Love & Improv is a female-focused film about the sacrifices we make in pursuit of our dreams. It's our love letter to an unrivaled Chicago comedy scene and the artistry of comedic escape--an escape that we all need right now. We need your help though, to YES, AND us in bringing this story to life.
Mission StatementOur mission is to YES, AND our way to making the best film possible. We're surrounding ourselves with talented artists and collaborators with foundational roots in Chicago. We'll shine a light on the Chicago improv community because it's where we met and developed our creative voices as filmmakers.
About The Project
Chicago has trained many of the most iconic voices in comedy history and Grace Wisniewski is its next superstar. She headlines a very popular, all-female improvisation troupe known as Heroine. Grace hopes to be the next breakout star on Comedy Night New York (an SNL-like sketch show).
Grace is always on, always performing. There’s no bit that she won’t commit herself to entirely. But in everyday life, she is a fish out of water and the antithesis of her very name. Her human emotions are muted, and her guard is always up, making relationships all but impossible for her to carry on. Improv is the only thing she's ever allowed herself to love.
Everything changes while celebrating a particularly successful main-stage show when she's approached by Joey, who was in the audience. He tracks Grace and her friends to their favorite dive bar, run by comedy vet, Tim, and is quickly swept up in the wave of the trio's post-show high, which he is ill-equipped to keep up with.
After one round turns into many, Grace's guard is down suddenly she's balancing a relationship with Joey and the pursuit of her dreams.
Joey becomes the order to Grace's chaos. But when Grace forms an unlikely bond with her comedy idol, and Comedy Night New York superstar, Vicky Sullivan, all the structure, comfort, and ordinariness of Joey’s life begins to muddy Grace's focus.
Before hearing that gravelly baritone voice of CNNY announce her name on live television, Grace must decide what...or who she is willing to let go of, to reach the top.
Grace is an aspiring comedian and improviser, torn between her lifelong dream of comedy stardom and the possibility of an exciting, albeit more traditional experience of newfound love. She wants to love and be loved. But she needs comedy. Can she have both? What does success look and feel like to her? Will she ever be satisfied? In many ways, Grace is us–that is why we’re so motivated to bring this story to life.
We wrote Grace based on our own feelings and insecurities. In doing so, she became real. She took on a life of her own. She, along with all of the characters in the script, were easy to write because they are all just extensions of ourselves. They look and feel like they belong to this world because they do. Building character-driven worlds and stories are what we are most excited about and we certainly feel like we’ve done that with this film.
We throw a lot of obstacles at Grace. We want to wear her down. We want to make her give up on her dreams. But she won’t. She can’t. She is relentless in her desires. She won’t let anything or anyone stand in the way. But at the same time, she needs to learn how to build and hang on to the relationships in her life.
This is a balancing act in and of itself because she’s not getting any younger. About to turn 30, she feels as if she’s running out of time. We all feel like we’re running out of time, no matter what stage we are at in life. There never seems to be enough of it and we’re always racing against that ticking clock to achieve the success that we want so badly.
We are honored, humbled, and thrilled with the responsibility of helping bring Grace and all her messiness to life on screen. To challenge ourselves and the audience to question their own ideas of success and sacrifice. To escape for just a little while into the world of Grace. To feel, to laugh, to believe in ourselves. We thank you for your time and consideration!
- Drew Dull & Justin Strandlund
Susan Gordon as Grace Wisniewski
Grace is one of the top improvisers in Chicago and has her sights set on being a cast member of Comedy Night New York (an SNL-style sketch comedy show).
Flanked by her two best friends, Lisa and Jackie, Grace is part of the wildly popular improv troupe Heroine. Grace is always on, always performing. There’s no bit that she won’t commit herself to entirely.
But, in everyday life, she is a fish out of water and the antithesis of her very name.. Her guard is always up, making romantic relationships all but impossible for her to carry on; that is until she meets Joey.
As their relationship blossoms, Grace must figure out if she has room in her life for both love & improv...
Susan's previous credits include: Lucky, Easy Does it, Ginger, and Chicago P.D.
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Natalie Younger as Lisa Sutton
Besides being an actual mom of two, Lisa is also the de facto “mom” of the very successful improv trio, known as Heroine... despite only being a few years older than Grace and Jackie.
With a level head and a sharp wit, Lisa grounds the group.
She's both a shoulder to cry on and the stern voice that keeps everyone in line.
While comedy is a career for Grace, Lisa openly admits that this is just a hobby she loves and a way for her to get out of the house for a few hours.
She's also REALLY into romance novels--specifically those penned by Athena Blackstone.
Natalie's previous credits include: Bride of the Killer Piñata, Thirty days, CHI-nanigans & Zoey James Shades of Beauty
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Patrick Romano as Joey Baker
As a software analyst, Joey is, unsurprisingly, a bit more low-key than Grace. He's more inclined to stay home and play D&D with his friends and doesn’t like to be the center of attention.
