Here’s the elevator pitch.
A Brooklyn high school teacher with dreams of becoming a filmmaker manages to team up with a Hollywood screenwriter, recruits Oscar-winning actors, and sinks his life savings into making a movie he wrote and stars in, only to run into the same problem that has derailed even established film producers since time immemorial — the production goes wildly over budget and he has to abandon the project when he runs out of cash.
But after a true tragedy shakes him out of despair, the plucky producer resolves to finish the film by appealing to the kindness of strangers.
It may sound like the script to an indie flick, but it’s actually the true story of Sheepshead Bay High School math teacher and aspiring auteur Keith Black, who’s been struggling since 2008 to complete his feature-length film, “Driving Me Crazy.”
“You know how they say life imitates art? I guess that’s true,” said Black. “The journey I’ve undergone trying to make this movie is a lot like the journey the character went through in the movie.”
The movie follows a neurotic Brooklyn pharmacist — played by Black — who falls in love with a girl living on the other side of the country after meeting her through the Internet. The hero is at first reluctant to leave his beloved mother’s side, but eventually commits himself to the adventure of his lifetime — a cross-country road trip with his ladylove’s sister.
After sinking $70,000 into the production — even selling his beloved comic-book collection — Black had to pull the plug about a year ago.
But this summer, Black resurrected his passion project as a labor of love after his collaborator and friend, Hollywood screenwriter Mark Troy, died of meningitis. Black is now dedicating the film to his late mentor, and pledges any profits to meningitis research — provided donors on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo can help him fund it.
Black isn’t new to indie filmmaking, having found some success in 2003 with “Get the Script to Woody Allen,” a short film that appeared on Showtime, and earned accolades at international film festivals. He also produced and starred in “Shmoikel’s Twilight,” a short mockumentary about an actor who claimed that he was originally cast as Edward in the tween-beloved “Twilight” film, before he was pushed out in favor of pretty boy Robert Pattinson.
But the costs of making a feature film took him by surprise.
“It was such an ambitious, grandiose project, and it went way beyond the expected cost,” said Black. “I was broke.”
The project began in 2008 with Black’s apprenticeship to Troy — a Burbank screenwriter who previously sold scripts to Tom Hanks, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Robin Williams— which itself began like the plot of one of Black’s scripts.
The wannabe movie mogul spent months trying to contact Troy in the hope of pitching the idea, to no avail.
“I must have called Mark at least a hundred times,” said Black. “I would get his voice mail, a few times he hung up on me, a few times I got his assistant. Then, when I finally got to speak to someone, it turned out to be the wrong number.”
But the hapless filmmaker is nothing if not persistent, and he was eventually able to reach Troy on his cellphone at the perfect moment — when the screenwriter was stuck at the Department of Motor Vehicles, rendered vulnerable by the crushing boredom.
“I happened to call his cell, he was on line at the DMV, and he was so bored he would have chatted to a brick wall,” Black recalled.
Black was able to sell Troy on his idea and the two started working on what would eventually become the script for, “Driving Me Crazy.” After lassoing a Hollywood screenwriter, the math teacher set about methodically recruiting talent, bringing on board Oscar-winners like Celeste Holmes and screen legend Mickey Rooney, and talk-show icon Dick Cavett.
But despite such an auspicious start, things went south when Black ran out of money and had to halt production after filming only a portion of the film. It was the shocking death of his collaborator this summer of meningitis at age 51 that moved Black to try and resurrect the project and finish it in honor of Troy.
Black will need to raise $700,000 to assure its completion this time, and he’s turning to his fellow New Yorkers for help via the crowdfunding site Indiegogo, linked through his own site, www.keithb