A body is discovered, burned and bound to a tree, in an isolated Nebraska town. Iconoclastic author Poe Ballantine investigates.
Thank you for taking the time to look at “Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere”. A friend recently described a rough cut of the film as a cross between “Twin Peaks”, “In Cold Blood”, and an Errol Morris documentary, which seemed to capture the essence of what I am trying to accomplish. I'm incredibly excited to finish the film and share it with you. If you can’t give money please pass the word, and feel free to reach out if you have any questions by using the “contact me” link on the right. Thanks again!
- Dave Jannetta
In the summer of 2006, following a series of massive wild fires that nearly destroyed the isolated town of Chadron, Nebraska, Dr. Steven Haataja (pronounced Haw-dee-ah) arrived for a teaching position at the local college. A somewhat aloof but brilliant mathematician, Dr. Haataja seemed to be assimilating well into a community brimming with eccentric residents. That winter, however, Dr. Haataja disappeared without a trace.
Ninety-five days later his body was discovered tied to a tree and burned beyond recognition on a private ranch in the remote hills south of campus.
News teams descended upon the town while law enforcement officers, along with psychics and ghost hunters, exhausted themselves in the circus-like investigation. Conjecture and hysteria prevailed and the story quickly developed a life all its own. The case remains unsolved, a profound mystery; “Twilight Zone shit,” in the words of Dawes County Sheriff Karl Dailey. With little evidence to go on, the locally accepted “theories” range from the expected to the absurd: a hate crime, suicide, accidental death, and even space aliens.
Filmmaker Dave Jannetta explores the mystery of the math professor through the eyes of award winning author Poe Ballantine, who spent six years investigating the case while writing a memoir centered on the events (Hawthorne Books, September 2013). "Love and Terror" also examines the author’s life of wanderlust, his rocky marriage to a beautiful Mexican woman, his exceptional, yet purportedly autistic son, and the quaint High Plains town that plays host to the mystery.
In the film, more than twenty current residents of Chadron personify the town and substantiate a narrative that touches on themes such as depression, suicide, the ephemeral nature of reality, and the American Dream. The surrounding landscape - stark, beautiful, and unforgiving - provides a backdrop for the dramatic events.
Yes, “Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere,” is a documentary film that parallels the forthcoming memoir by Poe Ballantine of the same name (Hawthorne Books, Sept 2013). The film is an exploration of many of the same themes and topics described in the book and because the timeline of their creation overlaps slightly, the film and book inform each other. The documentary deepens the perspective on Chadron and its inhabitants, the disappearance and death of Dr. Haataja, and the life and philosophies of Poe Ballantine.
You can preorder the book from Amazon HERE.
On the surface, “Love & Terror” has the elements of documentary films that I love: a riveting underlying story, fascinating characters, a unique setting, and the opportunity to explore a seemingly foreign universe. Yet, I aim to transcend the conventions of the “true crime” documentary (the genre to which it ostensibly belongs) by finding an anchor in parallel narratives of personal struggle, and the sometimes-quixotic pursuit of truth.
Indeed, the film takes much of its inspiration from the forthcoming memoir by Poe Ballantine. But through the course of production, my vision evolved beyond a documentation of Poe’s research or a rehashing of what’s included in his book. It pulled into its orbit the details of the journey that carried Poe to Chadron, as well as an examination of a small town “organism” in the flux following tragedy.
I want to show this film to an audience because I believe that stories are fundamental to our humanity. Through them we seek to reconcile the mysteries of life, and hopefully we find in them evidence of our shared spirit. “Love and Terror” is a film about many things but, at its core, it speaks broadly about what it means to be both an individual and part of a community.
“Love and Terror” was shot in Chadron, Nebraska during February of 2012 and February – March of 2013.
A one hour and forty minute rough cut is complete and I have begun working with talented local artists to score the film, create illustrations/animations, complete the sound mix, and work on various other creative and technical aspects needed to finish the film.
I hope to have a nearly finished cut by fall/winter of 2013 and to be playing festivals in early 2014.
Completing “Love and Terror” has been my obsession since first beginning the project in November of 2011. To date, the film has been funded out of pocket, with help from family members, and a grant from the Philadelphia Independent Film and Video Association (PIFVA).
But now I need help to finish the film and begin the journey toward distribution.
After considering different ways to raise the money needed to finish “Love and Terror”, Kickstarter seemed like the most natural fit. It provides us with an opportunity to grow community support, while giving people who really want to see the film made the chance to participate in the process (and get some unique rewards too!).
I’ve spent two months on the road shooting interviews and filming supporting material in Chadron, Nebraska (with two crew members for one of those months). I’ve logged countless hours and late nights in the editing room to produce a rough cut of the film, and several trailer versions. And I've enlisted the support of talented local artists to help with film scoring other aspects needed for finalization of the project. But, I need your help to make the final push.
