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A short film accepted to the 2015 Cannes Film Festival whose filmmakers need help going the extra mile to get there and beyond
A short film accepted to the 2015 Cannes Film Festival whose filmmakers need help going the extra mile to get there and beyond
115 backers pledged $21,001 to help bring this project to life.

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$21,001

115

UPDATE 04/08/15:

Thank you to everyone who gave and allowed us to hit our stretch goal. We are overwhelmed with the generosity. Now, anything that goes over our goal will help us get to future festivals. Thank you so much! 

UPDATE 03/23/15:

THANK YOU!!! Due to the incredible support that we have received thus far, we reached our funding goal after only 12 days! It is wonderful to know that so many people also share our vision of bringing this film to audiences around the world. Thank you to all who have so generously supported us. We have therefore decided to announce a stretch goal of $20,000, and below, you can all see our plan for the extra funds, if earned:

  • VIP screening to engage industry professionals - $2,500 (Bonus Reward! If we reach this goal, everyone who has given or gives $500 or more will be invited to this special screening in NYC)
  • A quarter page Advertisement in Le Film Francais daily for our promotion at Cannes - $1,500
  • The ability to hire a PR company to better-promote the film for one festival - $1,000
 

LIGHTNING BUGS IN A JAR is the story of the fractured relationship between a mother, Farrah, and her 22 year-old—but far-from-‘adult’—son, Max. Both harbor serious issues that date back fifteen years—wounds that refuse to heal because neither will fully face the painful truth of a tragedy that tore their family apart. As mother and son begrudgingly co-exist under the same roof for the first time in years in order to pack and sell the house in which Max was raised, it is Max’s steadfast boyfriend, Ben, through whose eyes we observe this caustic dynamic. 

Wrought with dysfunction, the mother-son relationship runs hot-to-cold without warning, and it unexpectedly falls upon Ben to become the glue that binds Max and Farrah, as well as act as a detective of sorts: confronted with the discovery of what hurts the pair most, Ben must work quickly in order to give them a chance at ‘family hood’ again. 

By turns wickedly funny and deeply moving, LIGHTNING BUGS… is a portrait of humanity at its most delicate, love at its most uncompromising, and life in all its raw, surprising beauty… 

LIGHTNING BUGS IN A JAR was born from a simple concept: Ian Simpson wanted to write a script about a gay couple without having to narratively acknowledge their sexuality. He sought to portray this relationship honestly and show love as a universalism rather than an ‘issue’ needing to be addressed. LIGHTNING BUGS… is not about gay people—or straight people, for that matter. It is about relationships, love and the things that transcend the label of one’s sexual orientation. First and foremost, it is about a mother and a son who are equally united and divided by tragedy. It is also a story that depicts a young man’s realization about the depth of his love for someone else—who happens to be male. As co-directors, both Ian and Sara Wolkowitz had an identical vision for bringing this story to the screen. Their objective was to show an audience the universality of a loving relationship. Here, it is that of Max and Ben, but both directors noted several times during pre-production that these characters could be of any gender or sexuality and the greater story would still be the same. While making the characters of Max and Ben gay was a deliberate notion, it was equally deliberate not to make their sexuality ‘the story.’ The filmmakers feel strongly that this is the heart of truly progressive storytelling and cinema.

The creative team of Sara WolkowitzSophia Betz and Ian Simpson met at Vassar College (Class of 2005). Vassar’s filmmaking program being simultaneously intimate and expansive, they were able to forge their own paths as Film Majors and become good friends under that academic umbrella. They went separate ways for nearly 10 years before reuniting to form Stolen Chicken Productions, once again making films together. 

Sophia Betz, Ian Simpson, Sara Wolkowitz
Sophia Betz, Ian Simpson, Sara Wolkowitz

In 2010, Ian wrote the script for LIGHTNING BUGS IN A JAR. Though he was not even on the same coast at that time, it was always his vision to make this short with both Sara and Sophia. Four years later, Ian moved to Brooklyn (where Sara and Sophia were located) and applied for the Catwalk/Catslair Artist Residency, which became the catalyst for the film’s production.

“Both Catwalk and Catslair are invitation-only artist residency programs initially established in 2004 by James and Purcell Palmer at the Palmer’s residence known as Catwalk in Catskill, New York. The mission of the CATWALK Institute is to establish Catwalk as a special retreat for art making, collaborative projects and scholarly discourse in a visually stimulating part of the country that has historically provided and continues to provide significant inspiration to artists, cultural historians, writers and scholars.”

