Life on the Montana plains of the early part of the twentieth century was harsh, especially for poor immigrants carving out a new existence in inefficient tarpaper shacks. But as hard as it was for the adults, it was harder still for the children. CAT AND THE TROLLS recounts one of the many forgotten tales of starting over in a new land and the toll it took on the children.
It is 1917, Christmas time on the plains of southeastern Montana. 13 year-old Siri huddles with her younger brother Toad around a diminishing fire from a small coal stove in their 12X12 tar paper shack. She has just experienced their mother’s death. Her father has gone to borrow a neighbor’s wagon and has yet to return. And if that isn’t bad enough, two violent trespassers have continued their unwelcome conflict in the small confines of Siri’s home.
This is a suspenseful dramatic story suitable for young adults. How CAT AND THE TROLLS concludes is a lesson in faith, forgiveness, and the strength to stay true to oneself no matter how insurmountable life's obstacles seem.
I want to invite everyone to share in this special event, a Kickstarter campaign for a powerful feature film. “Evergreen” is an expression that refers to a project that will endure the ages. CAT AND THE TROLLS, being a period Holiday family drama that addresses universal themes, has the potential to do just that. It is not some flavor of the month project. I believe it is a project you will be proud to have been a part of and to share with your children and their children.
WHO IS MAKING THIS MOVIE?
This is not my first feature film. But it’s my first personal one. I have directed three features and have edited nineteen. Add to that a couple dozen documentaries and educational shorts, which I also directed, and you can see that I have a great deal of experience.
As the writer of CAT AND THE TROLLS, I have an MFA from UCLA where I won the Jack Nicholson and Larry Thor Awards. Two of my screenplays were semi-finalists in the Nichols Fellowship. One of the semi-finalists, TEACHING TOOTS, was purchased by French/ Martinique director Euzhan Palcy’s Flying Antelope Productions. Euzhan directed SUGARCANE ALLEY and A DRY WHITE SEASON, which earned Marlon Brando his last Oscar nomination.
And as much as I love all those other films, CAT AND THE TROLLS is a dream for me. It comes from my family history and my youth. For me, Siri is not a voice on my smart phone. She is my grandmother. And I know Montana homesteaders because that is who my grandparents were. Plus CAT AND THE TROLLS includes all my favorite subjects: faith, forgiveness, doing what is right, the West, and Norwegian folk tales.
WHAT’S THE MONEY FOR?
As much as this is my dream project, I am a realistic filmmaker. I designed this story to have a small cast of ten and two locations. Unlike my second feature, LEAN LIKE A GANGSTER, which had forty-one locations, fifty-two speaking parts and over a hundred extras and was still filmed in fifteen twelve-hour days, CAT AND THE TROLLS has a cast of ten and two locations. This will give me more time to focus on performances and production value.
It has animation (not Disney animation by any stretch but charming just the same), children in peril, a Holiday milieu (more real than most), a senior citizen cat with big eyes, an honest representation of the time period, and a lot of snow.
The sum I am asking for ($39,000) is low because it covers just the production costs. I only need a small crew with a great cinematographer like Luis Molina whose brilliance gave LEAN LIKE A GANGSTER its appropriate gritty and edgy look, a talented wardrobe designer like Brenda Yanez, another LEAN LIKE A GANGSTER alum.
The actual homestead shack has already been built by director/production designer Paul Miller, who designed my last film, CHIHUAHUA THE MOVIE. Which means the only set is already built. I made replicas of actual 1917 newspapers to wall paper the shack. Authentic period props, set decorations, a stove and period furniture were found and now dress that homestead interior along with an immigration chest painted and rosemaled in traditional style by my sister Karen. A wood-grained secretary built by my Danish Great Great Grandfather in the late 1800's sits in the corner of the shack. Much of the bed linen and pillow cases were handed down to me from both my Danish and Norwegian grandmothers.
The music for the promos was provided by the talented man that will score this film, William Ryan Fritch.
There are many more talented individuals attached to the project, but I just want to mention three. Marika Sayers and Chase Fox will play Siri and Toad. They are already seasoned veterans and they have been working on their roles for this film for at least a year. I am also pleased to have Annemette Andersen to play the role of the mother.
HOW IS THIS GOING TO WORK?
The plan is to shoot it, put it in the can. And then I will, without salary, edit it, block in the animation and get it as close to a fine cut as possible with a temp mix and temp music. This is just one example of what I am personally bringing to the project. I am providing my professional skills to make this the best production I can. Because I am an editor with 19 features to my credit, I don't have to wait for the finishing funds to cut together a finished film.
It is this cut I will use to obtain the finishing funds to pay for the original score and the final mix and color timing and the mastering of the movie. William Fritch Ryan has expressed interest in scoring the final film.
Leomark studios has signed a preliminary letter to act as sales agent domestically and internationally. So I have prepared life after postproduction. After all what’s the point of making a movie if no one sees it.
Help me get this made. Tell everyone you know about this project because we cannot do it alone. Share with them this project that will get made, that will be something everyone is proud of.
