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Three years before Jack the Ripper, death stalked the streets of Austin, Texas. Who took 8 innocent lives? Why were they never caught?
Three years before Jack the Ripper, death stalked the streets of Austin, Texas. Who took 8 innocent lives? Why were they never caught?
227 backers pledged $17,505 to help bring this project to life.

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Bloody Work: a nonfiction film project video thumbnail
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GOAL REACHED IN 70 HOURS! Thank you all so much!

Check out Update #11 for a new, tantalizing historical visual treat.

In 1885, three years before the crimes of Jack the Ripper entered modern legend, someone — or someones — stalked the dusty streets of Austin, Texas, a frontier town caught in the throes of transforming into a modern city.

This remarkable image shows downtown Austin in 1895, ten years after the murders, looking down Congress Avenue from the Capitol Building. The city is not appreciably changed in appearance from this angle from the time of the murders.
This remarkable image shows downtown Austin in 1895, ten years after the murders, looking down Congress Avenue from the Capitol Building. The city is not appreciably changed in appearance from this angle from the time of the murders.

From New Years Eve of 1884, to Christmas 1885, innocent victims — most of them female African-American servants who worked in affluent homes — were savagely killed, and more wounded, in midnight attacks of such brutality they left the entire population in a state of shock and fledgling law enforcement in utter confusion. He came to be called the "Servant Girl Annihilator," and his reign of terror rocked the city to its core. And yet, like the Ripper himself, his identity remains lost to history.

Reproduction of the newspaper article about the first murder. Mollie Smith was found bludgeoned to death on New Years Day, 1885. Even her boyfriend Walter Spencer was arrested, despite being attacked himself!
Reproduction of the newspaper article about the first murder. Mollie Smith was found bludgeoned to death on New Years Day, 1885. Even her boyfriend Walter Spencer was arrested, despite being attacked himself!

Why were the killer or killers never caught? And what was the impact of these crimes upon race relations in a Reconstruction-era city, and a culture entirely unfamiliar with the modern concept of the serial killer? Why were the killings so completely suppressed in later years, that to this day, few people know they even occurred, and no comprehensive scholarly work to date has chronicled them?

BLOODY WORK is now in production!
Please read Update #1 for information about the first interview shoot conducted May 7, 2013.

BLOODY WORK: THE UNSOLVED MYSTERY OF THE SERVANT GIRL ANNIHILATOR seeks to be the first such comprehensive work. Avoiding cheesy re-enactments and other pitfalls of "docu-fiction," this detailed documentary will cut through the myths and legends to uncover what verifiable facts there are concerning these obscure and heinous crimes. My goal is to make both an entertaining and suspenseful movie for a general audience, as well as a valuable scholarly document that can serve as a legitimate resource for students and historians interested in the period. Interviews with experts on the crimes and the city's history, vintage photos, period music and artwork will all bring the story to life for the audience.

The notorious "BLOOD! BLOOD! BLOOD!" headline, announcing the Christmas Eve double murder of Susan Hancock and Eula Phillips.
The notorious "BLOOD! BLOOD! BLOOD!" headline, announcing the Christmas Eve double murder of Susan Hancock and Eula Phillips.

This is a production aiming for the festival circuit and Blu-ray/DVD/VOD (Netflix Instant, iTunes, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime and others) distribution market. Interview and other original footage is being shot in 4K using the Red Scarlet. The Blu-ray will contain lossless 5.1 channel audio. All crew will be paid. Prospective donors can read a more detailed breakdown of anticipated production and post-production costs below.

Please join me and embark on this eerie journey into Austin's dark and forgotten past! Who knows what startling revelations may come as we dig deeper into this long-forgotten BLOODY WORK....

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This film has been the subject of two excellent articles by Stephen Loaiconi at the Nancy Grace website at HLNTV.com! Click the images to read the original articles.

Also, click the logo for a great write-up in the Austin Chronicle!

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If you have other questions that are not addressed in the FAQ below, please message me or ask in the comments section. I will read everything and answer as thoroughly as I can. My boundless gratitude goes out to all who back this film. Please spread the word throughout your own online circles — FB, Twitter, Reddit, G+, etc. — and come be part of this journey!