LIGHTNING BUGS IN A JAR was accepted as a Catslair project for three weeks in September 2014.

The first week was centered specifically on storyboarding, location scouting and the last stages of pre-production (which had actually begun in Brooklyn—in April).

Ian and Sara making storyboards and shot lists in the Catslair house
Ian and Sara making storyboards and shot lists in the Catslair house
a storyboard from pre-production
a storyboard from pre-production

During the second week, production began and the entirety of the film was shot—in 5½ days (between September 23 and 28).

Ian, Sara, and Timur discuss an upcoming shot
Ian, Sara, and Timur discuss an upcoming shot
here we see that shot in action
here we see that shot in action

The third week was a transition to post-production, as Sophia began to organize the footage for the return to Brooklyn (the actual edit spanned from October 2014 – February 2015).

captured on film - the carseat flies through the air
captured on film - the carseat flies through the air
Devin McDuffee, Besty Aidem, Ethan Slater
Devin McDuffee, Besty Aidem, Ethan Slater
Betsy Aidem, Devin McDuffee, Ethan Slater
Betsy Aidem, Devin McDuffee, Ethan Slater

LIGHTNING BUGS IN A JAR will have its world premiere at the Short Film Corner at the 68th Festival de Cannes in May 2015!

In order for LIGHTNING BUGS IN A JAR to thrive, it has to be seen and represented, and in order to travel and show it, we have determined that we need to raise $15,000.

So, where is this money going…?

  • post-production services (the cost of rotoscoping, a visual effect that allowed us to shoot night-for-day in a supermarket and add the ‘day’ after production, LTO back-ups of the masters, blu-ray masters…$6000
  • the cost of submission to festivals (each festival submission is roughly $50 and we are submitting to about 30…this is roughly $1500)
  • publicity (the cost of producing posters, postcards, DVDs and Blu-Rays, and other press materials…about $2000)
  • DCP (digital camera package) (a special print necessary for most festivals to screen the film…x2 $1,000
  • travel (plane tickets, accommodations, food…$4500

We would like to emphasize that this is not just for our trip to Cannes…it includes potential film festivals all over the world during the next calendar year. It does not completely cover the cost of our travel, for example, but it certainly makes the prospect of attending these events more of a reality. 

In supporting the next phase of LBJ, you wouldn’t just be supporting the three of us, but you would be supporting the life of this film, all of the people who worked on and stand behind it, as well as its potential visibility.

Sophia Betz, Ian Simpson and Sara Wolkowitz are humbled by the inclusion of their film in the Festival, and they offer their collective congratulations to everyone who has been a part of the project, from its inception to its completion.

This list includes all our collaborators below:

Betsy AidemDevin McDuffee, Ethan Slater, Darrell James,Timur Civan, Ráchel Lowery, Hilary Simpson, Ellen Novack, Lisa Thomas, Mike Hayhurst, Aaron Milan Wertheimer, Min Yip, Neal Seidman, Christopher Washington, Matt Kehoe, Mike Dispenza, Chris Aran, Denzil Xavier, Marc Schreibman, Barbara Whitchurch, Leslie Ann Robinson, Caroline Symons, Anthony Serino, Alan Bucaria , John Hagiopian, Amber Koester, Max Wolkowitz, Andrew Francis, Ken Takeuchi, Megan McDuffee, Quinlan Orear, Patrick DeVine, Charles Leighton, Luke Marlow

on-set cast and crew
on-set cast and crew

Ian Simpson – Writer / Co-Director / Producer

Ian received his MFA from the American Film Institute Conservatory in 2007 and BAs in both Film and Psychology from Vassar College in 2005. His First Year screenplay at AFI, MOTHER OF FRANKENSTEIN (since retitled THE MONSTERS OF MARY SHELLEY) was awarded the William J. Fadiman Prize for “outstanding achievement in screenwriting,” and has been his primary ‘labor of love’ for the past eight years. Other feature scripts that Ian has written include BELOW THE WAIST, the recipient of several awards (in-development), and THE QUIET (in-development, with Lucas Carter of Intrigue Entertainment). His passion for directing has been lifelong, but was honed by acting workshops with Rob Spera in Los Angeles. Ian is represented by The Paradigm Agency (Beverly Hills) and is a Writers Guild of America Member.

