About this project
Ewe Topia is Stretching!
Thanks to all of ewe, we have reached our initial goal! We are announcing a stretch goal of $10,000 to improve the CGI effects, among other aspects of the production, and are offering all backers a special sneak peak of Ewe Topia if we make this goal by our deadline. Additionally, all backers will be entered to win a weekend at our shooting location: the magnificent Mayflower Farm. Help us reach this goal, and see our latest update for details.
About Ewe Topia
What do you do when you have a drop dead gorgeous meadow filled with ravishing sheep and a baby grand piano? You make a movie. Ewe Topia will be every bit the movie that Bach dreamed of when he wrote his famous cantata "Sheep May Safely Graze." That is, we hope it will. We can't wait to show it to him. And to you. With your help, we'll be able to create this musical homage where Bach plays, sheep graze, and the bleat goes on.
Meet the Team
We have quite a long list of inordinately talented people working on this project. But do the sheep appreciate all we're doing for them? Nooo. But we hope you will.
Ben Hillman is a film maker, designer, author and illustrator who loves subatomic particles and Betty Boop. When he's not busy making a living skydiving into the blowholes of humpback whales, he loves making independent films with little or no socially redeeming value, but hopefully a high entertainment value. Here are a few:
Bomb Squad - an animated musical feature about the gang who made the atomic bomb. Currently in preproduction. Somebody fund this damn thing!
Bach of the Antarctic, a live-action short shot entirely on location, documents the discovery of the Seventh Continent by none other than Johann Sebastian Bach. Some may doubt its veracity but Peter Schickele was “amazed and amused.”
Spike Lee’s film "She Hate Me" (animation sequences). Ben made millions of animated sperm explode onto the screen, bursting forth in the middle of Spike's live action flick about a fired corporate whistleblower forced to make a living by impregnating lesbians.
Little Red Jiving Hood featuring music by Donald Sosin– a swinging tale of mystery, destiny, redemption and sukiyaki that has been screened in umpteen film festivals and won awards across several continents.
Cup-O-Abominations, an animated short too raunchy to show online. Because it's taken literally from the Bible. (Book of Revelation, Whore of Babylon, you know… not for kids). Cup-O-Abominations was bravely featured on England’s Channel 4 as well as festivals in the US and Europe.
Nietzsche Pops, a lighthearted animated spot for a fascist breakfast cereal, was screened on Bravo and the Independent Film Channel and was aired on MTV’s Liquid Television, PBS, La Sept Arte and Kanal 4. This award-winning piece of questionable filmmaking was featured in over 40 film festivals around the world. Stare into the Abyss! Stare into a bowl of Nietzsche Pops!
In addition, Ben has written and illustrated several picture books including “The Devil Ate My Blintzes” (Waterfront Press) and “That Pesky Toaster!” (The Walt Disney Company). He also conceived, wrote and designed a series of four pictorial science books for children published by Scholastic: “How Big Is It?”, “How Strong Is It?”, “How Fast Is It?” and “How Weird Is It?.” Publisher’s Weekly calls them “so freakin’ cool.”
Ben lives in the beautiful Berkshire hills of Massachusetts with his wife Amy and daughter Maizy. He is a member of the Sheffield Tree Project and the Antarctican Society.
Donald Sosin (J.S. Bach) is one of the foremost silent film accompanists in the world. His ability to improvise in absolutely any musical style imaginable is jaw-dropping.
In Ewe Topia, Donald not only dresses up in a silly costume and plays Bach, he is also the arranger of the piano/flute score for the film. He has worked with Ben numerous times on his farkakte projects and each time Ben is literally amazed at Donald’s uncanny abilities.
Sosin's film scores have been heard many times on Turner Classic Movies, and he has written for PBS and NPR. His more than 30 feature film scores, on the Criterion, Kino Milestone and several European labels, include Nosferatu, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, De Mille’s King of Kings, four Ozu films including A Story of Floating Weeds, plus many shorts by Chaplin, Sennett, Lloyd, Chase and Arbuckle. He and his wife, singer Joanna Seaton, perform their scores at major film festivals—New York, Telluride, Seattle, TriBeCa, Houston, San Francisco—and other festivals in Bologna, Berlin, Vienna, Moscow and Shanghai.
Sosin was the staff pianist for MoMA for five years and is a frequent guest there, along with the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the Museum of the Moving Image, the Guggenheim, the Whitney, and other museums, film archives and universities nationwide. He has had commissions from MoMA and the Chicago Symphony Chorus. Each fall he teaches master classes on silent film accompaniment in Pordedone, Italy.
