Fernanda RossiFernanda Rossi collaborates with filmmakers in all areas of storytelling, from development to fine cut. As an author, international speaker and story analyst she has doctored over 300 documentaries, fiction scripts and fundraising samples, including two nominated for an Academy Award®. Author of Trailer Mechanics: How to Make Your Documentary Fundraising Demo. More info at documentarydoctor.com. Follow Fernanda at facebook.com/storydoctoring.

Film Anatomy: Lucky

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Fernanda Rossi dissects the making of Lucky by filmmaker Laura Checkoway which will screen at DOC NYC 2013 in late November.

Name of Film: Lucky
Director/Producer: Laura Checkoway
Length: 72 min.
URL: http://www.luckythedocumentary.com

Film Vitals

Logline

Lucky Torres, a young homeless mother masked in tattoos, longs to rise from a life of darkness. Spanning more than five years on the streets of NYC, Lucky documents her ups and downs and everything in between.

Select Festivals, Screenings, Broadcast & Awards:

  • Hot Docs, World Premiere (official selection), April 29-30, 2013
  • Selected as one of Indiewire’s “10 Films You Must See from This Year’s Hot Docs”
  • UMass Boston Film Series, Boston Premiere, November 7, 2013
  • DOC NYC, NYC Premiere (official selection), November 17 & 21, 2013

Shooting Locations:

  • New York City

Production Timeline:

  • Length of shoot: 6 years total
  • Length of edit: Roughly 4 years of editing, on and off, as they continued to shoot and develop the story, then 2-plus years of intensive editing as shooting began winding down.

Money Talk:

  • Truly independent! Checkoway self-financed the production, with producer Neyda Martinez helping finance editing and post-production.

The Filmmaker

Film School:
No.

Other Studies:

  • Checkoway studied poetry, creative writing and sociology at Sarah Lawrence College.
  • She took an oral history workshop midway through developing the documentary.
  • Fellowships: NALIP’s Latino Artist Mentoring Program and IFP Documentary Labs.

For a Living:
Checkoway is a journalist and editor. She has contributed to Vibe, Rolling Stone, The Village Voice and Complex, among many more. She hopes to begin earning a living as a full-time filmmaker very soon.

Survival Strategy:
As the film became more and more of a full-time commitment, Checkoway continued to write feature stories for various magazines and was the co-author of an acclaimed autobiography by legendary rapper Prodigy from the duo Mobb Deep (published in 2011 by Simon & Schuster). She’s also been commissioned to direct/produce various short documentary segments for PBS World, Google and Scion.

Previous Films:
Lucky is Checkoway’s feature-length directorial debut.

Smart Move
Six years may seem long for research and on-and-off shooting, and the filmmakers wondered whether production would ever end as they followed Lucky. But Checkoway said, “When something really special happened in her life that gave me goosebumps, I was so thankful that I’d waited for that moment.”

Never Again
“I read a Mark Twain quote recently: ‘I do not regret the things I have done, but those I did not do.’ I try to think in these terms,” Checkoway said. She learned first-hand as she dove into the project that it’s a method that has its pros and cons. Checkoway spent a lot of time and energy up front following three other women (in addition to Lucky) who don’t appear in this film, but there was no way to tell in advance how things would unfold. Hindsight is always 20/20.

Memorable Moments
Hot Docs invited Lucky Torres to fly to Toronto for the world premiere, making the visit to Canada her first international trip. Before she could get her passport, Lucky needed a birth certificate, something she’d never had because she’s an orphan. “When she received it, she discovered that she’s a year younger than she thought she was. This stands out as one of so many elements of self-discovery along the way in the making of this film,” Checkoway said.

“I loved my crew, they all contributed something and I have a memorable moment with each one of them.” In early 2013, the team felt truly complete when Steve James (Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters) joined as executive producer.

Will She Relapse and Make Another Film?
Checkoway is excited to make another documentary and is in early development on a few ideas. She’s also editing shorts about some of the other compelling women she followed who didn’t make it into the final film. “This first film happened so organically,” she said. “It’ll be interesting to see how the next one unfolds now that I’ve learned a thing or two.”

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Fernanda Rossi
Fernanda Rossi
Fernanda Rossi collaborates with filmmakers in all areas of storytelling, from development to fine cut. As an author, international speaker and story analyst she has doctored over 300 documentaries, fiction scripts and fundraising samples, including two nominated for an Academy Award®. Author of Trailer Mechanics: How to Make Your Documentary Fundraising Demo. More info at www.documentarydoctor.com. Follow Fernanda at facebook.com/storydoctoring.