 Sara Wolkowitz – Co-Director / Producer

Sara is an independent filmmaker and theater director with a BA in Film from Vassar College ’05. She has been recognized for her short films, which have appeared in such festivals as the South by Southwest Interactive Festival, the Los Angeles Women’s Film Festival, and the Hawaii International Film Festival. She has directed videos for non-profit organizations including LitWorld and NARAL Pro-Choice. In 2011, Sara directed a new documentary web series, DIARY OF A CHORUS GIRL, about Alex Ellis, who made her Broadway debut in the musical CATCH ME IF YOU CAN. New York theater credits include THE ULTIMATE STIMULUS (FringeNYC 2014, Under St Marks, DixonPlace), REALLY ROSIE (The Mint Theater), and BROOKLYN LABYRINTH (The Chain Theater, the BoCoCa Arts Festival). Marrying her two loves, film and theater, she directed her first feature documentary, STILL ON THE ROAD, about America’s longest touring theater company, The Acting Company. It premiered at Lincoln Center in January 2011 and is currently airing on PBS. Most recently, Sara co-directed a promo trailer starring Gillian Anderson for an upcoming children’s television show. www.sarawolkowitz.com

Sophia Betz – Editor / Co-Producer

Sophia is a video editor and producer living in Brooklyn. She holds a BA in Film from Vassar College ’05, and enjoys working on a variety of projects from web shorts to features, corporate marketing videos to experimental films. She has produced and edited shorts for Edible Manhattan, Google, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and others, and has collaborated on a number of comedy web series and indie music videos. She has also worked on feature documentaries such as OUT OF THE CLEAR BLUE SKY and WE COULD BE KING.

 Timur Civan – Director of Photography

Timur is New York City born and raised. From his background in the fine arts, becoming a Director of Photography was a natural progression. After much experimentation with moving images in his artwork, he developed the desire paint an image with light to tell a story. His techniques in cinematography are at the forefront of creative imaging, bolstered by his exploration in optics, new and classic, innovative lighting styles and a deep understanding of the latest in industry technologies. Through apprenticeship in the camera department, he has honed his skill set in traditional set techniques and combined with his contemporary art sensibilities, has allowed him to provide a wide range of looks. From high end commercials to engaging narrative and documentaries, the story always comes first, and is always the primary motivation to his approach to lighting and camera work. His clients include: Nike, Microsoft, FILA, Toyota, Home Shopping Network, Elle Magazine, Vice Magazine, Sony, Tiffany & Co, Emblem Health, SeaPak and many more. 

Ráchel Lowery – Art Direction / Production Design

Ráchel is a filmmaker with deep roots in the theatre.  Her collaborative work spans from producing, acting, designing, and writing. Creating and making art is not only a constant goal of hers but an inherent need. Films on which she has worked include THE KILLER INSIDE ME, DISCONNECT, AND BLOOD TIES.

Betsy Aidem (“Farrah”)

Betsy is a veteran film, television and stage actress, known for her roles in such films as YOU CAN COUNT ON ME, FAR FROM HEAVEN, THE BLEEDING HOUSE, THE ORANGES and MARGARET. She appeared in Woody Allen’s most recent project, filmed in the Summer of 2014. On television, Betsy has been featured in THE AMERICANS, THE BIG C, NURSE JACKIE, RESCUE ME, the LAW & ORDER franchise, and THE WEST WING. She portrayed Lady Bird Johnson in ALL THE WAY (2014), which won the Tony for Best Play. Other theatre credits include: Nikolai and the Others (Lincoln Center), MaryRose and The Metal Children (Vineyard), Celebration (Atlantic), Stone Cold Dead Serious (Edge), Crooked (WP); Original Productions: Steel Magnolias (Lortel), Balm in Gilead (Circle Rep/ Minetta Lane), A Lie of the Mind (Promenade), Road (Lincoln Center); Regional: ART, Huntington, Long Wharf, Williamstown, George Street. Betsy is the recipient of an Obie Award (2007) for Sustained Excellence of Performance.

Devin McDuffee (“Max”)

Devin is a New York-based actor who has been performing since the age of 9. He graduated from Vassar College in 2014 and also attended the Moscow Art Theater School in 2012. He specializes in extreme physicality-based theater, finding ways to manipulate the human form in order to portray animals and characters with less than human appearance or behavior. He draws inspiration from the work of actors like Andy Serkis and Terry Notary. He hopes to pursue motion capture work in the future, marrying his love for movement with film.

