Set in a remote coastal town, The Lightkeeper is a short-to-feature film about a young drifter and reclusive old author who find an unexpected version of family together over dinner one night.
The film stars SAG Award-nominee Meg Steedle (Boardwalk Empire, The Mysteries of Laura), Academy Award-nominee and Golden Globe-winner Bruce Davison (Longtime Companion, X-Men, Willard), and is written and directed by award-winning independent filmmaker Zach Bandler.
The Lightkeeper began as a passion project for us two years ago. We were both at a point in our respective careers where we wanted to tell meaningful stories on film, about characters that could connect with viewers no matter their walk of life.
So we had a brainstorming session. What kinds of ideas were we drawn to make stories about? Where did those ideas line up with each other? After much discussion about our lives and the people in them, we soon found a topic we shared connection with:
We both have had very impactful relationships with our mentors, for better or for worse. They helped mold us into who we are, as people and as artists. We loved them, often like a parent, but lived in fear of disappointing them. They inspired us and pushed us to always be better, but they also made mistakes or even hurt us — a reminder that everyone is still human, no matter how high the pedestal on which we've placed them.
So, with this concept as our origin point, we were off and running. Zach began on the long road of designing and writing a story, and as he got deeper and deeper into it, we both realized there was far more to be explored in our chosen theme.
Why We Think It Matters
The Lightkeeper is now an intergenerational story dealing with two issues that affect our society today:
- Degenerative brain disease like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
- The not-so-dramatized struggles faced by veterans of our armed forces — particularly women veterans.
This is not a film about the horrors of PTSD for those who have come back from two of the longest military campaigns in U.S. history. Rather, this is about everyday trials many veterans endure. The feeling of being changed. Being out of place. The fear that life as a civilian should feel normal and just doesn’t. How do vets deal with these feelings? Specifically, how do women who have served deal with them? And how are these feelings universal to us all?
Alzheimer’s and dementia are close to home for us, as they are for so many people. As we talk about briefly in our video above, Zach’s mentor — a composer and a force to be reckoned with — suffered a series of strokes that took away his mind too soon. Many of us have had this experience, whether it’s with a teacher, parent or grandparent. It is burned into us. The grief of watching their identity and our connection to them slowly slip away. But we believe the pain also brings with it a strange sense of reverence and gratitude. Gratitude for how lucky we are to have had them in our lives at all.
That feeling is why we want to make The Lightkeeper. It’s the twinge of satisfaction and sorrow that comes from two people squeezing the most out of a passing moment in time — however brief the encounter.
Alison Layton is a tough, hardened drifter in her late twenties. When the film begins, she has been staying in a small, dilapidated house in a remote coastal town with “Don,” an old stranger who turns out to be Donald Quinn — a reclusive, Nobel Prize-winning author that disappeared from the public eye over three decades ago.
We first find Alison alone in a bedroom, looking through a photo album. Behind her, is a picture of Don in earlier years, his arms wrapped around a little girl. They stand smiling in front of a lighthouse. She hears Don enter the front door, quickly puts away the album and locks the bedroom from the inside as she goes.
Don announces with flair that he plans to make them a fancy dinner, celebrating an occasion he cannot recall. Alison excuses herself to the bathroom so she can get freshened up for the meal, where she opens Don’s medicine cabinet to reveal prescription medications with names like Coumadin, Plavix and Namenda lining the shelves.
At dinner, the two sit down to enjoy Don’s masterpiece of steamed crabs. As the two laugh and hammer away at the shells of their succulent victims, Alison unexpectedly opens up about her own past. What follows is a tender, yet shattering scene in which both characters realize that the scars they have been hiding from the world are far more intertwined than they ever imagined.
Some Praise for The Lightkeeper
This project is what we call a short-to-feature. As in, we are making a shortened version of it to secure the excitement, interest and funding to do the whole shebang. Here is a bit of the attention the script has received in both its short and full-length form:
- Semifinalist — Slamdance Film Festival, Screenplay Competition
- Semifinalist — ScreenCraft, Short Film Competition
- Quarterfinalist (aka Second Rounder) — Austin Film Festival, Screenwriting Competition
And though it’s amazing to have the institutions of the indie film community give us positive reinforcement, it still takes much more support to bring a story like this to the screen.
Why We Need You
As you probably noticed in the campaign video, a small portion of the film’s exterior moments are already shot (yes, that aerial drone footage is in the movie!).
