ABOUT THE PROJECT:
Bears Discover Fire is a Columbia University MFA thesis film directed by Ben Leonberg and produced by Scott Riehs. It's a story about fantastic natural phenomena and the very ordinary people who experience it.
Bobby, a middle-aged man on a lonely farm who spends his time fixing tires and looking after his elderly mother, is suddenly tasked with also taking care of his eager young nephew for the weekend—all the while bears are suddenly making campfires down the road.
Bears Discover Fire is an adaptation of the short story by award-winning sci-fi author Terry Bisson.
"The story elegizes Nature and the Land, as well as the loss of the American Wilderness. The bears seem to be gaining something that we humans have lost; the art of enjoying company by a warm campfire in the woods, perhaps…"
-John Clute, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction
Our goal is to raise the money needed to take our film to the next level—far beyond the limited budgets our prior Columbia University collaborations have cost. It’s time to reach for the stars, and create a believable cinematic world in which bears really can hold a torch, inspire a family, and flip Evolution on its head.
We want to engage the Kickstarter community by spreading the word about this remarkable short story by Terry Bisson. We have been given a wonderful opportunity to adapt Bears Discover Fire into a film—and with your generous support, we’re confident our finished product will live up to the mysterious transcendence of Mr. Bisson’s Hugo-award winning short story.
You can listen to a fantastic podcast version of “Bears Discover Fire” here for free: http://www.drabblecast.org/2012/01/26/drabblecast-230-bears-discover-fire/
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
Your support for this project will contribute directly to onscreen production value, as well as the cost of producing a short film in Deep South Jersey. We (Ben and Scott) were awarded a Production Grant from Katharina Otto-Bernstein at the 2014 Columbia University Film Festival in order to lift our thesis production off the ground. Now, several months later, we are in position to start Principal Photography this October—but will only be able to complete the film we’re striving to make if we secure at least $15,000 in funds. Our Kickstarter goal will go towards the following:
- Transportation and Accommodations: We will be shooting Bears Discover Fire in Salem County, located on the Delaware Bay in Deep South New Jersey. But in order to do so, we need to rent trucks and passenger vans to transport our cast, crew and equipment from New York City (and beyond) to our exciting sets, as well as rent housing for a production team of nearly thirty people for a full week during Principal Photography.
- Food: Making a movie takes a lot of talented individuals, and they all need to eat well three times a day—especially during a shoot that is going to be as physically demanding as Bears Discover Fire. Good, healthy food on set is one of the best ways we can show our appreciation to all those who are helping make this film a reality
- .BEARS! We’re collaborating with unbelievable animal puppeteers and practical special effects artists to create photo-realistic bears on-set. This costs money. In addition, we are also collaborating with multiple taxidermy shops and visual artists to create from scratch one of the single-most realistic black bear puppets ever made for film. We’re not kidding!
- Production Design: Our version of Bears Discover Fire takes place in a timeless era, where the world seems to have been put on hold from the rest of the country. Imagine a town in the 90s that hasn’t changed a bit since the 50s. In order to create this world, we’re renting several picture vehicles, as well as set-decorating a “nursing home” and a large red wooden barn.
- Equipment: Your donation will help us rent the professional film equipment necessary to help us shoot both creatively and efficiently while on-location outside in the elements for a solid week straight.
We are currently in full-time pre-production on the film – casting professional actors from around the country, working on extensive production design, and recruiting a world-class crew.Shooting begins in Mid-October, 2014.The finished film will premiere on the Big Screen next May at the 2015 Columbia University Film Festival at Lincoln Center in New York City, and will be available streaming online for free starting in late Summer, 2015.