This is a clip of Donald improvising Yellow Submarine in the style of Bach:
Ilana Siegal (Dancer), originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan, has been a resident of the Berkshires in Massachusetts on and off for over 15 years. Ewe Topia is her film debut. She began dancing as a child, and has passionately studied a wide range of techniques and styles, including Ballet, Modern, Jazz, and Bellydance. Ilana has been teaching dance since 1997. In New York, she was trained and began teaching Pilates at the Ailey school. Ilana is also a certified Yoga teacher in the Ashaya (post-Anusara) tradition and a certified life-coach through Coaching for Transformation. Ilana splits her professional time between teaching group fitness/dance classes and working one-on-one with individuals. Ilana followed her passion for building community through the body and opened Lifeworks Studio located in Great Barrington, MA in 2013.
Mary Shalaby (Shepherdess) is an 11-year-old theater enthusiast, participating in as many productions as possible at school and with the Berkshire Theater Group. Since even that is not enough for her, she also attends the dance school Berkshire Pulse, sings in the Berkshire Children's Chorus and plays French horn in the school band. Her aspirations are to be a Broadway actress and scientist while living with her dog, Duke. She enthusiastically jumped at the chance to be in this film, her first by someone other than her brother.
Richard Sands (Director of Photography) is the chief photographer for the internationally acclaimed artist Gregory Crewdson. Rick is Ben's shooter of choice and has worked on many of his films as well as acting as Director of Photography on indie dramas, documentaries, commercials, you name it. He also works with special effects maestro Douglas Trumbull (2001: A Space Odyssey) and recently shot effects for Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life.
Terry Holland (Drone Photography) is our man with eyes in the sky. He is an expert drone operator and cinematographer, which is only the latest in a long series of adventures including acting, directing, and performing as a stunt double (GI Jane). He is also an Olympic Coach in the skeleton (yes, that insane thing), most recently in the Sochi Olympics in Russia.
Ellen Maggio (Costumes) comes from Framingham, MA but always wanted to be a New Yawka. In college, Ellen met Bonnie Erickson who made puppets for Jim Henson in New York. Bonnie invited Ellen to come for an interview and a New Yawka wuz bawn. Ellen's first job was making a giant tongue for a Budweiser ad aired on Saturday Night Live. Other jobs included a 3-foot-long anchovy and an Elvis jacket with an 86-inch waist for Rolf the Dog. Not to mention making costumes and props for the very demanding Cabbage Patch dolls. With no formal training as a seamstress, Ellen nevertheless seems to be able to make any article of clothing you can name. After moving to Massachusetts, she's made hundreds of theater costumes for the local high school theatrical productions and Madrigal costumes for the Mt. Everett Madrigal chorus. Her favorite thing in the world is to make costumes for Ben Hillman's impeccably-costumed motion picture productions. (Ben made her say that.)
Peter Maggio (Sheep Wrangler) was probably the only kid in Brooklyn who got up early to watch Modern Farming on TV. In high school, his pastoral dream came true when his family moved to a dairy farm in Connecticut. There Peter became a Future Farmer of America and won the state Milk Tasting Contest championship in 1975. Then he was really hooked. He convinced his parents to let him have some sheep, but they ran up the road every day when he went to school and his mother had to run after them so that ended that. Finally he had his own place, got a border collie and some sheep and even more importantly -- a fence. A few sheep became more sheep and even more sheep. He now runs Mayflower Farm in South Egremont, MA where he raises grass-fed Romneys. (Not Mitt Romney, just Romney.) Grass-feeding is a way to use solar energy combined with sheep energy to both improve the pasture and the quality of the meat at the same time. This year Mayflower Farm has 38 acres, 28 ewes and and 32 lambs and many more on the way. It also includes a rental cottage. (Not to mention it's a great place to shoot a film.) Come visit!
Jim Spieler (CGI) is an artist who works in many different media. In his professional life he has worked as a painter, puppeteer, musician, designer, model maker, set supervisor, computer graphics artist, animator, editor, post-producton supervisor, art director, and director. Jim’s résumé includes work in film, television, theater, and book publication for clients including PBS, Disney, Sony Pictures, Goldman Sachs and Hatachi.Jim presently lives in the Berkshires with his wife, 2 daughters, 6 dogs, 6 cats, 2 pigs, 2 goats, 3 chickens, and a hermit crab.
Owen Ward of Off World Entertainment is overseeing strategic marketing efforts to help spread the word to make sure we reach our goal, and finish the film to reach audiences far and wide.
Risks and challenges
We have a small window to capture the stars of our film, the sheep, while the fields are green and before the sheep are shorn, and it is coming up very soon. We need your help to raise the funds in this Kickstarter campaign to lock in our production and make sure our cameras roll in the perfect time.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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