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A turn of the 20th century short horror film done entirely with puppets.
A turn of the 20th century short horror film done entirely with puppets.
191 backers pledged $13,390 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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$13,390

191

THE STORY

Leo, a ten year old boy, is happy living a simple life with his imaginary friend, Edgar, and his mother, Anna, playfully using his active imagination and special power to affect the world around him. However, things change when Leo’s uncle, Carl, comes back into his and Anna's life, a year after Leo’s father died. Leo is angered by Carl taking over his family and after a new, dark Stranger gets introduced into Leo’s imaginary world, he becomes aware of how vicious his unique talent allows him to be.

Amazing Dark and Light Leo artwork created by the superlatively talented Ajooni Sethi
Amazing Dark and Light Leo artwork created by the superlatively talented Ajooni Sethi

WHY MAKE THIS FILM?

Anna and Carl getting ready for rehearsal.
Anna and Carl getting ready for rehearsal.

A few months ago I was staring at five different thesis scripts I'd written and realized...I wasn't excited about any of them. Then my sister introduced me to the amazing people at Opera in Focus. The work they do is so unique from what we normally consider possible with puppets. There is a natural, eerie quality to them which works perfectly for a horror film. And because of the numerous sets and costumes available to us through the theatre, the concept of imagination can be taken much farther than what’s possible in real life (at least with a student budget). The same day I saw my first show at Opera in Focus I wrote the script for Dark and Light Leo within a few hours, not even stopping for bathroom breaks. That's how excited I was. 

MY PREVIOUS WORK: Check out this link, this one too, and maybe even this one

THE WORLD

Photo by Stacey Wescott
Photo by Stacey Wescott

Dark and Light Leo is set entirely on the stages at Opera in Focus, where we will create an entire world of puppets and imagination with over 100 sets, 80 different puppets, and dozens of costumes. Because all of the scenery, furniture, and the actors themselves are very movable, we’ll be able to move everything in front of the lens to truly make this world feel like it exists in 360 degrees, instead of simply on a stage.

THE PUPPETS!

Opera in Focus is a community theatre and has been around since the 1950's. Created by master puppeteer William Fosser, these puppets are engineered specifically for the stage we'll be using and are found nowhere else in the world. Each is handmade and painted at the theatre by the puppeteers themselves. To learn more about Opera in Focus, watch the video from Chicago Tonight below.

NEW REWARDS!!!

Including all the great rewards we're already offering we now have a few new ones, all involving Opera in Focus!

$100 - Not ONLY do you get a Dark and Light Leo poster, but you will ALSO get a beautiful poster from Opera in Focus!

$250 - Another option for our $250 donators! You can either visit us on set and see how we make the movie, OR you can come to a show at Opera in Focus and watch the entire thing BEHIND THE SCENES! Stay below the stage with the puppeteers as they put on one of their amazing performances! 

$2,500 - For our serious high rollers, we can now offer a SEASON PASS to Opera in Focus! This includes all of their shows for an entire year! You can see pieces from classic operas and well beloved musicals! 

WHAT WILL YOUR CONTRIBUTION DO?

August Janklow recording lines for the voice of Leo
August Janklow recording lines for the voice of Leo

We are extremely fortunate to have the support system of the NYU film community which gives us insurance and some great equipment. However anything/everything else the film needs must be fundraised. $13,000 is our minimum budget, and that’s where your support becomes essential to us making this film. Your contribution will go directly to the following:

  • Cast and Crew
  • Equipment Rentals (a camera's not much use without lenses)
  • Food (film crews eat A LOT)
  • Transportation
  • Props, Furniture, Costumes (puppet sized)
  • Editing 
  • Color Correction
  • Sound Design (virtually all sound will be done in post)
  • Festival Submission Fees   

What if we received more than our finance goal? That would be amazing! Because of the intense work that will need to be done to the film in post production, any little bit extra could help. And if we DO have any extra funds they will be donated to Opera in Focus, so the amazing puppeteers who keep the theatre alive can continue to put on performances. So really, you'll be helping out two projects instead of just one!

THE TEAM

Sehaj Sethi: Writer/Director

Sehaj Sethi fell in love with filmmaking after a high school class on the rhetoric of cinema. Since then, Sehaj has worked on over 30 film sets and has written/directed seven short films of her own. Her work has played at the Illinois Wesleyan Film Festival, The Chicago Film Festival, and The First Run Film Festival. Her proudest achievement however is winning the NYU Grad Film bake-off in 2011. Her cakes are amazing.

For the past three years Sehaj has focused on screenwriting. Her first feature script, My Husband's Corpse, placed on NYU's 2012 Purple List (a list of the Graduate Film Program's most promising feature scripts). It went on to become a quarter finalist for the 2012 Creative World Awards, and was an official selection for Toronto's Female Eye Film Festival. Her second feature script has been optioned by a successful production company and is currently in development. 

Conor O'Farrell: Producer

A 2nd year student in Columbia College's Creative Producing Program, Conor has rooted himself deeply in the film world. He was recently assistant director for renowned filmmaker John D. Hancock's latest film Swan Song, and has worked as a producer on countless other films. His own work won Best Overall Short at the 2013 LIT Film Festival, and was nominated for Best Overall Short at the Irish Student Media awards and Royal Television Society Awards. He also has a swanky Irish accent.