Here are just a few examples of where the money raised on Kickstarter will go:
-Composing a score
-Hiring musicians and renting studio time to record the score
-Sound effects and Foley
-Festival fees and travel
-Website and marketing
-Legal costs (including rights and clearances for archival clips that appear in the film)
Yes! However, Kickstarter is all or nothing – which means if we don’t reach the goal we don’t get a penny. The target is the bare minimum needed to finish the film and while I’m confident it can happen for $30,000, any budget surplus will be used to make the film even better. For example, additional funds would allow us to hire additional musicians, spend more time in the studio recording the soundtrack, clear more of the film clips I’d like to use, etc. Generally, more funding will allow us to produce a higher quality finished product.
Just click the green “Back This Project” button in the upper right-hand corner. You will be asked to input your amount and select a reward. From there, you will go through the safe and secure Amazon checkout process. You must finish the Amazon checkout process for your pledge to be recorded.
Then, spread the word about “Love and Terror” through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, fax, telegram, phone call, carrier pigeon, and face-to-face conversation. Help us find other people who want to see this film!
Distribution is a very tricky thing when making an independent film. Many festivals will only accept your film if it’s a “World Premiere” and has not been made available online. I will make every attempt to reward Kickstarter contributors with an early release of the film. However, most of the festivals I will be applying to take place in the spring of next year and I need to keep all options on the table.
Many of the other rewards will go out sooner (i.e. signed books, movie posters, the soundtrack download, etc.) but because Kickstarter only allows you to enter one “Estimated Delivery” date per reward, they ask that you choose the date when all of the rewards will be fulfilled. If you have any questions about this, please contact me.
Dave Jannetta (director/producer/editor)
Dave Jannetta (director/producer/editor) is a Philadelphia based filmmaker. In 2009 he wrote and directed his debut feature film -"Rachel & Diana" - and is currently in post-production on his first documentary feature, "Love & Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere".
Prior to founding 32-20 Productions in 2009, Dave served as personal assistant to Peter Jackson through North American production of “The Lovely Bones”, and spent a year abroad working at Jackson’s WingNut Films in Wellington, New Zealand.
He is a graduate of Penn State University (Finance/Film Studies, 2005), and an alumnus of Werner Herzog’s “Rogue Film School” (winter, 2012).
Poe Ballantine is a fiction and nonfiction writer known for his novels and essays, many of which appear in The Sun. His second novel, Decline of the Lawrence Welk Empire, won Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year. The odd jobs, eccentric characters, boarding houses, buses, and beer that populate Ballantine’s work often draw comparisons to the life and work of Charles Bukowski and Jack Kerouac.
Poe Ballantine’s work has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The Sun, and Oxford American. In addition to garnering numerous Pushcart and O. Henry nominations, Mr. Ballantine’s work has been included in the The Best American Short Stories 1998 and The Best American Essays 2006 and 2013 anthologies. He currently lives in Chadron, Nebraska.
Cory Stambler (cinematographer)
Cory Stambler is a New York City based cinematographer and a graduate of New York University (Film and Television, 2010).
Josh Lawrence (composer)
Josh Lawrence is a jazz trumpeter, composer and bandleader living in Philadelphia where he is on faculty at the University of the Arts and Drexel University.
Lawrence has two solo albums to his name with a third slated to be released in the Fall of 2013. He has recorded with the likes of Erykah Badu and Boyz II Men and performs regularly with pianist Orrin Evan’s critically-acclaimed Captain Black Big Band, saxophonist Bobby Zankel & The Warriors of the Wonderful Sound, guitarist Matt Davis’ Aerial Photograph, bassist Anthony Tidd’s PACT, singer Laurin Talese and the Shrine Big Band.
In late 2012, Lawrence was commissioned by the Painted Bride in Philadelphia with bassist Jason Fraticelli and drummer Anwar Marshall to compose and debut new music for a ten-piece ensemble. The project was awarded a grant through the Pew Center’s Philadelphia Music Project and a recording is currently in post-production. In early 2013, Lawrence was invited as an artist-in-residence to the Kimmel Center’s Creative Music Program and debuted a new work for big band at the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts.
Lawrence is currently composing music for the documentary Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere and continues to perform in Philadelphia and New York City.
Courtland Winslow (illustrator)
Courtland Winslow is a Philadelphia based illustrator and designer.
Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Because production is complete and post production is well underway, many of the risks associated with "Love and Terror" have been mitigated. Once the film is successfully funded, it will have cleared one of the last major hurdles to being completed. But there are risks at every stage of the process. These risks could effect the release date as well as shape the outcome of the final cut. Please understand that before you make a contribution.
Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.
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