to do anything. The only time we have is now, and somehow I've been able to harness the power of now. (No, I haven't read that book yet, but it is on my list!)

My friend Zainab Ali, the executive producer on the film, asked me back in July (only two months ago) if I had any ideas for a short film. I told her no -- I was a tired and overwhelmed mommy -- but I would edit whatever film she made. Thank goodness she didn't take no for an answer. She sent me an e-mail from the Sundance Institute, which was putting on a short films lab, a workshop for a day in Brooklyn. She asked me if I wanted to go. My older boys both had birthday parties that day, so I figured my husband could handle the three kids on his own. I said yes.

That day changed my life.

I heard Debra Granik speak. She wrote and directed "Winter's Bone." If you haven't seen it, do so now. The film received several nominations, including best screenplay for Debra.

Debra was an inspiration. Not only was she around my age, but she approached filmmaking almost like a documentary filmmaker, which I am. She takes real lives and real events and shapes them into a compelling story arc.

Suddenly, the ideas were flowing. I sat down, wrote "Death in the Family" over the course of a few days, with lots of interruptions from kids. (I take inspiration here from Julia Glass, who wrote her debut novel "Three Junes" while being a stay-at-home mom of three boys. Oh and she won the National Book Award for it. Read it if you haven't!).

I sent the script to my friend, actress Victoria Rowell, just before leaving on vacation. She wrote me back with the character's name in the subject heading and the word "calling," as if she were that character and said: "Congrats on a beautifully written short. I was in the room. Let me know what you need from me."

I am still amazed that all the actors have responded to the story in much the same way. They have all agreed to take NO money up front in order to be in the film. Of course, we hope to sell the film after taking it on the festival circuit, so that we can pay everyone. But it is a testament to a good story that people have been willing to do what they can to help us.

Let me tell you about two of those people now.

The woman who is allowing us to use her lovingly restored Harlem brownstone for the shoot is also a supporter of the arts. When I told her about the story, she revealed that she too had gone through a similar situation when she was 22 and her mother died. Zainab and I have since heard from others who experienced the same thing or know someone who has.

Another big supporter of the project I am proud to say is Harlem artist and quilter Michael Cummings.

Michael's quilts are collected by Bill and Camille Cosby, Whoopi Goldberg and others. They are displayed all over the world, including an upcoming exhibition in Japan. If you are unfamiliar with his work, check out his website:

Quilt by Michael Cummings
Quilt by Michael Cummings

Michael is graciously allowing us to use some of his quilts in the film. The quilts will figure prominently in the film, since the mother who dies in "Death in the Family" was a quilter.

So that's the background on how we got here. Keep checking back, as I will updating on our progress!
Sept 10, 2011: Website, Facebook Pages Launched, actors Victoria Rowell, April Betts & J. Leon Pridgen announced as cast members.
Sept. 20: Announced 12-year-old Alexis Donovan as the final member of the cast.
Sept 30: Scheduled Start of Filming in New York City
Oct. 1: Shooting Wrap
Oct. 12: Trailer Is Out!
Nov. 14: Submitted film to Berlin Film Festival
Nov. 15: Submitted film to Austin's South by Southwest Festival
Dec. 2: Submitted film to Tribeca and San Francisco Film Festivals.
Mar. 1, 2012: Premiere Screening in New York City at Maysles Cinema
Mar. 21: San Francisco Premiere Screening at Delancey Theater
Mar. 23: "Death in the Family" accepted as an official selection in the 2012 Litchfield Hills Film Festival in Torrington, CT., June 28-July 1.
May 4: First Public Screening at New Fairfield Public Library in New Fairfield, CT.
June 23: Film Screened at Philadelphia International Film Festival. Wins the Silver Award for Short Film.
June 30: Film Screened at the Litchfield Hills Film Festival.
Aug. 22: Film is an official selection for the Harlem International Film Festival
Feb. 23, 2013: Film will be screened at the inaugural Red Hook Film Festival in New York