We invite you to contribute whatever you can to help us make this movie. Please, check out the rewards. We have some dandy ones, such as but not limited to:
Autographed pictures of Frank the cat. She’s twenty years old and I don’t know how many more years she will be autographing photos.
· Props from the movie like hand-made Vikings fabricated from natural wooden clothespins.
· Autographed scripts.
· Copies of the movie.
· Scandinavian-style handmade scarf and mittens. These were made for this film and will be worn by the kids.
· One-of-a-kind, hand-drawn illustrations to be used in the movie in a limited animation segment.
Also, visit our Facebook page. “Like” it. Read some of the immigration stories posted on the wall and add your own.
Tell your friends and family about our project.
More importantly, make your donation now, no matter how large or small. You will participate in the telling of this moving account of faith, endurance and the true Christmas spirit.
Last January, a staged reading of the CAT AND TROLLS screenplay was held at the Casweck Gallery in Santa Fe. It was a delight to hear my words performed by excellent actors and it strengthened my conviction that the story of brave, strong Siri would move and inspire audiences.
So think out of the box and give your money to something “evergreen." I am using Kickstarter because the normal funding sources want something more violent, more sexy, another addition to the horror film slush pile. Then CAT AND THE TROLLS can one day join the ranks of perennial Holiday favorites.
Risks and challenges
All film projects are subject to chance disasters. Weather, casting issues, and equipment failures are just a few possible obstacles. This is why all films need to go into production with adequate production insurance. I have lost cameras, production vehicles, wardrobe, actors and locations. Dealing with these obstacles has given me the confidence that I can overcome most any challenge.
Yet another challenge is the cast. We can promise a name ahead of time, but schedule or money conflicts could prevent us from getting the actor we dream of. So we reserve the right to substitute a more available performer.
Also with our film, we need snow. And in case we don't get the snow we need naturally, we have planned alternatives such as snow machines, clever production design and computer FX to make an audience feel the dangers of what these children experience.
Along with the digital download of the finished film, backers at this level will receive a terrific digital download of a behind the scenes documentary of the making of CAT AND THE TROLLS. This offering is also to be given to those who have already pledged at this level.
Wooden clothespin Viking prop just like the one used in the actual movie. This can also be used as a Christmas ornament. And again everything else that has come before, except for the other Christmas Ornament.
A "Thank you" in the end credits of the final film. So that the world will know how grateful we truly are. And again you'll get everything else already mentioned, except the Christmas Tree Ornaments, clothes pin or otherwise.
The hand-drawn original pen and ink drawings that will be used in the limited animation sequence that will appear in the final film. Each will be signed by the artist/director. And still you will get everything else, but only one of the tree ornaments,
Custom head band knitted in the Fair Isle style especially for you. You have your choice of colors from the traditional Fair Isle color palette. You get everything else except for the ornaments and drawings. Because the number is limited, it is also not available to rewards # 10 and up.
Along with everything mentioned previously (except for the plate and the drawings), you get a set of 6 Official CAT AND THE TROLL greeting cards featuring both poster designs seen on our Kickstarter page. Three cards each for each of the two designs. These are exclusive to this offer, and one of those cards in each set will be autographed by both Frank and the director.
Four sets of 3 authentic, vintage photo postcards. Each postcard is from the 1920's to the 1930's and features old time rodeo action. These postcards feature photographs that were shot the day before and printed onto postcard-size stock. They were then sold at that same rodeo as a souvenir. In CAT AND THE TROLLS, the frostbit cowboy carries a stack of these in his back pocket to show off his own bronc-ridin' skills. What he has are movie mock-ups but we are offering the real deal. And then you get whatever everyone else gets to this point, except for the plate and the drawings.
SPECIAL OFFER! For a pledge of $800, Michael Amundsen, that’s me, will read a draft of your screenplay, make copious notes, discuss it on the phone with you for a half hour and then read the next draft. I have an MFA in screenwriting from UCLA, have sold screenplays, have directed my own work, and I have taught screenwriting at University of New Mexico and College of Santa Fe. At UCLA, I won the Jack Nicholson and Larry Thor awards. Plus I love teaching. I really do.
Actual wardrobe item used in the movie by one of the children. These are beautiful hand-knitted wool Fair Isle designs. There are five items: 2 pairs of mittens, 2 scarves and a cap. The generous person to gives at this amount chooses the one they want. First come, first served. And once more, you'll get everything else already offered except the limited number items.
You will be an Associate Producer listed in the head credits of the film. This is not only in name only. You will see a copy of second rough cut and be invited to make comments. If you are in the area, you will be welcome to visit us on set during production. And if you happen to be in Albuquerque or Los Angeles, you will be invited to our exclusive premiere. And we will publicly thank you at the screenings. AND an exclusive behind-the-scenes documentary. And of course you get everything else except for the items that we offer in limited quantities.
One up front credit as Executive Producer. Why not? You're giving a whole lot of money here. You get everything the $5000 level gets. But you get to see 2 rough cuts (and make comments). And the exclusive behind the scenes documentary. Basically you get everything except the limited quantity rewards. We want you to feel like a part of the production.