After scoring a success on the festival circuit with his first feature “The New Year,” Brett Haley is hoping that audiences will find that what’s old is new again. And we’re not really referring to his eternally youthful 70-year-old star Blythe Danner.
“I’m just excited to tell a story about people that get overlooked by Hollywood for the most part,” says Haley, who is currently raising funds on Kickstarter for his latest movie “I’ll See You in My Dreams” before a February 4th deadline. “I don’t think films like this come along often.”
If the film’s clever pitch video is any indication, that isn’t hyperbole on Haley’s part. Having already shined a light on a young woman (Trieste Kelly Dunn) living on the fringe of the Florida coast in his debut, the writer/director is turning his attention to senior community with “I’ll See You in My Dreams.” A light romantic drama starring Danner as a woman who gave up a singing career to start a family and is shaken 15 years after her husband’s death by the passing of her beloved pooch, the film will follow Danner’s Carol as she regains her joie de vivre with the help of two men, a gentleman of her own age who believes in seizing the moment and a younger man (Martin Starr) who like Carol, is unsure of what path his life will take next but shares her passion for music. (Naturally, Haley is already promising one memorable karaoke scene.)
In fact, it was Haley’s own curiosity about what comes next that led to “I’ll See You in My Dreams.” Following “The New Year,” the filmmaker had taken a job as an assistant editor on the OWN series “Our America with Lisa Ling” where he worked on an episode about aging in America and found himself wondering about what people do at a time when it would be easy to think their best years are behind them.
“I was syncing the footage and I found myself very taken by some of the subjects,” says Haley. “Carol, the lead character, popped into my head. I started thinking about her life and what things were like for someone at that age. I had worked with Marc Basch, my co-writer, on a short film and I pitched him the idea over drinks. He loved it as much as I did and we immediately started writing.”
Their script attracted the attention of Danner and Starr, his first choice for both roles, and soon enough, he was assembling a decorated crew, primarily from his alma mater North Carolina School for the Arts, to help him mount the production. Although an already tight-knit group of collaborators and partner in the New York-based production company part2pictures should significantly reduce the stress on the planned 18-day shoot, the cost of shooting in Los Angeles and the need for additional equipment required Haley to turn to crowdsourcing. However, already, Haley has seen the benefits of raising capital this way, not only financially but creatively.
“I hadn’t spent much time with older people, per se, before or during the writing of the script. I like to let my imagination of certain scenarios and people do most of the work when I write,” says Haley, who visited a retirement community with Starr to make the Kickstarter video to see how true to life the film’s story was. “The people we interviewed were so amazing and I think what Marc and I wrote is very honest and insightful to the reality of what older people are going through these days. Martin and I still talk about what a great experience that was. Everyone we talked to was so full of life and energy – it was amazing, and so inspirational.”
With a little help from the crowd, people may be saying the same thing about “I’ll See You in My Dreams” a year from now.