Category Archives: The documentary

SMSMK film update!

It took me a couple of weeks to get back into a “normal” (quotes used because my life – and schedule – are nothing normal!) life. The first two days back from being on the road for twenty were a bit of a culture shock. The day after we got home, I didn’t leave the couch. My body wasn’t used to NOT packing, checking out of the hotel, and filming. It was very eerie, to say the least.

Jimmy has been hard at work getting the trailer done. He worked with a graphics guy in the past, and he’s agreed to do the trailer for free. We’ve been lucky to have the contacts we do! Durrell will be doing the score, and he’s excited to get working on that, too.

So, right now, I’m just waiting for the trailer. Once we get that, it will be easier to raise more funds and (hopefully) get another couple sponsors.

The film festival deadlines are in September and October. I really want to get into Sundance and SXSW (my personal favorite!) this coming year. If we don’t make it, we have to wait a full year to submit for January 2015. It sounds so far off, but time has been flying. Because the film festivals like to be “first” to show new films, we can’t really show it until they get their hands on it.

In the meantime, I am running my Social Media business and spending quality time with my real friends and special people!

I miss all of the people we saw along the trip. I can’t wait until the film premieres everywhere so I can see them all again.

We filmed with my “brown family” last night!

So, we’ve been back for two weeks. Jimmy and I gave each other a “week off” from working on the film. We finally got to film part of my own story last night at TinyMom’s. Jean was there, and brought all the food that TinyMom couldn’t eat while sick. It was pretty powerful to see. That woman never cheated on her very strict diet. Not once in ten years. When I first met her, she told me that. She also said that because of her diet, she couldn’t eat her favorite food: pizza. Right then & there, I told her that I would buy her her first pizza, as soon as she was able to eat it. We got to have it at our 90-day kidneyversary, which was July 19th, 2011.
One of the things I love doing with her is cooking. She’s taught me a few dishes to make, but mostly I just pitch in and learn while I am there. I can’t wait to learn more of it! I know it won’t taste the same, though.

Here we are last night!
Me and TinyMom

Home & thinking back on the donors in the film

We made it home safely yesterday! Our last interview was on the way home, and the contrast from previous interviews was striking!
We stayed in Little Rock the night before interviewing Cathy. She donated in August, and we have become good friends since then. Now, when she said she lived about 45 minutes outside the city, we were NOT expecting what we were in for. AdsI put the address in the GPS, I got a “some sections of trip are on unpaved roads.” WHAT??? Well, it was her driveway. It was very long, and there was a house halfway up. We pulled in, and just then, I got a text directing us to go all the way to the end. Keep in mind I drive a little VW Golf. So, it was slow-going up the driveway, and we ended up on a mini farm. It was so cool! Three dogs ran out to greet us, and as soon as I got out of the car, I yelled “Where the *&@$ are we???” There were miniature horses, two donkeys, five dogs, and two cats. One of them is 18 and sat on my lap for a good portion of the interview. It was so quiet and peaceful out there. I kept thinking that just a few days earlier, we were on the roof of an apartment building in Manhattan, overlooking the city. Cathy and her husband, Bob, were so awesome and comfortable to be around. We had a great lunch, too. One of the things that meant the most to us along the trip were the meals and treats given to us for the trip.

Me and Cathy

Then, it was homeward bound! Everything was so green and Jimmy got some great shots as we drove over the Mississippi. Our next stop was in Oklahoma City for a night. We were watching the weather intently, because we had heard of bad storms in the area. We got socked that night with tornado warnings, thunder, lightning, and very high winds. I was very sad to hear that the next day (yesterday), they were hit with a 2-mile wide tornado.
We then drove to Albuquerque. I have never had a good experience there, so I wasn’t too excited to get there. We made the most of it, and prepared to leave earlier than normal, since it was our last day on the road.

As we got to Arizona, I was a little sad. That trip was amazing! We met great people, saw a lot of cool stuff, and got a lot of footage. Jimmy said he’s got about 50 hours to sift through as he begins the editing process. The rough cut will take a few months, and we will continue to raise funds for the final edit and submission fees for film festivals.

I can’t believe it’s over. I was really sad when I got home yesterday. Of course, I was glad to be HOME, but we were in such a film making mode, that it felt weird to be home. This morning, I am doing my laundry and finishing the unpacking. Even though I slept well last night, I’m pretty exhausted and won’t be doing much today.

I can’t wait to see the final product!!!

Freezing on the East coast, and on our way home!

When we left Ricky in Chicago, we had two days to spend with our families. Mine is in Buffalo, Jimmy’s is near Poughkeepsie. It was nice to see some familiar faces!

Our interview in Cambridge with John was pretty cool. We shot right on the banks of the Charles. John donated over ten years ago, which is why I asked him to be in the film. He also has a site called Living Donors Online, which is an excellent resource for the donation process. He’s been a huge activist for many, many years, and I learned a lot from him. I suspect we will be working together in the future, once my non-profit gets going.

Me and John

After lunch, we headed to NYC. I was pretty excited about getting there. I hadn’t been in about 15 years! I had never driven there, either. Driving in Manhattan is not pleasant, and I’m a really good, aggressive, driver. My shoulder was in pain the rest of the night and into the next day, from shifting. But, we had awesome interviews!

One of my close friends from high school, Paul, lives close to the city and has done a lot of work in film. He came down to be the second cameraman. We shot our interview with Elissa on her rooftop. We had the entire city scape surrounding us. It was pretty cool.

Me and Elissa

We then headed across the river to Jersey City, NJ, to interview Melissa. One thing we have in common is that both of us were fired from our jobs right before donating. Her interview was fun, and a little snarky, with the Statue of Liberty behind us. We could still see NYC from where we were on the Hudson. Her husband was our second cameraman and we all had lunch after.

Me and Melissa

Next, we were off to Baltimore! Now, what we are doing, is filming people in the morning, with the car already packed, and heading out to the next city right away. We check into our hotel, eat, sleep, get up the next morning to film. But, since Elissa and Melissa were so close, we did two interviews on Tuesday. Then, the drive to Baltimore is about 3 hours. I was exhausted from both interviews and the drive, and barely remember that night. We were there to meet Nancy. She’s been the one I’ve been closest to since donating. We’ve talked on the phone a LOT, and she’s been a huge supporter of this film. She even arranged with a local hotel to put us up for two nights! I knew she’d be crazy, and we had a blast. Liver donor Pam lives near her, so we all spent the day together and went to lunch. We had a day of rest, except for the interview, which we sorely needed. We didn’t have to drive to anything other than the restaurant.

Me and Nancy

We are now in Knoxville. Donate Life Tennessee is putting us up for the night. One of their employees came across my website and reached out to me. I’m still floored, but I’ll take it!

I don’t even know what day it is anymore!

Every day in the car, Jimmy and I try to figure out what day it is. The only reminder about today is Mother’s Day. How crazy is that? I called my mom, who is headed to Canada for a vacation. They left my dog, Dexter, with my sister in Orange County, CA, while they are gone. They won’t be back to Arizona until the 27th. Or 29th. I don’t even remember. I won’t see Dexter until I’m home for a week!
We are driving to Cambridge today. The past few days, we’ve been able to see friends and family. We got to Buffalo (my home town) on Friday night. My friends from high school got together to greet us, which was awesome! I had wings. REAL WINGS!!! We got to Poughkeepsie last night. Jimmy’s cousin lives here, so he stayed with him last night. I requested a late check-out this morning. I am pretty beat. We both are. Seeing familiar faces helped us both, though!
Our last few interviews were with Kris in Minneapolis, Harvey in Chicago, and Ricky in Detroit.
Kris was awesome! She sent us on our way with homemade cookies and caramel popcorn. The popcorn was devoured pretty quickly! We got to meet two of her kids, too. It was a really nice interview! She even had a box of Kleenex set up for us. I have been expecting a tear fest for each interview, but I haven’t had much of a breakdown yet. Frankly, I’m surprised.
meandkris

