Sylvia in Motion

I just hired an animator, the amazingly talented Jesse Labat Randall, to help put Sylvia in motion.

Here are three animation styles Jesse is developing to get the Sylvia ready for the big screen.




Sylvia fans, do you have a favorite?

Behind the Scenes: What Documentaries Look Like

Here is what the beginning of a documentary edit looks like on a video editing timeline. (I’m editing in Premiere Pro CC for anyone interested.)

The pink squares are my notes on the edit as I start to piece the story together. The blue squares are interview soundbytes.

Editing timeline

On the technical end of things, this documentary is literally colored squares: a digital quilt if you will.

If you delve back into the history of Hollywood film editors, you will discover that they were mostly women, because the idea was that women were used to sewing—stitching two pieces of fabric together in order to make a garment, a larger whole. When you edit with film, you are essentially sticking two pieces together with tape to a make a different kind of larger whole: a film.

Therefore, what followed was: women who could sew were women who could edit.

And then men realized how good editing jobs were and how much money could be made and they entered the field and dominated.

BUT, both Steven Spielberg and Q. Tarantino hired and stuck with long term female editors for their films: Verna Fields and Sally Menke who, unfortunately, is no longer living.

I love editing, this is my favorite part, and I’m thrilled that so many amazing female editors have come before me.

A Documentary in 3 Acts

After a three month battle with the 3 act story structure of this documentary, I have finally just decided to make the 3 acts vague which has really given me a lot of leeway in terms of playing around with Nicole’s commentary on her life and the 3,000 interview soundbytes. Something less is more. No, less is ALWAYS more.

I know they’re simple, but great complexity needs to start their sprout somewhere.






Why did I think it was easy to make a documentary?

I’ve been playing around with the 3-act story structure and story arc for this documentary for the last few months, fighting with over 3,000 interview soundbytes trying to puzzle them together like there is a perfect way that they fit together so Nicole and Sylvia’s story can be told.


I think I have finally realized that perfect storytelling is BORING storytelling and that the best person to tell Nicole’s story is herself. And so I’ve put aside my epic battle with the 3,000 interview soundbytes for the moment, and I’ve focused on Nicole, on getting her story on video in her own words. This is no easy task, because Nicole does not like to be videotaped. I’ve been working on this documentary for the last 6 years, and I think she finally trusts me enough to sit in front of my camera, or maybe she’s just fatigued from dealing with me at all, and I’ve worn her down enough that the chair I placed in front of my camera in her living room last week finally looked inviting enough for a weary documentary subject.


Nicole sat in front of my camera and she even let me record.
Then she did something astounding and she answered my questions. ON CAMERA. And now as I listen to her own words about her own life and story, and as we talk and discuss back and forth what parts of her story are the most important to be contained in this 90 minute documentary, I am uncovering the woman behind Sylvia.


You’re welcome, Sylvia fans and audience. It’s only taken 6 years for Nicole Hollander to trust me enough to reveal the woman behind the woman. Trust me, you’ll thank me as soon as you see the documentary, because the woman behind Sylvia may be diminuitive in size compared to Sylvia, whom she created larger like an unmovable boulder, parked often in front of a TV commenting and jabbing and speaking her mind about the hypocrisy and absurdity that passes for American culture and politics—this woman behind Sylvia is just as strong, just as vibrant and just as revolutionary. To be a female cartoonist, to be a female critic, to be a female satirist, to be a female ANYTHING, having a voice in the mainstream culture during the period of time that Nicole Hollander was, was nothing short of miraculous, and long after the Chicago Tribune dropped Sylvia from its syndicate, Sylvia will live on. Her words, her comments, her witty repartee will live on, monolithically, in 18,000 comic strips.


Wonderful and dear Sylvia fans, I cannot wait to introduce you to Nicole Hollander, the woman behind Sylvia. Our new release date is early 2016. Stay tuned.


30 Second Documentary Teaser Release

Laura action 2

Photo by Umnia Khan

Because we have been blessed with an angel investor who just gave us the rest of the funding we needed for post-production on the documentary (BLOG LINK HERE), Nicole and I spent last weekend putting together a 30 second documentary teaser to celebrate. Enjoy!

