In early 2018 we decided that making a series of short musical films would be a great way to help us share our musical story. We reached out to our dear friend Leah Bonvissuto – a theatre director and communication coach we’ve known and loved for 20 years. Leah came on as our project coach – showering us with positive encouragement and offering valuable insights. And she agreed to direct the actors in our films – as she’d done so beautifully in our A Circle of Diamonds film (with Edie Windsor).
We also reached out to filmmaker Matthew Gurren who we’d met in 2017 when our musical Marry Harry played at The York Theatre where he’s the videographer. Totally sweet and supportive, Matt helped us plan the logistics, create a budget, and figure out what we’d need technically to pull off the vision we described to him. Happily, our Marry Harry musical director Eric Svejcar was also available, as were Marry Harry’s sound designer Julian Evans and production designer Kevin Maloof.
After launching a crowd funding campaign we picked a date to film and started searching for venues. Happily we learned that The York – our New York City theatre home – would love to host us if we could squeeze ourselves into a Sunday and Monday when their main stage show, Midnight at the Never Get, was dark. Once we had our dates – October 14th and 15th – We began reaching out to some of the great musical theatre performers we’ve worked with over the years to see who might be available. We were thrilled by the response – Billy Bustamante, Annie Golden, Brandon Haagenson, Donnie Hammond, Austin Ku, Jillian Louis, Jesse Manocherian, Sheri Sanders, Howie Michael Smith and Nicole Van Giesen all agreed to participate.
Our filming schedule was extremely tight – allowing us to spend only about 90 minutes on each song. Leah suggested we use hand held mics to save on setup time, music stands so that our singers could refer to the scores if needed, and to celebrate rather than hide the fact that we were filming in an empty theatre.
We decided – since both our budget and our time in the theatre were very lean – to hold off filming some of our more complex songs (quartets, quintets) and to focus on the solos. We did decide to include one trio – You Do Not Know Me – which we felt was thematically important to include in the first phase of this project as it deals with the concept of coming out from the POV of three closeted characters. Leah also encouraged us to appear in one of the films together – even though we rarely perform. We chose There is a River for this intimate film.
Javier Muñoz, who we’ve loved working with over the past 10 years, enthusiastically agreed to participate in the project – but was out of town shooting an independent film in October so we weren’t able to include him in the first shoot. In mid-November he was back in New York with a small window of time so we decided to find another date when Leah and Matt and Eric were also available and to film him at Shelter Island Sound – a midtown recording studio. On the evening of November 19th we filmed Javi singing 3 of our songs.
Since then we’ve been in post production – editing film and sound with Matt and Julian, adding titles, creating a trailer, and prepping our Amazing Queer Songbook website – with the much-appreciated help of our beloved niece Michael-Ann Matticoli. Our plan is to release a new film every week or two throughout the Spring and Summer of 2019.
Photo 2018. Filming Javier Muñoz at Shelter Island Sound, NYC