Ben Leonberg (Writer, Director) and Scott Riehs (Producer)
Director Ben Leonberg is a deep-south Jersey-ian, a whitewater raft guide, and a former D1-athlete. Scott Riehs is an NYC based producer, a graduate of NYU’s Experimental Theatre Wing, and one the co-creators of the new field sport Circle Rules Football. Both happen to be Eagles Scouts. Ben and Scott met during their first semester at Columbia University’s MFA film program. After producing each other’s first films at Columbia it became clear to both that they would be logical complements to each other’s talents. The duo teamed up in the fall of 2013 to begin developing Bears Discover Fire. See more of their collaborations here: www.benleonberg.com
Jan Reichle, Director of Photography
Growing up in the cultural melting pot of Hong Kong and mastering his craft in Sydney and Melbourne, Jan now is based in New York City. He enjoys a healthy mix of advertising, indie feature film, TV promo, music video, TV & web series work. He is a passionate collaborator, works fast & efficiently, whilst remaining calm. His images punch above their budget weight. His first feature credit as cinematographer, Jucy, premiered at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival. 2014 will see the release of You Must be Joking, his second feature film credit. http://janreichle.com/
Co-Writer, Alex Cannon
Alex Cannon has been making movies since his dreadful all-boys high school days. His work has been featured in festivals and venues, including SXSW, SPIN, Fader, NME, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. He's presently pursuing an MFA in Directing at Columbia University
Chloe Lenihan, Co-Producer
Chloe is a current MFA Candidate in Creative Producing at Columbia University. She has worked for the Academy-Award winning GK Films (on films like The Departed, The Aviator, Blood Diamond, The Young Victoria), balancing work in both Creative Development and Business & Legal Affairs. After studying acting under Bill Esper at the William Esper Studio in NYC, she co-founded Buds of May Productions, developing content for the stage and screen. Her directorial debut, Red Dot, has screened at domestic and international film festivals. http://chloelenihan.com/
Peter Todd, Co-Producer
Peter Todd is a film producer based in NYC, also pursuing his MFA in Creative Producing at Columbia University. In June 2014, Peter founded his own production company Shady Deals Productions while working on his thesis project Parents of the Groom. Prior to that, Peter produced six short films and co-produced five other short films at Columbia. Peter began his entertainment career working for Henderson Hogan Agency, Brillstein Entertainment Partners, and the Independent Producers Pete Lengyel (Super Troopers) and Rich Perello (Super Troopers).
Tina Braz, Co-Producer
Tina Braz hails from Cape Town and embodies the vibrant spirit of this cosmopolitan South African city. While pursuing her MFA in Creative Producing at Columbia University, she has had a hand in producing 8 short films and interned in the art department on Liz Tucillo's debut feature, Take Care. Her passion for art, costume and design means she's usually found moonlighting in the art department prop-shop and is therefore perfectly suited to overseeing production design for Bears Discover Fire.
Terry Bisson, the author of the short story “Bears Discover Fire”
Terry is an award-winning science fiction writer, known mainly for his short stories. Check out his awesome website “Terry Bisson of the Universe” for his full story: http://www.terrybisson.com/page1/page1.html
One of the reasons we love “Bears Discover Fire” is that every person who ever reads the short story seems to take away something special from it. The plot is clear; there’s no arguing what happens in the story.But the themes, and the meaning of it all, are totally up to interpretation. It is quite a strange story.
We believe Bears Discover Fire is a tale about “passing the torch”, both literally and figuratively. It deals with the themes of mortality, coping with the loss of a loved one, coming of age, as well as environmental awareness and our own place within Nature. It is a story suitable for people of all ages. Our ultimate goal is this: We want the whole world to see this film, and to cause no less than deep reflection of what our place in the Universe truly means. And our quest begins here, with you, and your donation to our film. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your support!
Risks and challenges
One of our biggest risks and challenges is Mother Nature herself. If inclement weather arises in mid-october, it is going to take all of our producing prowess to move around all the logistical moving pieces in order to shoot the film during our target week.
But above all, the challenge is to create a believable world - from scratch - where a bear really can walk around with a torch. What we do NOT want is a movie about a man and a boy looking at a bunch of people wearing bear suits. In the world of our film, the bears ARE real. And we want the audience to be swept away in the magic from the very first frame.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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