A high school drama teacher has to come to grips with the fact that as a result of his obsession with completing a film about the great actor/artist Michael Chekhov, he is losing touch with his family and perhaps his sanity in the process.
Interview with Writer/Director Frederick Keeve
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
I had a bit of success with the first feature-length film I made From Russia to Hollywood: The 100-Year Odyssey of Chekhov and Shdanoff, starring Gregory Peck (his final film), and many Academy Award-winning actors. The making of that film took seven years and changed my life personally and professionally. Several years later I wrote a screenplay Designated Caretaker about the making of that film and what happened to me as a filmmaker in trying to realize my dreams as an artist. As a proof of concept and short film, I made Designated Caretaker Redux, which has been well-received on the festival circuit. This film, and the upcoming feature film, Designated Caretaker, reflect on the artistic process confronting the age old quest of balancing one's personal life with one's dreams.
In Paul Miller's case, the protagonist of the short film (and the upcoming feature film) he loves his wife, Amy, and their three children, but he also is driven by an obsession to tell the story of the great actor/artist Michael Chekhov, even though it is having dire consequences on his marriage and his relationship with his three children. In much the same vein as La La Land and The Disaster Artist, I wanted to explore the landscape of family relationships and one man's journey to find himself, his passion in life, and how he struggles to balance his love for his family and his need beyond all reason to accomplish his dreams as well as an artist.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
The question of balancing art and life seems to be in the universal consciousness at this time, especially with the award-winning films of recent years that explore man's quest to accomplish his dreams and also maintaining the integrity of his relationships as well.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
This film is unique, because it is about the artist's eternal quest to find balance between life and art, and to give oneself fully to one's passionate journey. As with recent critical hits such as La La Land and The Disaster Artist, this film traces Paul Miller's artistic quest as a filmmaker through the ups and downs of his perilous journey. Designated Caretaker Redux also is unique, because it is a film within a film--it's not only a love letter to the great actor/artist Michael Chekhov, but also a love letter to the legacy of classic Hollywood motion pictures and legendary stars. Where in one place can you see the most influential and revered actors of their generation--to name a few: James Dean, Marlon Brando, Marilyn Monroe, Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn, Elizabeth Taylor, Clint Eastwood, Gary Cooper, Jack Palance, Tyrone Power, and more. DCR was inspired by real events that occurred during the seven-year global journey to bring Frederick Keeve's award-winning From Russia to Hollywood: The 100-Year Odyssey of Chekhov and Shdanoff to the big screen.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
The feature film script, Designated Caretaker, evolved over several years and actually got noticed in several screenplay contests. Since we did not have the financing for the feature, I wrote a short version of the film and we filmed that.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
Designated Caretaker Redux (DCR) took the top prize (Diamond Award Winner) at the prestigious LAShorts Awards and won "Most Inspirational Film" at the Culver City Film Festival in December, 2017. DCR was also honored with a Gold Remi at the Worldfest-Houston International Film Festival in Texas earlier in 2017, attended by British producer Julie Eagleton and Frederick Keeve.
DCR also captured two Semi-Finalist nods from the prestigious Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards (LAIFFA) and the Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film Festival (HIMPFF), plus several Official Selections at prestigious film festivals. In 2018 we are waiting to hear more good news from approximately 25 additional film festivals that are considering the merits of DCR as we speak. Watch out for our ambitious feature film of the award-winning Designated Caretaker screenplay upcoming in 2018!
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
The feedback has been very positive.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
We would like to make people more aware of the short film, Designated Caretaker Redux, and we also want to gather interest and support for the feature film, Designated Caretaker, upcoming in 2018.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
To entertain and raise the consciousness of film-going audiences about the responsibility of loving another human being, the integrity of families, and an understanding of the artistic process and we need to dream to strive to be our best selves and create beautiful, conscious, entertaining art--whether it be as filmmakers, directors, writers, actors, composers, and other creative artists.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
It would stem from the seminal quote from the poet Rilke:
“For one human being to love another, that is perhaps our most difficult task, the task for which all others are but preparation.” Rainer Maria Rilke
Would you like to add anything else?