Risks and challenges

Well, I have already faced one daunting challenge, which is how to promote a project on Kickstarter successfully! This is the second go-round for this movie, and I have endeavored to learn as many positive lessons from the first fundraising attempt so that the film succeeds in overcoming its obstacles this time.

Having worked on the crews of a number of independent films in the Austin and central Texas area, I have experience on both good shoots and bad shoots. The good ones you enjoy, while the bad ones are where you learn. The most common mistakes I see newbie directors make is in lacking a realistic assessment of the scale of the project they have chosen to undertake, in relation to the resources they have at hand to actually make it. I have seen movies with low six-figure budgets trying to pretend they have low million-dollar budgets, and jumping into ambitious shoots for which they lack the money, crew, and sensible scheduling to pull off — only to see everything collapse into chaos. I have worked under smart and brilliant young directors without a dime but with a brave vision about which they are passionate and determined to make happen, and I have worked under bratty rich kids on ego trips who think their parents' money has magically made them Steven Spielberg.

For my own first film as director, I have made an effort to learn the lessons of experience. A documentary like this one offers a way to tell an ambitious story at a period in my filmmaking development where my reach will not exceed my grasp. Also, through Kickstarter updates, I can be in constant communication with you, my backers, keeping you appraised of each stage in the production process.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    WITNESS STATEMENT ☆ Do you just want to assist the investigation? This gets you a personal thank-you email from the director and access to backer-only updates and comments.

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    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    DIGITAL FIENDS' DOWNLOAD PACKAGE. ☆ Download link to 1080P digital copy of the finished film, including PDF of the Bloody Work "Murder Map" of 1885 Austin. ☆ A personal thank-you email from the director. ☆ Access to exclusive backer updates.

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    Pledge $15 or more About $15

    THE 1885 CLUB — DVD EDITION. ☆ Kickstarter-exclusive DVD edition of the film, including foldout "Murder Map" of 1885 Austin and extensive on-disc extras, signed (and personalized, if you wish) by the director. ☆ Everything listed in the Digital Fiends' Download Package. ★ Important note to backers outside the US: Though the DVD edition will be region-free, it will be NTSC standard. So if you live in a country using the PAL or SECAM standards, unless you have a DVD player that converts, you will not be able to play this disc. You may wish to consider pledging for the Blu-Ray edition instead. ★

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    THE 1885 HD CLUB — BLU-RAY EDITION. ☆ YOUR NAME ADDED to the 1885 HD Club page of the Bloody Work official website. ☆ Kickstarter-exclusive region-free Blu-Ray edition of the film, including booklet, foldout "Murder Map" of 1885 Austin and extensive on-disc extras, with lossless DTS-MA audio, signed (and personalized, if you wish) by the director. ☆ Everything listed in the Digital Fiends' Download Package.

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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    BECOME A “MIDNIGHT MARAUDER”! ☆ Kickstarter-exclusive Blu-Ray/DVD Slipcased 2-disc Special Edition featuring Martin Wagner's “Bloody Work” companion book in both physical and e-book editions, signed (and personalized, if you wish) by the director. ☆ YOUR NAME ADDED TO THE BOOKLET of all physical editions of the film in a Midnight Marauders thank-you page, as well as the official website. ☆ Everything listed in the Digital Fiends' Download Package.

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    BECOME A “FOUL FIEND”! ☆ YOUR NAME ONSCREEN IN THE CLOSING CREDITS in a special thanks listing labeled “The Foul Fiends” (a reference to one of the Austin Stateman's headlines about the murders). ☆ A copy of the Kickstarter-exclusive Blu-Ray/DVD Slipcased 2-disc Special Edition featuring Martin Wagner's “Bloody Work” companion book in both physical and e-book editions, signed (and personalized, if you wish) by the director. ☆ Everything listed in the Digital Fiends' Download Package.

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    Pledge $200 or more About $200

    "FOUL FIEND" PLUS ☆ Everything under the $100 tier, plus your name listed on IMDB as a "Special Thanks" credit.

