REStevensArt - Newsletter #116! - 01/12/14

Learning to Drive

I'm here to tell you about our short film "Learning to Drive" again, because I've never felt as passionately about any of my life's adventures as I do about this one!

People with cognitive disabilities (or as my brother likes to call it, his "diffability") are largely misunderstood and are not afforded the respect and support they deserve for their natural desires and expectations in life. To be clear, I say this while looking in the mirror. I have spent the last 20 years trying to re-direct how I perceive and respond to my brother. This evolution is at the core of the story of "Learning to Drive" and it is my belief that a film like this can not only entertain, but can enlighten an audience and get them to reflect on their own assumptions and ideas about people with Down syndrome, as well as other intellectual disabilities. To that end, I implore you to take a look at our crowd funding campaign, which I've linked to in this newsletter and BE A PART of helping this project get funded. Click on ANY of the links in this newsletter to be taken to the IndieGoGo crowd-funding campaign, where you can make a contribution.

EVEN $5 helps us get underway!

The featured 'perk' at the campaign is just $5, and if you can't yet buy a piece of art through the campaign, please pitch in $5. There are over 5000 people subscribed to this newsletter. If just 100 people would pitch in $5, it would not only add $500 to the effort, but it would create energy for the campaign that encourages IndieGoGo to more prominently feature our project and expose it to thousands of additional people looking at crowd-funding projects!

Learning To Drive - crowdfunding campaign intro video from Roderick E Stevens II on Vimeo.

Hey there! Thanks for checking out my crowd-funding campaign for our short film called “Learning to Drive”. Many of you know me as a fine artist with my photorealistic paintings and mixed media wall sculptures at .

Some of you also know that my ‘other’ day job is in film.

That’s where “Learning to Drive” comes in. This is a story I’ve wanted to tell for 15 years which at its core, is inspired by my ever evolving relationship with my cognitively disabled brother, Andy. While this may not be unfamiliar territory in film, what makes our project exciting and unlike anything we’ve seen before, is that we’re especially interested in portraying Andy’s point of view, rather than my own. Years ago, a video was created to introduce people to Andy and his unique take on the world. Following is an excerpt from that video.

Meet Andy: The Inspiration for "Learning to Drive"

I’ve been working on a feature length screenplay off and on over the years and am very excited to develop that project, but I feel the best way to move forward for now is to shoot a short film version in order to explore this unique perspective and use this as a catalyst for the feature project. 

Who we are.

I have written and will produce the project, but I’ve retained the team of Josh Greer and Daniel Cooper to co-direct it. If you look me up on IMDB, you’ll find the majority of my credits are as a cinematographer on over 25 feature films, but I’m asking my friend and Gaffer turned Director of Photography, Danny Gonzalez to handle the lens on this venture. Again, you can learn more about all of the key production personnel in the updates for this campaign and as we get more people on board I will keep adding to those links.

We are all very excited about building this project together and feel we have something worth saying that will engage and entertain the audience. Many people have already agreed to work for far below their usual wages and we’ve even had some equipment offered for free. While we hope to raise the full amount necessary to complete the film and get it submitted to film festivals, our immediate goal is to raise at least the minimum amount necessary to get the principal unit of this short film ‘in the can’. Following is an approximate breakdown of our minimum budget.

Assuming funding goes well, we’ll go into production in the spring, likely with a 7-10 day shooting schedule in Southern California and Arizona. I’ll then do my spring tour of art shows, where many of you first met me and dive into post production and editing in the summer of 2014, after which we’ll begin submitting it to various film festivals like Sundance, Toronto, Telluride etc.

Why make a short film?

Making a short film is rarely, if ever a profitable venture. The chances we’d actually make any money from the sale of this film are slim to none, though I am presently exploring a myriad of digital and cable distribution options. The point of this project is to explore a new perspective and hopefully create something that successfully proves the viability of producing a feature length version. I’ll then bring the completed short film, as well as the finished feature length script of “Learning to Drive” to the attention of numerous producers with the intent of getting a larger production company involved in backing the feature version.

What you get!

Of course I'm hoping that you will get great satisfaction out of being a part of this project and seeing it take shape, but since many of you are familiar with my fine art I’ve decided to make that a significant part of our incentives for contributions, along with fun and memorable items from the production itself and in some cases, even my famous chocolate chip cookies!

ALL contributors will be sent links to a digital download of the completed film when available, as well as the film's soundtrack and a .pdf of the final shooting script. And btw, each of these contributions includes shipping to anywhere in the continental U.S. Those outside the contiguous 50 states, please contact me at to arrange for shipping to your location.

Please spread the word and give us input!

I very much look forward to your feedback, including on what other incentives you might like to see in order to help us reach our goal. I’ve included all the particulars, including frequently asked questions, links to more information, and how to contact me in this campaign.  Thanks for checking us out and being a part of “Learning to Drive”. 

Please help us gain exposure by liking, following and sharing our campaign. Remember, if you can’t contribute just yet, please share our campaign with your friends! The more interaction between you, the public and us the production, the more IndieGoGo features our efforts.

Key Production Personnel

One of the biggest challenges in film production is assembling a team of people who are experienced, professional and enjoyable to work with. As a cinematographer on over 25 features films, I've been grateful to develop rewarding friendships and great working relationships with top notch crew that love the work and come to set with a great attitude! The production team for "Learning to Drive" consists of seasoned film industry professionals who have worked together on numerous projects over the years.