Ed Barnes: Director of Photography

Born and raised in London, half-British half-French filmmaker Ed Barnes originally discovered a passion for dramatic storytelling when acting and directing for the theater. While studying Psychology at Manchester, Ed shifted his attention towards film as his chosen medium. A thesis student in New York University's Graduate Film Program, Ed has shot dozens of short films, commercials, music videos and documentaries, including the award winning web series F to the 7th. He has also written and directed several of his own projects.

Justin Snyder: Master Puppeteer/Co-Owner of Opera in Focus

Upon completing his apprenticeship under Master Puppeteers William B. Fosser and Paul Guerra, Justin was promoted to Principal Puppeteer and Stage Manager of Opera in Focus. He ultimately assumed the position of Artistic Director in 2006 when Mr. Fosser passed away. In addition to his skills as a puppet engineer and technician, Justin is also an accomplished musician, writer and stone carver. His work in the monument industry can be seen in cemeteries throughout Chicagoland. 

Jeremy Brunjes: Editor

A native Minnesotan, Jeremy is such a nice guy. He's also a thesis student in NYU's Graduate Film Program, previously earning a BA in Film from Northwestern University. Jeremy's short films have screened at festivals around the nation and globe. For the past few years he has been working as an editor in both film and television.He was awarded Best Editing from the Idaho Panhandle International Film Festival for his work on Art Seymour/Solo Performance.His professional editing work can be seen in several feature documentaries and TV shows on the DIY Network.

Risks and challenges

There's no doubt that filmmaking, at any level, is a risk. Lucky for us on the Dark and Light Leo team, this is not anyone's first time to the rodeo. We have all been through the trials a tribulations of making movies (rain on an exterior shoot day, ruined footage, crew/cast dropping out at the last minute, etc.) and we're all still standing. And when the going gets even tougher, we have a whole community of support from our colleagues and the great staff/faculty in the film program at NYU, who are all available to help us out if we get into a serious jam.

And while you can't predict future problems, you can certainly prepare for them. Our entire production, from people to locations to equipment to anything you can think of, is fully insured. Even if something DOES go wrong, that doesn't mean we have to spend all of the money we've raised on fixing it and not finishing the film. The key is to be prepared, which we most certainly are. We will do everything in our power to make Dark and Light Leo a reality, and we're so glad you're here to help us out!

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    THANK YOU!! You will receive a special thank you video from one of our puppet cast! Plus exclusive updates on how Dark and Light Leo is progressing!

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    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    A PDF of the final shooting script, plus PDFs of our diagrams for shooting the film on the Opera in Focus stage, plus all of the above.

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    A digital download of the Film and digital download of the Dark and Light Leo Poster, plus all of the above.

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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    A DVD of the film with special features and a Dark and Light Leo Postcard from the director personally thanking you for your contribution, plus all of the above.

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    A Dark and Light Leo Poster and Your Name in the Credits! Plus all of the above.

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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    UPDATED REWARD!!

    A Dark and Light Leo poster AND Opera in Focus poster! Plus your Name in the Credits! Plus all of the above.

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    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    A Limited Edition Dark and Light Leo Tote Bag and an Invitation for you and a guest to a special VIP Screening of the film in NYC! Enjoy some refreshments while you watch Dark and Light Leo before it is available to anyone else! (travel not included) Plus all of the above.

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    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    Come visit us on set! You'll see how we make Dark and Light Leo a reality with puppets and camera trickery, plus have lunch with the crew (travel not included), plus all of the above. (Set visit will be redeemed earlier than other rewards, which will be sent out next summer.)

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    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    NEW REWARD!!

    Come to an Opera in Focus show and watch the entire thing BEHIND THE SCENES! Stay below stage with the puppeteers as they put on a phenomenal performance! Plus all of the above.

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    Two Tickets to Opera in Focus with an in depth tour backstage after the show by master puppeteer Justin Snyder (travel not included), plus all of the above.

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    Congratulations, you're an Associate Producer! We will share details with you regarding production, post production, marketing and distribution. Visit us on set while we shoot, discuss shots with the Director, and enjoy lunch with the crew (travel not included). You're an official member of the Dark and Light Leo production! Plus all of the above.

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    Pledge $2,500 or more About $2,500

    NEW REWARD!!

    Get a SEASON PASS to Opera in Focus! Enjoy every show these puppeteers put on for a WHOLE YEAR!! Plus all of the above.

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    Pledge $5,000 or more About $5,000

    Welcome aboard, Co-Producer! Along with having full access to the details regarding the production of Dark and Light Leo, AND being able to visit us on set and in the editing room, I will invite you to come have an unbelievably delicious home cooked Indian meal (prepared by a real Indian mother) before I take you to a private show at Opera in Focus. We can discuss details of how Dark and Light Leo is progressing over drinks (and cake that I've baked specially for you) at your hotel, where we will provide your room (travel not included). Plus all of the above.

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Funding period

- (30 days)