HIGH, a narrative feature, is an adrenaline filled tale about human rights and the price we pay to win them. Scaling insanely high telecommunication towers, on cigarettes and little sleep, is how BUTCH ROBBINS makes his living. Never knowing if he will make it down alive is the risk he takes every day. When his rescue efforts to save fellow climber and best friend JAKE fail, Butch rides a downward spiral of regret and anger. HIGH is a gritty and intense portrait of today’s Blue Collar America, where the sacrifices one makes to live, are sometimes life itself. The underlying theme of HIGH is the razors edge between the cost of living and a man’s life. With that foundation, I explore the difficult question of American technological advancement and what is being sacrificed to obtain it. Year after year, the number of tower climber deaths increase, for us to have the ability to swipe right and Instagram our lunch choices to the masses.
It is estimated that by 2020 there will be well over 1 million cell sites in the US. There are approximately 17,000 tower climbers in the United States, which means climbers spend an extensive amount of time on the road away from home, working excessive hours in difficult environments, getting very little sleep and incessantly being demanded to meet unrealistic and unsafe deadlines.
I believe we live in a moral universe, so my hope is that HIGH will start conversations about this dangerous world, and will be a catalyst to better safety regulations and working conditions for tower climbers. Making a great film with the side benefit that the men and women building and maintaining these spires will make it home to their families.
The Road to Getting HIGH Made-
Getting my first feature film made is no easy feat. I am very grateful for all the support I have received and continue to receive. It all makes getting HIGH to the big screen an achievable goal.
In June of 2017, I was named one of the Top 30 Finalists for the Iconic Character Fellowship with Roadmap Writers. In August of 2017, I was given an honorable mention in the SAGIndie Fellowship competition and invited to attend the Stowe Story Lab, which I attended in September 2017. At Stowe, we worked diligently to get at the heart of our stories and through that work perfect our pitches. It was very encouraging to be in a room of peers and see the true interest and intrigue on their faces, when I spoke about HIGH.
Stowe Story Lab not only provided me with the first real opportunity to pitch my script, but it has provided me with a community of fellow filmmakers who are encouraging, inspiring and supportive, till this day.
In October 2017, Moore College of Art and Design, in Philadelphia, invited me to speak to students of Visual Thinking about HIGH and my advocacy work for tower climbers.
Prior to going to Stowe, I had applied for a seat at the Philadelphia Sundance Screenwriters Intensive. I was thrilled to find out in October I was invited. I attended the intensive in November 2017, which was facilitated by Katherine Dieckmann, a Screenwriting professor at Columbia University and award-winning filmmaker.
Katherine was truthful and direct, yet encouraging and gracious, which is a delicate balancing act. She has continued to be a sounding board, mentor, friend and supporter of me and my work. This summer when I was struggling to juggle being a present mom and also a filmmaker, it was Katherine who reminded me that there is a time for everything and I will never regret the time I spend with my daughter; she couldn’t have been more right!
After the Screenwriters intensive, I was contacted by Shira Rockowitz, Associate Director of the Feature Film program at Sundance, and asked to write a blog about my experience. This opportunity allowed me to profile HIGH and talk about how the screenwriters intensive helped me to flush out my main character. I was then nominated and selected to become a Sundance Institute and Knight Foundation fellow.
Sundance flew me to the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. There, I was invited to numerous industry functions, where I was given the opportunity to pitch HIGH.
In April 2018, I was selected by Sundance to attend a Producers Intensive in Detroit, Michigan, and this year I have been awarded two grants from The Sundance Institute and Knight Foundation to help advance HIGH.
Currently, I am working on a rewrite, which my Sundance mentors are waiting to receive. To have an organization like Sundance, not only provide me with so many opportunities, but continue to provide me mentorship and support, means so much to me and this project.
We are so happy to announce that Jonathan Mason has come aboard as Creative Producer. Jonathan is not only a decent and amazing human being, but he is a wealth of knowledge and brings a lot of experience and expertise to the project.
Jonathan Mason is French/American filmmaker based in Philadelphia/NY. After earning an MFA with Honors from Columbia University’s School of the Arts, he served as Head of Market Research and Distributor Relations for UniFrance USA’s NYC office, before joining Belladonna Productions’ development team. As Belladonna’s Creative Director, Mason helped package and develop projects like Jim Mickle’s Stake Land (Toronto FF), We Are What We Are (Sundance, Cannes Director’s Fortnight), Cold in July (Sundance, Cannes Director’s Fortnight), and Julio DePietro’s The Good Guy (Tribeca FF), Afia Nathaniel’s Dukhtar (Toronto FF and Pakistan’s Oscar submission). At Belladonna he also handled various production service roles on commercials and features including Richard Laxton’s An Englisman in New York (Starring John Hurt and Cynthia Nixon), and Richard Ledes’ the Caller (Jury Award, Tribeca FF).
With Producer Adam Folk, Mason started Bullet Pictures, which oversaw physical production on commercials and features including Abel Ferrara’s4:44 Last Day on Earth (Starring Willem Dafoe), and Welcome to New York (Starring Gerard Depardieu and Jacqueline Bisset).
As a screenwriter, Mason’s work has been selected for Sundance and IFP labs, and he has written for projects by producers Rachael Horovitz, Dominique Boutonnat, Hubert Caillard, Simon O’Leary and Braulio Mantovani. He has also adapted and translated numerous screenplays for Miramax/Dimension and Pathé International.
Mason’s short films include, L’échappée (Clermont-Ferrand Film Festival, Winner of Canal + Short Film Prize) and Entropia (Philadelphia Film Festival), which he produced for director Keir Politz.
His TV project, The ORDER was selected for the inaugural IFP Episodic Week, and Country of the Blind, co-written wirth Keir Politz was a selection of IFP the following year. Mason’s most recent feature screenplay, co-written and co-executive produced with Oscar-nominated writer Braulio Mantovani is in the packaging phase.
Tisha was invited to the July 2020 Stowe Story Labs Writer Retreat for the narrative feature screenplay HIGH.
She is also a recipient of a 2020 NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) grant for HIGH.