Special Thanks to:
Ed Toolis
Umnia Khan
Sam Eller
Alexandra Gilewicz
Dan Hazelton
Elevator Operator
Couple on bus
90 Miles Cuban Restaurant in Chicago

An Angel Investor (And We do Mean an Angel) Just Funded Us!! #Holyholy

Nicole and Laura BLOG

Photo by Umnia Khan

If you had told me that 73-year-old Ed Toolis, who was recently a student with me in Second City’s Podcasting Course,  would hand me a $12,500 check, enough to finish the documentary about Sylvia Cartoonist, Nicole Hollander, that I have been mostly self-funding myself for the last 5 years, I would have cackled good heartedly and proclaimed, ”Yeah right. Who does that??”
What motivates a 73 year-old former trucking company owner to give someone he has only met in four 3-hour classes at Second City a check that will help them finish their second documentary?
At the beginning of our fourth class, Ed and I were the first students to arrive. Our instructor quickly ducked out to grab a cable he needed, and when it was just Ed and I in the room, he turned to me and pronounced, “You’re really creative.” I looked at him and laughed. He continued, “That’s really rare.”
I was so deeply touched by Ed’s pronouncement. I’d only been around Ed for four 3-hour long classes at this point, and in those 12 hours, he recognized something in me that I hold dearer than anything else on this planet.
At the class break, Ed told me that he had been the former owner of Regional Truck Equipment of Alsip and Addison and had some money that he wanted to use to invest in worthy projects. I looked at him and said, Ed, if you want to give me your money, I will take it. He just smiled and walked away. I never dreamed in a million years that he would. Ed sent me a few emails following class with resources and articles that he thought would help me with the podcast I was producing for class. ( We are Cats! about four female suburban cats who want to take over the world.) I finally had time to respond to his emails and thank him for the info he’d sent on the morning of the following week’s class.
Ed immediately replied to my last email.
ed 1st email final 2
When I got to class, Ed came up to me and gave me a check for $12,500, the amount we needed to finish up post-production on the documentary.  #holyholy! This was only the 5th time that Ed and I had ever met. I hugged him, and would not have let go if class wasn’t ready to start. Ed sat next to me and class started.  After class, I profusely thanked Ed again, and he told me that he believed in me, and that he thinks if I can finish this documentary, then it should be easier for me to get funding for my next documentary. I hugged him again.
Then I got in my car and screamed all of the way home.
When I wrote Ed a few days later asking him if we could mention that he is our angel investor on the documentary website or if he wanted to remain anonymous , he replied:
ed second email final
Why me? Why did Ed choose to believe in me? But, also, why NOT me? It is a fact that the world needs more female filmmakers, more female voices, more female characters, female viewpoints,female stories, female exaltations. I’ve wanted to make films since I was 13 years old, and oddly watching Clint Eastwood’s In the Line of Fire,  a film I have never had any desire to ever see again but which planted the seed that I have been chasing and trying to grow for the last 23 years of my life.

It’s people that make dreams happen. It’s not fame, it’s not money. It’s people who believe in you. People like Ed Toolis and Amos Paul Kennedy Jr. and Nicole Hollander.
One of the best things my father, who has always supported my dreams, taught me was that when someone gives you an opportunity, you say yes. YOU ALWAYS SAY YES. And you always say thank you.

ED angel

Photo by Umnia Khan. Podcasting 101 @ Second City.

I want to give BIG CRAZY THANK YOUS to the following people that are giving us the opportunity to make this documentary:
To everyone that has already donated to the post-production of this documentary:
Richard Bready (Thank you for being such an amazing long time supporter)
Alice Falk
Bonnie Braeutigam
Timothy Hurley
Needle Knack
Jan Priddy
Gayle Washbum
Miriam Clarke
Elizabeth Leavy-Watts (Who is amazing and is also in the documentary!)
Wendy Straw
Stef Jones
Caren Heft
To the Executive Producers:
Ed Toolis
At 73-years-old, Ed has written and published a book ; written, shot and edited a web series; and is now taking this podcasting class. (Eat it, Slackers. What have you been doing with your life lately??) You can read Ed’s blog here.

