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Steve Mazan: Subject of Documentary, DYING TO DO LETTERMAN

February 18, 2013

mazan1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of DYING TO DO LETTERMAN, from concept to financing.

Five years into my stand-up comedy career, I got diagnosed with incurable cancer in my liver, and was given a worst case-scenario of 5 years to live. Obviously that was an incredible blow. But rather than sit around feeling sorry for myself, or waiting to die I asked myself what I wanted to accomplish in that time I had left. I knew right away that the number one thing was to complete a dream I had since I was 12 years old. To perform my comedy on the David Letterman show.

I started a project called “Dying To Do Letterman” to get my dream out there. I had been waiting for that dream to come true, and now I was going to make it come true. I gave myself the goal of getting on the show in 1 year. I started filming all the steps I was taking, just as a personal documentation of what I was doing–and to maybe put on the website I had started about the project.

Two friends of mine, Joke Fincioen & Biagio Messina, heard about the project and asked if they could help in any way possible. They worked in the TV industry and offered to make any calls that might help me get closer to Letterman.

Instead of having them make calls, I asked them if they’d be interested in doing a documentary about my journey, and wherever it might take me over the next year. Being the great people they are, they agreed.

Now, they signed up for what they assumed would be a one year project. The documentary finished filming 5 years later. Luckily, they stuck with me through all of it.

As far as financing goes…Joke & Biagio call this their passion project. That means that none of us make money on it. Every part of the film from cameras, travel, photography, etc. has been paid for out of our own pockets. Joke & Biagio, and our cameramen have all donated their time.

I’ve been very lucky to have friends like that. Friends that would care as much about the project as I do.

2Q: This film will be making its World Premiere at Cinequest. How do you feel about bringing such a personal story to such a wide audience?

It is very strange sometimes to think about a very tough part of my life being shown to complete strangers. But that feeling quickly fades when I think about all the people who have told me they were inspired by my project. People told me they were inspired before we ever started filming. They were inspired by the idea of me chasing this dream despite my diagnosis.

If you’ve ever had someone tell you that you’ve inspired them, it’s an incredible feeling. You feel a responsibility to not let them down. This project quickly felt bigger than me. Very soon I wanted to complete my dream, and the movie, for everyone who had told me they were inspired by the project.

So as personal as the film is, the story and every part of the journey it takes over 5 years feels very much about a gigantic group of people. I felt like Rocky running thru the streets of Philadelphia with kids running behind me. I wasn’t alone when I reached those steps. Those moments don’t feel like they were only mine.

3Q: What was your best and/or worst experience while making DYING TO DO LETTERMAN?

The best experience was feeling a sense of power from all the cool things that happened on the journey. The relationships that grew stronger. The sacrifices I saw people make on my behalf. The strangers that told me they were inspired by my project. This ALL came out of a cancer diagnosis. It’s amazing how much power came out of such a weak moment.

The worst experience was the feeling that I might let someone down. Whether that be my friends and family or Joke and Biagio. I know my limits and what I’m willing to do and sacrifice to reach my goals. But so many other people were sticking their neck out for me and my dream that I felt a lot of pressure. I also felt selfish for allowing others to do so much on my behalf. When things were good and moving forward I could handle this, but when it wasn’t I would get very depressed about what I got myself and others into.

4Q: Festival audiences often have to make hard decisions about what to see, and the catalog descriptions sometimes run together. In your own words, why should people see your film?

People should see our film because it offers so much. It’s relatable, because everyone has dreams. It’s topical because everyone has dealt with cancer close to them somehow. It’s interesting because it’s real. And it’s an incredible experience because it was produced and directed by two incredible filmmakers that will be doing even more incredible things in the future.

5Q: The current market for independent films is fractured, to put it lightly, and existing distribution models grow more ineffective with each passing moment. What are your hopes or plans for distribution?

We, the producers and I, are actually excited about the possibilities for distribution. We know the market is fractured—but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It only means that the traditional route is not what it used to be.

We believe that there are so many new ways to get distribution as long as you are open to them. Basically, we are willing to put in as much work on the distribution of this film as we have in getting it made. Even if that includes taking DVD’s door to door and forcing people to watch it. So leave your door open.

Steve Mazan can be found on Twitter @D2DLTheMovie
Joke Fincioen & Biagio Messina can be found on Twitter @jokeandbiagio

From → Interviews

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