The story of Designated Caretaker Redux, an almost 20-minute short film currently on the festival circuit, and the upcoming feature film, Designated Caretaker, explore the lives of the Miller family, and how this precarious balance between life and art is affected by Paul’s obsession to fulfill his dreams as a filmmaker. This film is inspired by Keeve’s own life producing/writing/directing/composing a feature-length documentary about the lives of two Russian-born actor/teachers--Michael Chekhov and George Shdanoff--entitled From Russia to Hollywood: The 100-Year Odyssey of Chekhov and Shdanoff. Keeve became a student of 90-year-old Shdanoff while he was still teaching acting classes from his Brentwood apartment. When Keeve heard about Shdanoff and Chekhov’s incredible journey, the idea for the documentary about two Russian acting coaches was born.
When Keeve first came to audition for Shdanoff, Ia Parulava, his assistant, opened the door to welcome Keeve, stating prophetically, “If you study with George (Shdanoff), it will change your life!” And she was right. From this first meeting, Keeve went on to work intensively with Shdanoff, learning Chekhov’s acting techniques that they had developed, privately coaching many of the legendary Hollywood stars in the 40s, 50s, and beyond. Keeve used his experience with Shdanoff to create his first feature-length film as a filmmaker, From Russia to Hollywood: The 100-Year Odyssey of Chekhov and Shdanoff. Keeve was fortunate to enlist the help of two award-winning producers who were just coming off a hit documentary for Miramax, Rhyme & Reason--they loved Keeve’s concept and thus the work began.
Parulava and Keeve gained access to George’s “black book,” which not only contained Gregory Peck’s phone number, but the addresses and phone numbers of a pantheon of stars (both alive and passed on) that were a Who’s Who of the classic years of Hollywood in the 40s, 50s and beyond. Keeve got to work contacting Gregory Peck, Robert Stack, Leslie Caron, Sharon Gless, Patricia Neal, Jack Palance, Lloyd Bridges and many more notable actors and directors. One by one the stars signed on to do the film, because many of them felt they owed their careers to these two great Russian acting coaches. Gregory Peck and Mala Powers (actress and Executrix of the Chekhov estate) agreed to be narrators for the film. Creating the narration for the film side by side with Gregory Peck, recording his narration at his Bel-Air home, was a particular life changing moment for Keeve, Peck becoming mentor and inspiration for the fledgling filmmaker.
It took Keeve seven arduous years, travelling the world, to explore the path that Chekhov and Shdanoff took from their Russian homeland, interviewing the players, directors and actors whose personal and professional careers were forever changed by the teaching genius of these two Russian men. William Elmhirst, the step-brother of actress Beatrice Straight (an Academy Award-winner for Network), became another producer on the project, as it was his mother, Dorothy Elmhirst, and daughter Beatrice, who convinced Chekhov to come to England to start a school for acting at Dartington Hall in the 1930s. This eventually led Chekhov and Shdanoff to New York and then to Hollywood.
In Hollywood, the two Russian men coached virtually every legendary star of the 40s and 50s, including Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Clint Eastwood, Jack Nicholson, Gary Cooper, and many others. When From Russia to Hollywood premiered at the Hollywood Film Festival, it was not only a Finalist in the competition, but closed the festival at the prestigious Paramount Theatre at Paramount Studios with many of the stars of the film in attendance. The film went on to screen all over the world, becoming an Official Selection of the London Film Festival, the Melbourne International Film Festival, and the St. Petersburg International Film Festival, and an offer to air it on Turner Classic Movies (TCM), a theatrical release, and subsequent distribution with premium outlets.
But the real story was what happened to Keeve during the making of the film—during those years of raising money, gathering his stars, flying around the world on a “no budget,” and finally getting the greenlight from the Hollywood Film Festival, and a glowing review in Variety. Just when he thought his determination had paid off and would cement his marriage with his now ex-wife, Jane, she rejected him, feeling that he had compromised the family’s security and put his film before the family, even though Keeve had held down jobs as teacher and counselor to continue to support the family while he worked towards his dream.
Ironically, at the moment of Keeve’s greatest triumph, his wife moved out, leaving three older children, and taking the youngest child with her. She subsequently filed for divorce. Keeve was devastated. Had his obsession with the lives of Chekhov and Shdanoff and his passion for telling their story lead to the breakup of his marriage and alienated him from his four children? This is the story of Designated Caretaker, and the story of finding the delicate balance between life and art.