Ethan Slater (“Ben”)

Ethan is an actor/musician/writer living in New York City. A graduate of Vassar College (Class of 2014), Ethan has been acting professionally in New York City for the past three years, working on stage with directors such as Tina Landau and as a company member of One Year Lease Theater Company. As a playwright and/or composer, Ethan’s work has been produced both at Vassar College and professionally in Washington, DC (1st Stage, Capital Fringe Festival, Kennedy Center Page to Stage), and seen in the Garden State Film Festival. 

Thanks to all of you who have taken the time to read this and consider giving money to our campaign in order to give this film some wings. 

Risks and challenges

The fundamental challenge that LIGHTNING BUGS IN A JAR faces in succeeding as a Kickstarter campaign is comparable to the challenges that the film faces in a greater context. How do we foster support for the future of the film among friends and family, let alone those who do not know us personally, when the market is saturated with comparable forms of content, across countless platforms? One immediate challenge that we face is garnering enough attention to get industry professionals into theaters and viewing rooms at the Cannes Short Corner, where our competition among other projects is formidable. As a small ‘fish’ in a very large ‘pond’ of exceptional short films from around the globe, LIGHTNING BUGS… ultimately has to be seen and experienced in order for it to connect with people. While we are confident in our work as artists and are tremendously proud of the film, we acknowledge that the market for short films today is increasingly competitive, perhaps more so than ever before. As attention spans continue to shorten, the tradition of going to a theater to see a movie has become both endangered and sacred. The array of ways in which people consume entertainment seems limitless and geared more toward portability and viewer convenience than supporting the standard movie-going experience.

In order to reach our goal, we must convince you that we are worth your investment. Here, it is the nature of our own collective passions that we hope to transfer to you. It is written all over this page, imbued in each image from pre-production to the making of the film itself. Our passion (as well as our preparation and persistence) for LIGHTNING BUGS IN A JAR has spanned nearly five years. Being able to make the film we sought to make from the onset—without a single compromise—was a rare privilege that many renowned filmmakers do not even enjoy.

We simply ask for your investment, whatever the number may be, so that we are able to complete the process of seeing LIGHTNING BUGS IN A JAR through from an idea…to something on a page…to a film that, potentially, has the power to reach a global audience.

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    Pledge US$ 10 or more About US$ 10

    We will give you a personal shout out on Twitter and Facebook. THANK YOU!!!

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    You will receive a high resolution digital download of our official poster.

    You will receive a high resolution digital download of our teaser poster.

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    You will receive a downloadable copy of the film. (est. delivery June 2016)

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    Pledge US$ 200 or more About US$ 200

    Sara, Ian, and Sophia will send you a personalized thank you video.

    You will receive a downloadable copy of the film. (est. delivery June 2016)

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    You will receive a signed poster in the mail.

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    You will receive a signed copy of the film your choice of blu-ray or DVD.

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

    You will receive a postcard from Cannes. (est. delivery June 2015)

    You will receive a downloadable copy of the film. (est. delivery June 2016)

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    Pledge $2,000 or more About $2,000

    You will receive lightning bug cookies, made by Sara/Ian/Sophia! Please specify if you would like gluten free or vegan. (est. delivery July 2015)

    You will receive a downloadable copy of the film. (est. delivery June 2016)

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

    A walk on-role will be written for you in our next production.

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    Pledge $3,000 or more About $3,000

    You will receive one of three of the actual storyboards (four on a page) used during the shoot, framed and signed by Ian, Sara and Sophia. (est. delivery June 2015)

    A walk on-role will be written for you in our next production.

    You will receive a downloadable copy of the film. (est. delivery June 2016)

    We will give you a personal shout out on Twitter and Facebook. THANK YOU!!!

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    Pledge $3,500 or more About $3,500

    You will receive the actual "lightning bugs" (algorithmic LEDs) used during a climactic scene in the film. (est. delivery June 2016)

    A walk on-role will be written for you in our next production.

    You will receive a downloadable copy of the film. (est. delivery June 2016)

    We will give you a personal shout out on Twitter and Facebook. THANK YOU!!!

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

    Ian will shave his head live on Skype.

    A walk-on role will be written for you in our next production.

    You will receive a downloadable copy of the film. (est. delivery June 2016)

    We will give you a personal shout out on Twitter and Facebook. THANK YOU!!!

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Funding period

- (30 days)