Amos Paul Kennedy Jr.
APKJ was the subject of my first feature length documentary PROCEED AND BE BOLD! and since then has been an incredible supporter of my work and me. His financial contribution to the production of this documentary allowed me to fly to the east coast to interview MacArthur Genius award winner and graphic novelist, Alison Bechdel  AND he also donated his Canon T2i HDSLR and tripod to 20K Films so we could continue to shoot this documentary. Kennedy’s print shop is online here.
Nicole Hollander
Yes, documentary subjects usually don’t contribute funding to their own documentaries, but Nicole is incredible and has contributed because we are so very independent, and I’ve been financing this documentary pretty much on my own for a long time.
To the Documentary Crew:
Laura Shields
Laura was the main camera person for this documentary and put up with me when we traveled about the country for a month almost two years ago.
Kirk Johnson
Kirk was a wonderful supporting camera person and is a documentary filmmaker as well living the life in Portland, OR.
Matt Peace 
Matt Peace is a wonderful supporting camera person, a filmmaker, and is self-taught on guitar, accordion, banjo, piano, and really any instrument you set in front of him. Matt likes to spend as much time as he can with his bride-to-be Megan, and their American Bulldog Delilah. Matt  is currently producing a feature-length documentary about indie bookstores, and runs the social media production company, Store Front Video.
Umnia Khan 
Umnia recently supported the documentary on set while we recorded some footage for the documentary teaser and took many poignant behind-the-scenes photos of Nicole and I walking all over the city and recording footage with kind strangers. She is also a documentary filmmaker and is in pre-production on a documentary about religious devotion in Pakistan.


To the Second City  TV, Film, and Digital Production Course Program
Specifically Jack Newell, who runs the Second City TV and Film program and is doing a super rad, bang up job, and is a fellow filmmaker, whom I have annoyed enough with my endless emails asking what classes I should take at Second City and
Steven Tobiasz
who taught the Podcasting Class  that Ed and I met in.
Cap Gun Collective’s,
PJ Fishwick who taught the Business of Film class which I had just finished the previous week.  Ironically I had learned how to write a proposal and pitch for investors in this class, but Ed had just given me money without seeing a pitch or proposal for this documentary.  This class was totally worth it though, because Ed mentioned that he had wrote, shot, and edited a webseries himself at 70 years old, and I told him that I had an idea for a web series and that I had written a proposal for it in my Business of Film class and Ed said he’d like to see it. Who knows? Maybe Ed and I will work together again in the future. I hope so. I would love that.
Both PJ and Steven were excellent instructors, so incredibly generous with their knowledge and time, and I HIGHLY recommend taking their classes or other Second City TV and Film courses. Who knows, maybe you’ll meet your own angel investor in a Second City class.
And of course, the BIGGEST thanks goes out to Nicole Hollander who single left-handedly drew women and wrote their voices into mainstream America tirelessly week after week and who has not been applauded near enough. At least not yet. 😉

Teaser end title

And We’re Off! In a Totally Different Editing Program…

Screen Shot 2015-04-05 at 4.03.24 PM

I was going to edit this entire documentary in FCPX, the program update to FCP7 that Apple introduced to professional editors worldwide that resulted in collective mass hysteria, screaming and hair pulling.  Understandably so, FCPX is a stripped down, flipped up, upside down update from FCP7 and was created in the image of iMovie, Apple’s complimentary movie editing program that comes pre-loaded on all Apple laptops and iMacs. I, too, was a hater of FCPX at first, because at first FCPX sucked. It was buggy, it was missing features that were well loved, and the interface’s facelift took some getting used to it.

Several years later, it became the only editing program I used: the bugs were fixed, new features were added, and it was overall more stable and crashed less if at all. It’s the program I introduced  to the organization where I currently work as an in-house video producer. It as fast and would edit any video format easily. I fell in love with it and didn’t toss a second glance at Adobe’s Premiere Pro or Avid.

That was until I noticed a workshop on Adobe Creative Cloud offered as part of Second City’s adult film program. The class’ instructor was intimately familiar with Adobe’s Premiere Pro, and at the end of the 3 hour workshop, I was sold on going back to a more advanced and feature heavy editing program like Premiere Pro. I decided immediately to  switch editing platforms from FCPX to Premiere Pro CC at my day job as well as at 20K Films.