But we still have ALL the interior scenes (95% of the movie) with the actors and full crew yet to go. That will be followed by post production, which not only involves editing, but also coloring, sound designing/mixing and scoring the film.
Short film budgets can range widely, but after much calculation based on our previous experience making indie shorts, we believe that $15,000 is the minimum amount we will need to make this thing happen.
This isn’t our first rodeo making a low-budget movie, and we have quite a bit of experience with where we can save money versus where we need to spend. We will pull out all the stops to get as much free, discounted or sponsored equipment/services as possible, but part of making a great film means not compromising on the quality of the final product. This commitment to excellence requires that we shoot in a location which fits the aesthetic of the story, design the set with a realistic feel for what the inside of Don's house looks like, and secure production insurance with good liability coverage. We also need to pay fair rates to our hard-working crew, who will endure hours of manual labor or studio time to help us realize our vision.
We are very lucky to have worked with some amazing people in our young careers, many of whom will be with us again on The Lightkeeper. We believe that filmmaking is about collaborating — surrounding yourself with peers who love their jobs as much as you love yours. We hope you will collaborate with us too, not only with your financial support, but also with your trust in the talent of these artists and the potential for what they can create.
Meg Steedle — Alison/Producer
Meg began her career in the theatre. In 2012, she landed the part of Broadway actress, flapper and Steve Buscemi’s mistress, "Billie Kent," on Season 3 of HBO's Boardwalk Empire and was nominated for a SAG Award for her performance, as part of Best Ensemble in a TV Drama. She then relocated to Los Angeles, where she was a lead in the USA Network pilot Horizon, produced by Gale Ann Hurd (The Walking Dead, Terminator), as well as playing Ashley Judd's daughter in the NBC pilot Salvation, directed by Jeff Reiner (Friday Night Lights, The Affair). Most recently, Meg appeared as Detective Frankie Pulaski on Season 1 of NBC’s The Mysteries of Laura. Her other television work includes Grey's Anatomy (ABC), Perception (TNT), American Horror Story (FX), Body of Proof (ABC), NCIS (CBS), Nashville (ABC) and the upcoming I’m Dying Up Here (Showtime). She can also be seen in the music video Nightlight by the Silversun Pickups, directed by Mark Pellington (The Mothman Prophecies, Arlington Road). Meg is a graduate from the School of Theatre at Northwestern University.
Bruce Davison — Don
Academy Award-nominated and Golden Globe-winning actor Bruce Davison is a veteran of both the stage and screen. He is well-known for his starring role in the cult horror film Willard (1971), as well as his performance in Longtime Companion (1989), for which he was nominated as Best Actor in a Supporting Role at the 1991 Academy Awards, and won at both the 1991 Golden Globes and Independent Spirit Awards. He was featured prominently in the X-Men film franchise as antagonist Senator Robert Kelly. More recently, Bruce appeared in Fred Schepisi's Words and Pictures (2013), had a recurring role on ABC's The Fosters (2015–2016) and shares the screen with Miles Teller and Anna Kendrick in Get a Job (2016). Other credits include Kingdom (DirecTV), Seinfeld, The L Word, The Practice, Lost, Children’s Hospital, Luck (HBO), Saving Lincoln and opposite Daniel Day-Lewis, Joan Allen and Wynona Ryder in The Crucible.
Zach Bandler — Writer/Director
Originally from Medford, Oregon, Zach started his career in the theatre, where he met his television writing partner performing together as actors Off-Broadway. Their first pilot, Hollywood and Vine, achieved a number of accolades and awards from screenwriting competitions, including Austin Film Festival and the PAGE Awards. The script was also given an industry presentation at the American Film Institute, starring Jason Alexander (Seinfeld) and Michael Urie (Ugly Betty) among the lead roles, and directed by Mark Polish (Twin Falls Idaho, Northfork, Independent Spirit Award for Jackpot). Zach made his directorial debut last year co-directing The Stairs, which stars two-time Tony Award-nominee Anthony Heald (Silence of the Lambs, Red Dragon, Boston Public) and is currently on the festival circuit. It won the Audience Award for Best Short Film at the Ashland Independent Film Festival, Special Jury Prize for Best Film at the River’s Edge International Film Festival and was nominated for the Jury Prize at the Palm Beach International Film Festival. He is a graduate from Northwestern University's School of Theatre.