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
Upcoming films (2018-2019) on the Keeve Productions slate:
Designated Caretaker is a family drama about a high school drama teacher that is losing touch with his family and his sanity, because of his obsession with completing a film about the great Michael Chekhov. This film addresses man’s eternal struggle to maintain a personal balance between life and art. Writer/Director: Frederick Keeve.
Cadillac City, a contemporary teen coming-of-age drama/comedy.
Letters from Heaven, a metaphysical love story, reminiscent of The Notebook and Ghost.
Vine, an environmental suspense thriller, is an homage to classic 80s films Arachnophobia and Gremlins.
The Accompanist, a gay love story with magical realism overtones set amid the ballet and classical music worlds.
Journey to India, a historical drama, examines the lives of two of the most compelling political/spiritual icons of the 20th century.
Born to be Together is a supernatural drama with comedic elements, based on a true story.
The New York Yanquis, written by Pulitzer Prize-nominated novelist Bill Granger, is a romantic sports comedy.
From Russia to Hollywood: Part 2, a documentary that passes on the legacy of the Golden era of Hollywood, with interviews and film clips from some most cherished and beloved stars and directors from the 1940s, 1950s, and beyond.
Completed film projects (available for sale/distribution):
From Russia to Hollywood: The 100-Year Odyssey of Chekhov and Shdanoff
From Czarist Russia's Moscow Art Theatre to Hollywood 's Dirty Harry, narrator Gregory Peck joins A-List Hollywood stars to tell the incredible story of two Russian-born men, Michael Chekhov and George Shdanoff, who brought a unique technique of acting to Hollywood, empowering the legendary Hollywood stars and directors to create their most memorable work in films.
For further information, please contact:
Interview: January 2018
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Designated Caretaker Redux
A high school drama teacher has to come to grips with the fact that as a result of his obsession with completing a film about the great actor/artist Michael Chekhov, he is losing touch with his family and perhaps his sanity in the process. This film addresses man’s obsession with his dreams and his need to create…the eternal struggle to maintain personal balance in life and in art.
Director: Frederick Keeve
Producer: Julie Eagleton, Frederick Keeve
Writer: Frederick Keeve
Key cast: W. Morgan Sheppard, Frederick Keeve, Ani Orris, Mike Hall, Pearl Amanda Dickson, Clara Jane Olsen.
About the writer, director and producer:
Writer/Director (Frederick Keeve):
Producer/Director/Writer/Actor/Composer Frederick Keeve - From Russia to Hollywood: The 100-Year Odyssey of Chekhov and Shdanoff (Finalist at the Hollywood Film Festival—having aired on PBS, Netflix, Amazon, and official selection of the London Film Festival and others); Cadillac City (Gold Remi winner, Worldfest-Houston International Film Festival and official selection of the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival (HRIFF) and others); producer on Small Town Conspiracy, Purple Sail and other film projects. Many film projects in various stages of development. Composed Three: Songs from the Heart which premiered at the Electric Lodge in Venice, sponsored by the Festival of New American Musicals, with Broadway actors and Broadway actor/director. Ph.D., Psychology (Dissertation on affects of positive films), completed 2016.
Producers (Julie Eagleton, Frederick Keeve):
Our British producer, Julie Eagleton, is a writer, producer and actress. As an actress, she has worked with Woody Allen, Tim Burton, Paul Greengrass, Tom Hooper, Christopher Nolan, and Joe Wright amongst many others. Behind the camera, she is an award-winning producer. During her career as a writer and editor, Julie has written for publications such as Elle, Harpers Bazaar, The Independent, The Telegraph, The Times and Vogue.
Julie is the founder of CELLOPHANELAND*, a digital media platform with content covering Arts & Culture, and Travel. Julie graduated with a BA with Honors in English Literature before studying journalism at the London School of Journalism.
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists):
Social media handles:
Made in association with: Keeve Productions
Where can I watch it next and in the coming month?
Additional film festival and screenings will be announced the first quarter of 2018.