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    Pledge $300 or more About $300

    ASSOCIATE PRODUCER SCREEN CREDIT WITH IMDB LISTING ☆ A copy of the Kickstarter-exclusive Blu-Ray/DVD Slipcased 2-disc Special Edition featuring Martin Wagner's “Bloody Work” companion book in both physical and e-book editions, signed (and personalized, if you wish) by the director. ☆ You and 1 guest will be offered free admission to the premiere theatrical screening of the film to be held in Austin in 2014. Please note that if you live outside of Austin, travel and accommodations will be at your expense, so consider this perk optional. ☆ Everything listed in the Digital Fiends' Download Package.

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    ASSOCIATE PRODUCER-PLUS PACKAGE INCLUDES LIVE TOUR OF OAKWOOD CEMETERY WITH DIRECTOR MARTIN WAGNER ☆ Everything offered under the $300 listing, plus you and one guest will be invited to tour Austin's historic Oakwood Cemetery with filmmaker Martin Wagner at a date TBD in summer 2013. Following a group lunch, Martin will guide you on a walking tour of the burial sites of victims and other prominent figures in the Servant Girl Annihilator drama, with a live lecture on the crimes to accompany the tour. Please note: If you live outside of Austin, travel to and from the city must be at your expense (though the production will treat you to lunch), so please consider carefully if this reward is right for you. [Note: Tour will occur in 2013. Delivery date and outside-US shipping costs below are for the remaining items.]

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    Pledge $750 or more About $750

    EXECUTIVE PRODUCER SCREEN CREDIT WITH IMDB LISTING ☆ CEMETERY TOUR INCLUDED (read details above) ☆ Credit will also appear on one-sheet posters and other advertising and promotional materials for the film. ☆ A copy of the Kickstarter-exclusive Blu-Ray/DVD Slipcased 2-disc Special Edition featuring Martin Wagner's “Bloody Work” companion book in both physical and e-book editions, signed (and personalized, if you wish) by the director. ☆ Everything listed in the Digital Fiends' Download Package. ☆ You and up to 2 guests will be offered free admission to the premiere theatrical screening of the film to be held in Austin in 2014. Please note that if you live outside of Austin, travel and accommodations will be at your expense, so consider this perk and attendance at the Cemetery Tour optional.

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    Pledge $1,250 or more About $1,250

    CO-PRODUCER SCREEN CREDIT WITH IMDB LISTING — US BACKERS ONLY ☆ CEMETERY TOUR INCLUDED (read details above) ☆ Credit will also appear on one-sheet posters and other advertising and promotional materials for the film. ☆ A copy of the Kickstarter-exclusive Blu-Ray/DVD Slipcased 2-disc Special Edition featuring Martin Wagner's “Bloody Work” companion book in both physical and e-book editions, signed (and personalized, if you wish) by the director. ☆ Everything listed in the Digital Fiends' Download Package. ☆ THEATRICAL SCREENING IN YOUR TOWN. Martin Wagner will arrange a screening of the film in your city for a time TBD in 2014, and participate in a Q&A session. Because of the travel involved, this tier is available only to US backers. (Also, if you choose to attend the Cemetery Tour, travel to Austin will be at your expense, so consider that perk optional.)

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    Pledge $1,885 or more About $1,885

    FULL PRODUCER 1885 BLOODY IMMERSION PACKAGE — US BACKERS ONLY ☆ CEMETERY TOUR INCLUDED (read details above) ☆ This package allows you to share a full Producer screen credit with Martin Wagner, with IMDB listing. ☆ Credit will also appear on one-sheet posters and other advertising and promotional materials for the film. ☆ You will also be invited (as an option, your schedule permitting) to attend shoots and recording sessions for the film during production, as well as participate in all press junkets and festival screenings for the completed film your 2014 schedule allows you to attend. ☆ You and up to 3 guests will be offered free admission to the premiere theatrical screening of the film to be held in Austin in 2014. ☆ If you live outside of Austin, the theatrical screening in your town will also be scheduled. Please note that travel to Austin to attend the Austin premiere and/or the Cemetery Tour will be at your expense, so consider those perks optional. ☆ A complete case, to give away copies as you please, of the Kickstarter-exclusive Blu-Ray/DVD Slipcased 2-disc Special Edition featuring Martin Wagner's “Bloody Work” companion book in both physical and e-book editions. ☆ Everything listed in the Digital Fiends' Download Package.

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Funding period

- (35 days)