We then headed to Chicago to interview Harvey. He just got his second transplant late last summer. Harvey has been a HUGE activist in the organ donation community, which is why he is in the film. I learned a lot during his interview! We had Lake Michigan as the backdrop for our filming, and it was a cloudy, windy day. I wasn’t sure what to expect from him, and I’m so glad I included him. We had a little fun and I even asked him which pizza he preferred: Chicago or NY (He is from NYC originally.) He didn’t really answer that question. Hahahahahaha!

meandharvey

Next, Detroit Rock City to interview Ricky! He’s actually the inspiration for this film. A couple weeks before my surgery, I saw on Facebook “Comedian donates kidney because of Facebook post.” What? I’m not the first Social Media donor???? I searched for him on Facebook, and immediately asked him how he felt after surgery. I hadn’t talked to a recent donor yet, and really wanted to know how I would be feeling. He even set us up with a gig that night, because we’ve both been itching to perform. We met him at Beaumont hospital, as he was having his 2-year check-up that day. Everyone there was amazing!! I cried while leaving. Thank you, Ricky, for being there for me!!!
meandricky

We head to Cambridge tonight to interview John in the morning. Then driving to NYC to interview Elissa Tuesday morning. New Jersey that afternoon to interview Melissa. Wednesday, we get to Baltimore to interview Nancy. After that, we are pretty much on our way home. We only have one more stop, in Arkansas. We expect to be home the 21st!

Why my VW Golf rules for #kidneydoc!

While we were beginning to plan this project last summer, we were hoping to get a dealership to sponsor us with a car for the trip. We tried a few dealerships, but didn’t hear back. We were stuck with my car. It’s a 2012, so in great condition and low miles, because I work from home. So, we borrowed a roof rack from my neighbor, got a cargo carrier, and put everything in the hatchback of my Golf. The only things on the roof rack were two suitcases. Well, on the way to Vegas, one of the straps broke. When we checked into the hotel, we saw the cargo carrier was ripped down one side. It had been a very windy ride, and with one strap broken, it moved a little on the roof. We had to ditch it and plan on packing everything into my car.
It’s a 2-door, so that’s even smaller than a regular Golf with 4 doors. Jimmy is over 6 feet tall. We have a LOT of stuff: film equipment, luggage, food, cooler. All of this is for a month-long trip. But, as we were packing to leave Vegas the next day, we got it all in there without obstructing any of the view out the back window. We filmed me packing it one morning. It was like playing Tetris!
This car rocks for #kidneydoc!

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Day 3 of #kidneydoc

Before we left, my neighbor and one of my best friends, Matt, slipped a card under my door. He said to make sure I have some fun, and not make this trip all work. He also said to be open to serendipitous moments. Today was a perfect example of that.
About a month ago, my friend Boomer tweeted to me about a comedian donating his kidney to his brother. I read the article, retweeted it, and let the guy know I was also a donor. His name is Alonzo Bodden. I let him know about #kidneychat on Mondays, and that we would love to hear from a recent donor. He said he would check it out. A couple days later, a friend of mine, Lisa, tweeted to me that he had talked about me on his podcast. I don’t listen to podcasts, so I don’t know what’s out there. So I listened, went to his website, and emailed him. I thanked him for mentioning me, and told him we would love to give him a shirt as thanks while we were going to be in LA. After several emails, we decided on breakfast, then filming in a park. Now, I hadn’t planned on asking him to be in the film. After Googling him, I realized he’s a pretty big deal in comedy. I felt like a jerk for not knowing who he is, because I’m a comedian. I’m just not aware of what’s out there, unless I see it live. I don’t even watch TV. Hahahaha! So, we met up this morning and had breakfast, then followed him around the corner to a park. You could tell that we both instantly changed a bit once the camera turned on. Performers…whatareyagonnado? It was a great interview and a lot of fun!