Joey is the order to Grace’s chaos. His life is structured and logical. He plans ahead. He's got a credit score of 790.
But the question remains as to whether he will ever be able to keep up with Grace’s manic pace of living.
Patrick's previous credits include: How to Get Girls
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We hope to raise our goal of $15,000 through a dedicated audience on Seed & Spark to cover the bare minimum costs of pre-production for the film.
We're also pitching to potential equity investors that will have a vested interest in the film with shares starting at $10,000. If you or someone you know may be interested, feel free to send a message to [email protected]
We're taking the experience we've gained from no-budget shorts and assembling a team of passionate, talented collaborators to bring this project to life.
Principal photography for LOVE & IMPROV will take place in Chicago, IL, and is scheduled for January 29th thru February 16th, 2023.
Please Follow & Share!
Sharing our campaign on your social media is as helpful as a donation. And doing BOTH goes a long way to helping bring LOVE & IMPROV to life!
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR CONSIDERING OUR PROJECT :)
- Drew & Justin
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About This Team
Our team met through the unrivaled Chicago comedy scene and we've been creating and collaborating together ever since. We choose and commit to stories solely based on our passion to breathe life into them. If we aren't 100% behind the project, we don't commit to making it. We have only two rules on set: Be open to any and all ideas. And have fun! We think this differentiates our team from so many others.
Drew Dull is a writer, director, producer, and any other position that gets him onto a film set. Originally from small-town Ohio, and a graduate of The Ohio State University, he pursued a career in film in Chicago, where he co-founded 2 East 8th Productions--a movie house focused on character-driven narratives. Recent productions include THE LIFE & DEBT OF A LIBERAL ARTS MAJOR, THE PEEK-A-BOO MAN, and SID PENROSE.
Having been involved in nearly every role on a film set, Drew uses this experience to optimize on-set crew communication, collaboration, efficiency, and overall experience of bringing a story to life because making movies is and should be fun!
Justin Strandlund has worn many hats in the film industry including writer, producer, director, videographer, location sound engineer, and editor but the role he’s most proud of is co-founder of 2 East 8th Productions, a film and video production house focused on character-driven narratives.
A graduate of Columbia College Chicago, Justin majored in Radio Broadcasting. This training, along with being involved in two media startups, helped him develop his own unique voice and shaped the foundation of his career. With one feature film scheduled for production in 2022 and a list of ideas for the next, Justin is excited to continue collaborating with amazing creative partners and telling stories that entertain and inspire.
Kara Haller is a writer/director/producer/script reviewer/adviser based out of Chicago, IL. Kara worked as an urban planner/geographer for eight years before pursuing writing and filmmaking full time. She is a graduate of the Second City Training Center writing program in Chicago and has an MA in Film Production and Direction from NUIG in Ireland. She has written many scripts and made a handful of short films, and 3 seasons of a comedy web series.
Kara is deeply interested in the human condition and exploring the complexities of life. She enjoys bringing stories and characters to life. She loves creating relationships and collaborating with others at every stage of the filmmaking process.
Adam Smestad is the founder of Smoose Entertainment, a production company focused on bringing entertaining, inspiring, and fun narrative and commercial feature films, short films, and other media content to life.
After taking writing classes at Second City, Adam found a talent for writing screenplays. He co-created two web series, "Chicago HR" and "The Quarantine Files". He has written, produced, and directed two short films, the award-winning short "6 Months in 2063" and the upcoming "StAiRs".
Adam also gained experience working in all departments on films, television shows, and commercial sets. In addition to pursuing a career in film, Adam serves as a successful commercial and personal injury litigator. He loves all things movies, with a particular lean towards the movies of Spielberg, Zemeckis, Nolan, Hughes, and Ramis. In his spare time, he enjoys playing guitar, hiking, the Cubs, the Hawkeyes, the Packers, and spending time with his friends and family.
Cinematographer | ellalubienski.com
Ella Lubienski is a Chicago-based cinematographer whose work focuses on telling marginalized stories in a mainstream way. She is a member of ICG Local 600, and has worked as a 2nd AC on WORK IN PROGRESS Seasons 1 & 2, CHICAGO FIRE, RUN, and others.
As a cinematographer, she excels at detailed planning and pre-vis, while staying open to in-the-moment improvisation on set. She loves working with skilled, inclusive crews of all sizes, and does her best to curate a crew who has a connection to the material.
Most recently, she shot a surrealist short, BIRTHDAY, that was accepted into the Central Illinois Feminist Film Festival, and (pre-pandemic) she visited the Cleveland International Film Festival to promote a previous collaboration, DIRTY WORDS.
When not working on set, she loves spending time taking 35mm photos in nature, hanging out with her dog at home, or planning her next trip around the globe.