Bench Seats

New York City, New York | Film Short

Drama, LGBTQ

16 days :10 hrs :55 mins

Until Deadline

44 supporters | followers

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Goal: $18,500 for production

When an argument with her wife lands Dani at an emotional crossroads, she reflects on her memories of one transformational summer and how the patterns of the past echo into the present. A nostalgic short that explores timeless themes, told by a female led cast & crew.

About The Project

  • The Story
  • Wishlist
  • Updates
  • The Team
  • Community

Mission Statement

Bench Seats explores how healing and growth can be filtered from one generation to the next. It centers a female perspective on the sacrifices and compromises women make , both tangible and emotional, while juggling motherhood and person-hood.

The Story

We open on a SUV navigating a twisting country road. Inside, Dani and her wife, Erin, both in their late 30’s, are in the middle of an argument they’ve clearly had before.

When a frustrated Dani turns up the radio to end the argument, she hears a song that jolts her memory back to the summer of 1989 – it’s the last day of third grade and she’s riding shotgun in her mom’s whale of a Buick lamenting the end of the year. To cheer her up, her mom, Susan, makes the car “dance” to the same song adult Dani heard in the present day.

Dani’s memories of that summer, crisscrossing Long Island in the Buick, unfold in a series of vignettes, and we slowly put together the pieces of her family life: her parents are newly divorced; money is tight while her mom, Susan, is going back to school; and Dani is just trying to process it all as she grows into a new age of maturity and independence.

We return to Dani and Erin in the present day, where Dani catches her 9 year old son’s eye in the rear-view mirror – she sees the same shadow of worry on his face that used to cross her own as a child. She offers an apology to Erin and they resolve their conflict, reassuring their son that adults can argue but still be ok.     

The script has already been recognized in the industry, winning a PANO Microgrant and becoming a finalist in several prestigious screenplay competitions. The Los Angeles International Screenplay Awards called it “a touching exploration of the complexities within mother-daughter relationships” that “skillfully weaves between past and present, allowing the audience to witness the profound impact of Dani's childhood experiences on her adult life”

Slamdance called Bench Seats “a really special screenplay. There are wonderfully human moments throughout the script and attention to detail that absolutely captures our attention.”

And We Screenplay said “The combination of unique, specific details, well-orchestrated moments of conflict, and overall thematic connection gives this script a real sense of narrative weight and heft despite the ethereal, vignette-driven nature of the plot.”

Bench Seats explores the transition of divorce and the loss of childhood that accompanies it.  While not directly autobiographical, it’s a deeply personal film that reflects how my childhood experiences have influenced my relationships as a wife and a mother.  I wrote the script after coming out of the chaos of early parenthood, which gave me a new insight into my mother’s experience as a young parent in the 80’s. 

I’ve spent the last 20 years working as an editor, being a mom and hiding in my home office to write.  Bench Seats is a creative homecoming for me—a long-awaited gear-shift back to filmmaking that I’ve been planning for a long time. Now that my kids are a little older, I have both new insights about parenthood, and a little more free time to bring this story to life and I’m really excited to share it with all of you.

Dani is a precocious 8 year old who often prefers the company of adults to other children. She’s highly intuitive, an “old soul” whose heartstrings run deep. Emotionally, the lines between where her parents end and she begins can blur. She feels like she needs to fix what’s broken, and that’s a lot for her to carry.

Susan is choosing herself for the first time in her life.  Like a true “80’s Woman” she’s trying to balance single-motherhood and a new career, all while keeping her perm fresh.  She is determined to be independent but sometimes falters under the weight of it all.  She is still in love with her ex and is in deep mourning for the relationship.  She mistakenly thinks she’s shielding her daughter from the sadness she carries.

Betty is a loving, if stubborn and emotionally limited, grandmother.  She’s weathered her fair share of hardships and uses her dry wit and sassy attitude as emotional armor. While she worries about Susan and Dani not having a man in the house, she is also secretly, unconsciously, thrilled by her daughter’s independence.  

Grandpa is a man of his time, and his needs are simple: a comfortable home, a loving family and a warm meal on the table every night. Despite his own stubbornness and the limits of masculinity for a man his age, he isn’t afraid to show love in his own way – often by acts of service. Family always comes first.

Dad is a good guy lost in a battle with his own demons – depression being the major one. He may not have been able to be a fully present partner in his marriage, but he is a wonderful dad. Dani is his whole world, and they share a special bond.

As an adult, Dani let’s very few people behind her emotional walls - with Erin and Henry among the select group. She remains burdened by her need to “fix” everyone she cares about, including Erin.

Erin is a pragmatic hippie with abandonment issues. She gives a 110% to everything she does and often finds herself burnt out from trying to juggle too much. 