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We then headed to Pasadena. I chose the people in this film based on the relationships I have built online. Karol Franks was the first person I connected with on Social Media. Her daughter, Jenna, is in need of a second kidney transplant. She is only 27. She is the only one in the film who needs a kidney. We had a nice lunch with the family and got to know each other. They have a gorgeous house that reminds me a lot of growing up back East. The interviews were pretty emotional for me. I knew they would be, but you really can’t prepare for it ahead of time. You have to live in the moment. People need to see emotion in this film!
It was difficult to hear about what Jenna is and will be going through while waiting for a kidney donation. That’s ok, though, because it needs to be difficult for people to hear about. That’s how it’s going to stay in their minds.

mekaroljenna

Tomorrow, we head to Salt Lake City!

Day 2 of #Kidneydoc

Checking out of the hotel in Vegas, we had the nicest bellman from Sudan. He asked us all sorts of questions and was completely fascinated with what we are doing.
As we started to pack the car, an older guy came out and said “Are you gonna fit all that in there?” Well, we had to. The cargo carrier for the top of the car ripped and one of the straps broke on the way from Phoenix. It only had two suitcases in it, so we just moved some stuff around and got it in. The ride to LA was much smoother without it, too.
We didn’t have anyone scheduled to film today, which was good. My friend Jill got us into the green room for Jimmy Kimmel Live! It’s her brother, and when any of us comedians come to LA, she gets us on the list. It was so fun! We met some really cool people, too.
Got our day planned for tomorrow. In the morning, we have breakfast with Alonzo Bodden, then film him. We had wanted a recent donor, and he just donated 5 weeks ago. He’s been really supportive of #kidneychat, and even talked about me on his podcast.
We then go to Pasadena to interview Karol and Jenna. That one is going to be pretty emotional, as Jenna is going to need a second transplant. She’s only 24 and her kidney function is down to 10%. It’s something everyone needs to see, though.
We head to Salt Lake City Saturday morning.
Each stop makes me so excited to meet all these people who I have known via Social Media for 2+ years!

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Day 1 of #kidneydoc was great!

There was no way I was getting a full night’s sleep last night, so I was up at 6 and ready to get on the road! I picked up Jimmy at around 9:15 and we were on the road by 9:45.
My friend Matt loaned me his roof rack, so we could get a cargo carrier for our luggage. Well, the cargo carrier sucks. It was really windy today, and one of the straps broke. No big deal, as there are about 8 straps on it. But, the carrier creates drag, especially in the wind. We also got a chip in the windshield before we even left Phoenix! We got to the hotel around 4, and Kim was already there waiting for us! We had a great time together and the filming was fun. She brought her family by after dinner, so I could meet them. I actually had her mom as a friend on Facebook first, because she is the one who found the Living Donors group on Facebook. That’s Melody. Her husband Travis, son Jager, and daughter Joplyn came along, too. I can’t wait to see them the next time I come up here!

I messaged all of the donors to let them know the new dates of our arrival. The next two days are in LA, and there’s going to be a lot of cool stuff happening!

Me and Kim, the Vegas Donor.

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2 weeks and counting!

I cannot believe that two weeks from this very moment, we will be filming the Vegas donor! We’ve had to be flexible in some of our plans due to fundraising, but that’s ok!
We had to take the Calgary part out of the trip, but will fly Lauren into Bellingham while we are there. It’s cheaper and in the long run, it saves us over $1000.
We didn’t get very lucky with a car sponsorship, but it’s ok. My car is new, it’s just small. I drive a VW Golf 2-door hatchback. It’s a 2012, so it has very little miles on it. We will just have to get a roof rack for our luggage, so we have room for all the filming equipment inside the car. Using my own car will also feel more comfortable and the gas won’t cost as much.
We had to add an extra day into our time in LA, too. We’ll be getting some press there. We even get to hang out in the green room of Jimmy Kimmel Live! His sister Jill is one of my closest friends and just blurted it out last night while we were catching up on the phone. I guess Russell Brand is there that night. No big deal. Hahahaha!
So, we are down to 14 days. 14 days after 9 months of planning. OMG. 14 days!!!

14 days