Plot Outline

     Michael has always wanted to drive a car, just like his mother and his brother Red; the problem is he has Down syndrome. “Learning to Drive” follows the struggles of two divergent brothers during a road trip to release their mother’s ashes at the Grand Canyon, during which Michael is determined to convince his caring but controlling brother Red to teach him how to drive. In a dramatic, sometimes humorous turn, he takes it upon himself to prove his resolve, forcing Red to face his own fears, let go and just be Michael’s brother.

Behind the scenes!

I thought I'd share this "behind the scenes" featurette of many of the LTD crew working together on a Chevy Truck commercial shoot. Fun stuff! :-D

ChevyFeaturette1 from Roderick E Stevens II on Vimeo.


LTD in the CAN


Following are the 'Perks' available presently on IndieGoGo. If there is something YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE on here, just let me know!

$5 - Kick the Tires!

Every little bit helps! And for your contribution towards this project, you'll receive links to a print sized 'one-sheet' (8x10 of the movie poster) and digital download of the completed film when available, as well as the film's soundtrack and a .pdf of the final shooting script. Thanks bunches for your help!


$15 - Fill 'er up!

For helping us get this project fueled, we'll send you a signed print of the 'one sheet' (8x10 version of a working poster) in addition to the download links for the completed movie, soundtrack and script. This already includes shipping within the contiguous U.S. states.


$25 - Start the engine!

To start the engine, a $25 contribution towards the “LTD” adventure will receive 1 signed print of your choice: either “Yes It’s a Painting” artwork or a production still from the film. Check out and let me know what grabs you (shipped right away), or pick your favorite among the stills I’ll post at during the shoot (shipped after the production). You’ll also receive a signed ‘one-sheet’ ( 8x10 of the poster). ONLY 200 of these are available

$75 - Rolling forward!

Similar to above (Start the engine) but you receive FOUR signed prints of either “Yes It’s a Painting” artwork or production stills, or a combination of each, plus the signed production ‘one-sheet’ poster. Remember, any prints will be shipped promptly, while production stills and the 'one-sheet' will be shipped sometime after principal photography has wrapped.


$150 - Getting in gear!

For your generosity, not only will you receive 4 signed prints of your choice of artwork or production still (like above), but you will also be shipped a director’s chair back with the “Learning to Drive” production logo and 12on/12off logo AND a production t-shirt with the LTD and 12on/12off logos, plus a link to a digital download of the movie’s soundtrack music, a pdf of the finished script and a signed production ‘one-sheet’.


$200 - Givin it gas!

For helping accelerate the project I'd like to offer you a seat in a painting workshop held in or around Sierra Vista, Az. in February, 2014. This is a 2 day workshop in which we complete a painting together. I will work in my familiar 'photorealistic' style on a subject that is challenging, but attainable while I answer questions and work with the group and individuals to help them complete their own paintings. This is limited to a maximum of only 10 seats!


$300 - Taking off!

Now we’re moving! And to say thank you, I’d like to ship you a medium, signed & numbered, limited edition canvas reproduction (unstretched) of any available artwork at Additionally, you’ll receive 2 production t-shirts, 2 signed prints of artwork or production stills, a link to a digital download of the movie’s soundtrack music, a pdf of the script, a signed production ‘one-sheet’ AND YOUR NAME LISTED IN THE “Thanks To” credits.


$1500 - High gear!

For such a great boost, you’ll receive TWO Large , signed and numbered, ltd edition, canvas reproductions (unstretched ) of any available artwork, an invitation to visit the set, signed production binder incl. numerous productions stills, script, the soundtrack, and additional notes from the production, plus 2 director’s chair backs, 2 prod t-shirts, 4 signed prints, YOUR NAME in the “Made Possible By” credits, and most importantly – a DOZEN of my famous chocolate chip cookies!

The following gives you an idea of how various levels of fund-raising beyond our minimum goal could impact the productions.LTD budget variance

Roderick E. Stevens II – Producer / Writer:

Roderick exited the womb with a passion to make movies and has been doing so since 1991 in various capacities including writer, director, producer, editor and most prominently as a cinematographer on over 25 feature films. Why not direct or lens this film? “My priority on “Learning to Drive” is the project itself and I feel the best way I can benefit the film is be staying focused on the logistics, bringing all of the tools together, supporting my creative keys and helping to find creative solutions to the many challenges of assembling a film.”

Rod's IMDB page:
Rod's Vimeo page:

Josh Greer & Daniel Cooper – Co-Directors:

Josh started in the industry assisting in the camera department for Roderick and has since worked on dozens of feature films for over a decade including The Counselor, Oz the Great and Powerful, and Underworld: Awakening, always with his eye on directing. He teamed up with long time friend Daniel Cooper to start directing music videos and short films including 2012’s ‘Turkey In the Straw’.

Josh's IMDB page:
Josh's Vimeo page:
Other Info:

Danny Gonzalez - Director of Photography:

Besides gaffing numerous projects with Roderick, Danny has worked in the camera and lighting departments of numerous major films including ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, The Hangover Pt III, and Captain American: Winter Soldier, all the while honing his craft as a cinematographer on numerous short films.

Danny's IMDB page:
Danny's Vimeo page:

Greg Cosh – Sound Mixer:

Always Roderick’s first choice for the crucial task of recording production sound, Greg has been busy for over 15 years working on films such as Argo, Underworld: Awakening, and Law and Order: LA.

Greg's IMDB page:

Haskell Wexler – 2nd Camera:

As an update to the crew roster, I'd like to share that my good friend Haskell Wexler is excited to help us out in the camera department on Learning to Drive. Haskell is a multiple Oscar winning filmmaker with such credits as "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest", "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" and the groundbreaking film "Medium Cool". Haskell knows Danny is our cinematographer, but has offered to be a 2nd cameraman for us! :-D

Haskell's IMDB page: