Fighting For His Vision: First Time Filmmaker Races Against Blindness

on Wednesday, Aug. 1st

First time filmmaker Jack Marchetti doesn’t know how long it will be until he loses his sight.

“The main problem I have is just night vision,” said Marchetti. “If there’s not a decent amount of light around I might as well close my eyes and do it that way. Dark bars, dark restaurants are really a problem. Which really makes socializing with co-workers kind of suck because everyone always wants to go out for drinks and it’s like ‘Well I don’t want to ask you guys to walk me to the bathroom.’ It’s the only time I ever feel handicapped: when I’m in a very dark bar or a very dark restaurant.”

As a child Marchetti was diagnosed with cone rod dystrophy, a degenerative disease that his older brother also had. For most of their lives Marchetti’s brother had the stronger vision. That all changed a few years ago.

“I bump into things, he bumps into things,” said Marchetti, ”but this was just ridiculous. He couldn’t navigate anything. I kind of wondered: what’s wrong, what happened? It just started going on him.”

His brother’s rapid descent– he’s now on disability– put a ticking clock on Marchetti’s dreams. He’s been writing screenplays for ten years now.

“Just on a whim I had an idea for a screenplay based off this old RPG that I used to play with friends of mine called Top Secret. I started writing it in Word and then I downloaded Movie Magic Screenwriter. It was like a 30-Day trial and when the trial was up it was 250 bucks to buy it. At that point I thought: ‘If I don’t buy this I’m never gonna keep writing.’”

He began entering his work into screenplay contests. His noir style crime script 4 of a Kind, about a war vet in Chicago set with the task of taking down his old gang, earned praise on the competition circuit.

“This was the first script that I wrote that people that weren’t related to me or knew me or felt anything about my feelings told me was good.”

Fearing that his vision would slip away as suddenly as his brother’s, Marchetti has turned to Kickstarter to put together the funding for a feature length version of 4 of a Kind.

“This is the one that if someone took it or bought it off me and did it themselves I’d always feel a little regret that I wasn’t the one that didn’t create it,” said Marchetti. “Any time that I come back to it and read some of the dialog or read the circumstances that the characters are in, it’s almost like reacquainting with a lost friend. It’s kind of messed up because these guys aren’t the most upstanding citizens in the world. They’re basically criminals. I don’t know what that says about me as a person.”

Marchetti is looking to raise $100,000. It’s a tall order for anyone on the crowdfunding service, and even more so for someone without an established fan base.

“I didn’t have a built in audience so there wasn’t like 20,000 people I could immediately email and say ‘Hey, this is live, go give five bucks.’”

The campaign is going slower than Marchetti would like, and the deck might just be stacked against him here. As popular as Kickstarter has become it is still a tough road for unestablished talents. An early tweet by author Neil Gaiman, once an event that could single-handedly make a campaign, seems to have barely moved the meter.

To make up for his first-time status Marchetti has enlisted the aid of a campaign consultant: filmmaker Lucas McNelly. [Disclosure: McNelly writes the Crowdfunding 201 column for Turnstyle, but beyond making us aware of Marchetti has had no influence on this article.] Together they’ve aggressively structured the rewards of the campaign, including options for “personalizing” the movie through the inclusion of backer artifacts: music, artwork, etc. It’s a novel approach, one they’ve scaled up through the rewards structure to turn the movie into a kind of pay-for-play crowdsourcing.

With 23 days left to go the Kickstarter for 4 of a Kind has cleared 11% of the goal. The campaign’s biggest problem so far appears to be reach: the “20,000 people” figure Marchetti noted isn’t just an off-hand remark, but a sober estimation of how many people he’ll have to connect with in order to get the campaign funded. So far between the two Facebook “like” buttons associated with the campaign just over 1800 people have taken the time to push a button and 222 have pledged financing.

Of course, the promise of Kickstarter is that all it takes is one lucky shuffle to win it all.

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