I made the platform switch at my day job this past week and experienced a serious glitch with my first project created in Adobe Premiere Pro which resulted in hard core google searching about why Premiere Pro CC kept crashing every time I control clicked on certain merged video files. After a day and a half of fruitless searching, I called Adobe support, where an incredible individual in Adobe’s Tech Support department took over my computer remotely and figured out the problem in an hour (while I read the new Jon Ronson book, So, You’ve Been Publicly Shamed). Not only did Adobe Tech Support identify my problem (my project file was corrupted), he assured me that this was rare and told me to just create a new project, and import the corrupted project into it. And there was my project:  all of my folders and files in place, corruption-free, and ready to get to work. If only we could say the same about politics in Illinois….



I went over to Nicole’s apartment this past Sunday to record footage of her in action.  She had mentioned that she was going to start drawing again, and I mistakenly thought, “Sylvia’s Back!” Sylvia is not, in fact, back.

This is an entirely new character that Nicole is giving life to, and luckily I was there to get some footage of it. Who is this new character that Nicole is creating?

Take a guess at what kind of a character Nicole feels the world needs right now.

Finally finalized! Check out the final documentary poster!

Here’s the final poster for the documentary.

The previous one had the row of Sylvia characters at the bottom in white.


Nicole thought that something was missing and asked that Sylvia be added in color. Helen Kim of the amazing Think Farm graphic design studio and our poster designer,  decided to make the whole row of cartoon elements at the bottom in color.

Here are the initial documentary poster concepts that Helen came up so you can see Helen’s process in creating the poster design.


DVDs are Dead and Other Distribution Quandaries

20K Films needs to raise another $12,500 in order to finish up the pre-production of this documentary.

Here’s the breakdown:

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 3.17.17 PM

I, Laura Zinger, (the Director and Producer) am editing this documentary entirely by myself so that eliminates an additional $10,000 that would have gone to hiring an editor.

The best way I can see right now to raise these funds is through pre-selling the documentary via DVD and digital download sales, and donations from anyone who would like to give a little more.  (We’ve already received donations for which we are extremely grateful! Thank you, donators!)

But the world has changed significantly since I produced my first documentary, Proceed and Be Bold!, and the best DVD authoring software has all been discontinued (I’m looking at you, Adobe Encore and DVD Studio Pro), so it will be a challenge finding a good DVD authoring software to create the final Nicole Hollander Documentary DVD. Not impossible, just challenging. (Thank you, Christopher Sharpe,  for answering a question I had about digital downloads and then asking me about DVD authoring software. This wasn’t even on my radar yet. I’m glad you put it there. Thank you! Chris has a great how-to filmmaking site here.)

The question I asked Chris was what digital download service was best. Here is what he told me:

Here is a quick run down of what I’ve used so far and what I like:
Gumroad – Simply awesome. My top choice. I would use it for everything IF they took PayPal. PayPal is huge for international sales and impulse buys. – Also very good. I use this for people who want to use PayPal. The user experience is not as good however. 
Up next… and the one I think might be best for your needs… I think this has a ton of potential but I haven’t used it yet. I only realized recently that it has downloads as a feature. The presales features on this platform are killer and the user interface is really great. There are also lots of indie filmmakers already using it. I’m going to do some experiments with it because I feel like it could replace all of the other things we’ve been using.  You can integrate it with physical products and sell bundles, all of that cool stuff. This is who uses. 
I tried out Gumroad and found their service/site the easiest to navigate, they have a great help center, and they allow selling pre-orders.  So we’re currently set up to sell digital downloads of the Nicole Hollander documentary on Gumroad. 
And we are also set up to sell pre-orders of DVDs of the Nicole Hollander documentary via Paypal. BUT this will be the last time 20K Films will ever offer DVDs for one of its films again. Which is good for the environment and easier and more cost effective for 20K Films. Although this does lead me to worry deeply about the United States Postal Service in this digital goods economy. How will they survive without the mailing of digital goods? Maybe this will be a future 20K Films documentary topic….