From Vision to Reality: Telling the Story of Kepler’s Dream
Determined to create a work of cinematography that was not based on a theatrical play, Professor Amy Glazer spent her last sabbatical bringing to life Kepler’s Dream, the coming-of-age story of a young girl, Ella. Working alongside Sylvia Brownrigg, the author of the novel on which the film is based, with support from screenwriter Mitch Glazer (Scrooged, The Recruit, Great Expectations), Patricia Resnick (Nine to Five), and Cinco Paul (Despicable Me) to adapt the film into a screenplay, Glazer knew this was a story that needed to be told.
“It was about forgiveness. It was about an 11-year-old girl and it spoke so directly and deeply to the 11-year-old girl inside of me,” Glazer recalled. “When I finished the read, I was in tears, but also elated because I knew I had found my next feature film.”
As the director, Glazer worked tirelessly to assemble a cast that would do the story justice. Kerry Barden of Barden/Schnee Casting in Santa Monica helped her work through the arduous process. The duo put together a cast led by a young girl who reminded Glazer of a young Sylvia Brownrigg, the author of the book. From there, Glazer added Kelly Lynch (Drugstore Cowboy, Curly Sue), Holland Taylor (Two and a Half Men, The Truman Show), Sean Patrick Flanery (The Boondock Saints), and Steven Michael Quezada (Breaking Bad), among others, to the cast. Additional cast was hired in New Mexico, where Kepler’s Dream was being filmed, in an effort to recreate and reflect the world of Santa Fe.
While complications arose at every turn, including increased difficulty finding and putting together a production team, Glazer endeavored to make her vision a reality. She connected with cinematographer Nancy Schreiber, who understood Glazer’s sensibility and aesthetics as well as her focus on performance. Glazer’s commitment to the story, alongside her philosophy stemming from her long experience directing for the theater, were key to her film directing philosophy; Schreiber and Glazer created quite the collaboration.
Several students and former students of Glazer’s were involved in the film, including Associate Producer Oscar Arguello, who contributed significantly to the success of the film, and Vijay Rajan, who worked closely in the process of developing the script and earned a writing credit on the film. Student responses to each version of the project also helped Glazer shape the film during its creation, and they remained involved in the experience of adapting source material into a screenplay. “Because it was a film about young people and for young people, their feedback and input was enormously valuable,” Glazer remarked. With her students and cast behind her, the monumental effort that Glazer put into creating Kepler’s Dream did not go unrewarded. Her dedication to the project, three years time from the inception of the idea to post-production in England, speaks to her commitment to her craft. She also gained a wealth of experiences and opportunities that came from long days of filming and revision, which ultimately came together to tell the story of Kepler’s Dream.
To those looking to get involved in film direction, Glazer advises: “Do as much preparation before you start shooting as you possibly can, because shooting a film feels a lot like going into battle. You are battling the environment and the weather, a schedule that’s often unrealistic and much shorter than you need, as well as the money people who are standing over you with great concern that every choice and every change will “up” the budget. Also, when you are doing a union shoot, as this was, there are many rules and regulations that must be adhered to that also compromise your ability to improvise or react more spontaneously and more creatively as one might in on a smaller budget film. And through all this you have to set the tone and the culture for collaboration that will motivate your team to do their finest work. Because at the end of the day what you have, what is captured, is all there is. And there is no going back. So it is necessary to keep the spirits up and to motivate this diverse team of artists from the art director and production designer, to the people serving us our meals, to the location folks, and finally, to the actors. It is a tricky dance and takes a great deal of tenacity, focus and sheer force of will!”
Following her own advice, Kepler’s Dream is a film to be proud of, provoking audience responses that ranged from excitement to tears. At the 39th Annual Mill Valley Film Festival, the film received an Audience Favorite Award, Silver Medal, in the Family Film Category. Glazer explained, “For me, telling meaningful stories is what I’m about, and what my life’s work has been about. This was a story for all the little girls in the world who have to face the harsh realities that life sometimes deals them. I hope it helps them face life’s trials and tribulations, and I hope it helps then forgive the imperfections of families and parenting. I also hope it teaches them to be brave and courageous and to believe in the power of all kinds of family. Finally, it is an homage to ‘great books’ and the love of reading as a powerful source of inspiration”