Victor Mazzone — Producer
Victor is a Los Angeles-based performing artist and producer. Upon completion of UCLA’s Program in Producing in 2015, Victor worked with Bandler and co-director Kelly Blatz for the first time when he produced their award-winning short film The Stairs, which explores the basic human need for connection between an older man and the male escort he hires on Christmas Eve. He recently teamed up again with Bandler on his script for Serenity (dir. Heather Tom), a short film about the opiate epidemic in America, which will be released in early 2017. Victor also produced and acted in the upcoming 1950s Hollywood noir, sleepwalk. He is currently performing as an original cast member in Disney’s world premiere theatrical production of Frozen. Graduate from Northwestern University.
Adam Sauermilch — Editor
Adam was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. His passion for storytelling came at young age when, after many travels abroad, he witnessed the beautiful collision of cultures from country to country. He has worked for the past nine years as an editor on shorts, TV shows, music videos, commercials and documentaries. Companies featuring his work include Showtime, Woven, Buzzfeed, Complex Media, VICE, Converse, GM, Samsung, Adidas, Maxim Magazine, GQ, Glamour, E!, Atlantic Records and MTV. Graduate from the Maryland Institute College of Art.
Jon Keng — Cinematographer
Originally from Singapore, Jon’s work revolves around visual storytelling and exploring the nuances of the human condition. He has lensed films across Singapore, London, Beijing and Los Angeles, screening at over 100 internationally renown film festivals across the world. His latest Singaporean short, Tadpoles, received the Jury Prize at the 66th Locarno International Film Festival. He is a recent graduate of the American Film Institute Conservatory's cinematography program, from which his film Fata Morgana was recently selected as part of this year’s short film program at AFI Fest.
Olivia Harris — Casting Director
Olivia has been working as a casting director for the past 30 years. In the 1980s, she cast for Warner Bros television and film, working on pilots and with casting director Phyllis Huffman on Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven, Mystic River, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Space Cowboys, Pink Cadillac and Blood Work. In the 1990’s, she was Head of Casting for the WB Network in New York. Other New York casting credits include The Talented Mr. Ripley, 10,000 B.C., Spiderman 3, Meet the Fockers and The Cell. Recent projects include the ABC pilot Grace, the independent film The Last New Yorker and Easy, which was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and shown at Toronto International Film Festival. Olivia studied acting at Carnegie Mellon, Boston University, Second City Chicago, with Jerzy Grotowski in Poland and Herbert Berghof in New York.
Chad Dellinger — Production Designer
Originally from St. Petersburg, Florida, Chad completed his BFA in Theatrical Set Design from SCAD and his MFA from San Diego State University’s School of Theatre, Television and Film. During his time at SDSU, Chad discovered that his passion for theatrical design could be a natural transition for designing for the camera. He designed a number of short films and worked in the design office of The Old Globe Theatre. Since completion of his degree, Chad has been designing in the Los Angeles theatre scene, production designing short films, and working in the art department for various television shows. In 2016, Chad became part of the ADG Apprentice Program, which led him to becoming an assistant art director for ABC's The Real O’Neals.
Megan Rose Greene — Assistant Director
Megan Rose Greene is a director and assistant director in independent film. Her AD work includes the festival-lauded short film The Stairs, directed by Zach Bandler and Kelly Blatz, as well as the pilot Pineapple for HBO and Adaptive Studios. She is a founding member of The Norton School, an art collective which recently launched their short film initiative with Hearts of Palm. Her directorial debut, sleepwalk, will be released on the festival circuit in 2017. Megan is a graduate from Northwestern University.
Here are a few of the things being offered (besides our gratitude) should you choose to support The Lightkeeper:
Personal Autographs from —
Limited Edition Original Artwork from the Film —
House Seats + Backstage Tour of a Broadway Show —
Risks and challenges
Making a film has all sorts of risks that go with the territory. Some are foreseeable and mitigated with good organization, but some are unforeseeable — such as equipment malfunction or inclement weather. However, with proper planning, creative thinking and flexibility, production can and will come in on time and on budget, even when we are confronted with problems to solve. We are confident in the team we have put together and we know they are up for any challenge, whether it's on set or in the editing room.
Neither of us have ever been more determined to bring something into being. We want to make this film because we believe it has something universal to say to viewers. About time and regret. About age. About the complex relationship between parents and children. And about the fact that it is never too late to start over.
Nothing would be more meaningful for us than to have you help us make The Lightkeeper a reality.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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