Henry is just as insightful and precocious as Dani was at his age. He picks up on his parents’ emotional vibrations without a word even being spoken. Their world is his world for better or worse.

I’m super excited to be working with our amazing DP, Liza Gipsova.  Check out her awesome reel:

We plan on immersing the audience in the emotion of the story by using warm, nostalgic tones for the 80’s material and cooler, crisper tones for the present day. An intimate shooting style, crafted from young Dani’s POV, will capture the ups and downs of Susan and Dani’s relationship.

We’ve raised more than half of our total budget from private investors and now need you to help get us to the finish line.  Our $18,500 crowdfunding goal is the bare minimum needed to get Bench Seats from script to screen with an authentic 80’s vibe and a production quality the whole team can feel proud of.  

And if you're feeling generous, we have some stretch goals as well:

  • If we raise $24,000 we'll be able to pay our cast and crew the more competitive rate they deserve, instead of the very low rates they’ve all graciously accepted.  
  • If we raise $32,000, we'll be able to shoot on Arri’s awesome car stage - allowing us to capture our dream shot list.  
  • If we raise $40,000 we’ll be able to shoot some key scenes on film, really capturing the grainy feeling of being inside a memory that we are going for. 

When you pledge your support and contribute to our campaign you are bolstering the work of female creators and crew, advocating for complex roles for women over 40, and increasing the visibility of multi-layered LGBTQ characters.

More ways you can help:


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Spread the word (and the link to our Seed&Spark page) to your friends, family, work buddies, and neighbors - anyone you know that might resonate with our story, wants to support women in film or just loves the 80s! 


Feed the algorithm - more clicks on our Seed&Spark page will not only keep you up to date on our progress, but it will also increase our chances of being featured on the site which in turn will increase our reach to possible contributors.  


Use the WishList to Pledge cash and Loan items - or - Make a pledge by selecting an Incentive directly.

Cash Pledge

Costs $0

Vintage Car

Costs $10,000

Having the right 80's car is key to bringing Susan and Dani's world to life - and it's also expensive.

Location, Location, Location

Costs $6,500

Feeling authentically 80's will depend a lot on where we film - and locations come with fees and permit expenses.

Production Design

Costs $1,500

Transforming modern spaces into 80's digs will take some heavy lifting from the production design team.


Costs $500

The 80's had a distinct style that can't be faked. We'll need to source authentic clothes from the era to pull off that true 80's vibe.

About This Team

Courtney DeStefano grew up in a small town, where she spent hours devouring old movies and pouring through every indie-film magazine she could get her hands on.  She got her BFA in film from NYU and went on to have a fruitful career as a TV&Film editor - working with clients like CBS, Bravo, Showtime, BET, NatGeo, Discovery & TLC.

She’s spent the last several years dividing her time between chasing after her three young sons and hiding in her home office to write. Her work has been recognized by the Los Angeles International Screenplay Awards, PANO Network, Hollyshorts and the PAGE Awards, among others. 

Sabrina Caluori’s career is defined by two decades of leading wildly talented, award-winning entertainment marketing groups at HBO and Paramount through digital transformation.  She’s proud to have been inducted into the Advertising Hall of Achievement, won four Emmy awards and multiple Cannes Lions, made countless “who’s who of marketing” lists, and collaborated with the biggest tech companies in the world.  

Currently, she's the CMO of Nickelodeon and leads kids and family marketing globally for the streaming business.

Melisa Breiner-Sanders is an actor and producer based in Brooklyn, NY, Mélisa received her MFA in Acting from DePaul University and her BA from Georgetown University. Mélisa has worked on award-winning features, shorts, web series, and music videos that have screened at festivals across the country and internationally. She was a Consulting Producer on Cupids, which premiered at TriBeCa and screened at Cannes. Her first feature Seven Lovers is available on all digital streaming platforms. Melisa was part of the Sundance Co//ab Producing cohort in 2020, advised by Karin Chien.

Liza Gipsova is an award-winning NYC-based cinematographer fascinated by humans, light and stories of identity, location and the why. 

Her work has taken her to four continents and has played at festivals worldwide, most notably Tribeca, Camerimage, LA Shorts, Anthology and others. She is a recipient of the ASC Vision Mentorship and a member of International Cinematographers Guild (Local 600).

Tony Akio Cohen is a graduate of the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU with a BFA in Film and Television.  He’s worked with brands such as, but not limited to, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, The Paramount Network, TVLand, Dole and Liberty Mutual Insurance.

Outside of filmmaking, his writing background consists of writing comedy screenplays and TV pilots and his screenplays have placed in the Nicholl Fellowship, The Tracking B TV Pilot contest, the Page Screenwriting Awards and the Austin Film Festival.

Current Team