About this project
Thank you to all of our backers! We can’t wait to show you the film you made possible.
Because of the outpouring of support we received for this campaign, we’ve met a lot of talented artists and craftspeople who are interested in lending their support.
If you’ve just joined our campaign, or wanted to contribute but saw that we reached our goal, there are still ways we can elevate the finished film:
20k - ACHIEVED - We can hire a professional casting director.
A key part of this film is casting our second lead character, Abe: a lonely yet compassionate Chinese American boy. Young Asian actors are few and far between in the film industry. We are reaching out to everyone we know, but the net can still be wider. With a casting director, we’ll be able to reach communities we don’t have access to, in order to cast the right actor for this important role.
Too many movies decide that casting Asian leads is too unorthodox, too inconvenient, or worse: “not relatable enough.” We’re gonna prove them wrong.
21k - ACHIEVED - Help us reach film festivals across the world.
With film, the more buzz you build, the better. By raising enough money to apply to a worldwide festival circuit, we make the chances that Ella will be picked up by production companies and studios that much higher. I have big hopes and lots of ideas for these characters, and if we reach the right eyes, we could make a series or a feature film based on Ella, that goes even deeper into telling a new American story. And it will have all started with you!
22k - An upgraded camera setup.
We know what it takes to make a great movie, and our current budget covers that. With this amount, we’ll be able to upgrade our camera setup, which includes adding a MOVI stabilization rig, which will allow us to move the camera in ways that were impossible even a few years ago. This will come into play when we shoot our Fugitive scenes: running through town is going to feel more visceral, exciting, and dynamic.
23k - We can hire a professional editor.
I’ve edited my last few projects, but getting to work with a true professional with her own artistic voice would elevate the artistry of the film. We’d also be able to finish Ella that much faster, to get it to film festivals, distributors, and ultimately back to you. Help support independent artists and let’s hire a great editor!
25k - Perfect our musical approach.
Ella will have a unique musical score, as well as a key song that’s featured in the ending scene. Angela and I are hard at work to find the right composer for the film, as well as licensing the perfect song for the film’s ending. If we raise this much, we can guarantee that our musicians get more time and resources to create the original soundscape of Ella, and we’ll have more money to license a song for what will be a powerful emotional moment.
28k - A premium post production.
With this amount, we’ll be able to pay our professional post-production friends who are lending their services at very low rates. This money will go to the best quality color grading to go with our one-of-a-kind cinematography, as well as an industry standard sound mix that will sound just as good on your home setup as it will in a theater of hundreds. If we reach this level, we’ll work to repay that contribution tenfold with a cinema quality audio-visual experience, and exhibit Ella at exclusive local theater screenings in LA and Kansas!
Dan here. Thank you again for making this project happen. I hope these stretch goals make you as excited as I am. This film has been and will continue to be my life for the next few months, and I’m grateful for all of your help.
Together, let’s tell the story of two outsiders finding connection.
When do you come of age?
Is it the first time you break the rules? Or leave home? Or get laid?
These are all milestones, but to me they’re small potatoes.
You grow up the first time you hurt someone you love.
Our short film follows Abe, a young recluse who is brought into a game of Fugitive by his older brother’s ex-girlfriend, Ella. As he tries to fit in among the track stars, the punks, and the art kids... he betrays Ella, his only friend and resident “weird girl.”
Ella will transport viewers to that confusing time where we're still fighting for an identity, doing anything to be accepted. And given the choice between facing a challenging friendship, or seeking popular approval, will we do what is right, or what is easy?
We're aiming to create something real, poetic, and nostalgic. Our tonal inspirations for Ella are films like Moonlight, Badlands, and The Virgin Suicides. Building on that with our characters, setting, and team, we're setting out to make something you haven't seen yet.
Dan here. Growing up, I loved American film and television. I identified with the heroes and villains of the screen, and they in turn shaped my personality as an American kid growing up in the only country I knew.
Ella follows two Asian Americans finding their place in their Midwest community, which is a story I’ve never seen before.
I want to share my experiences of growing up in the home of Chinese immigrants, and journeying into the larger world of America.
No matter your race, gender, class, or appearance: we all sell each other out. But we also have a reserve of courage to connect with others, so long as we call upon it.
Now and always, stories like this are important.
An important part of making Ella is bringing the craftspeople I’ve met in Los Angeles, and making a film set in the Heartland with family, friends, and artists in Manhattan, Kansas.
Big cities don’t lack for stories, while small towns have a rich reservoir of sights, sounds, and characters that are untapped by the film industry. The setting of Manhattan and its unique character are an integral part of the story we’re telling.
If you’re an actor of high school/college age in Manhattan or the surrounding area, we’d love to hear from you for several important roles in the film.
We’re also looking for key positions in all departments (camera, art, and production).
If you would like to volunteer in any other way, we’d love to have you on board!
Shooting a movie with large format means recording onto a frame that has six times the surface area that most films shoot on.
Many breathtaking movies have been shot in large format, including Lawrence of Arabia, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and The Master.
Our cinematographer Philips Shum built a camera system that allows us to shoot on large format without the budgets that big movies have.
The results are unlike any other movie camera available.
With your help, we plan on using this rig to film Ella. For us, cinematography is not about getting the most expensive gear possible, but putting love and attention into each aspect of the process.
Large format magnifies subtle details and textures, while bringing the environment and characters closer to you.
We’ve never seen large format used for a coming of age film. We’re excited to be the first.
I grew up in the town of Manhattan, Kansas, where I made friends by making movies. That love for film has taken me to Los Angeles, where I work as a cinematographer and most recently, as a director.
My latest projects have garnered awards at film festivals, as well as online accolades such as a Vimeo Staff Pick and a Short of the Week premiere. I'm still at the beginning of my career, but the reception has been encouraging so far.
These successes have inspired me to write and direct a personal story. It's a story I've wanted to tell since I was a teenager growing up in the Midwest, and I'm confident in having the skills and the team to make a one-of-a-kind film.
Our Kickstarter budget covers the entire cost of the film from start to finish. Once we raise our budget, we plan on filming as soon as possible.
Our editing and mixing process will take us through the summer, and we'll finish the film around August, just in time for major film festival submissions.
We've assembled a great team of collaborators, with more coming on every day.
We’ve already made a complete budget, which includes camera and equipment rentals, art expenses, wardrobe, travel costs, food, sound mixing, and music.
Now we need your help in making this film happen.
When you contribute, you'll truly own a piece of this film. Among our rewards, we're offering a digital download of the film, a nostalgic behind the scenes video, beautiful one-of-a-kind photographs, your name on the slate during the production, and even a high quality art book that documents the making of the film.
Whether you contribute or share our Kickstarter page, we’ll be incredibly grateful. Making films is about creating communities. With Ella, we hope you'll join our community and make this movie a reality.
Thank you DYAN for providing the music for our video!
Risks and challenges
Shooting on location in Kansas will make for a beautiful film, but will also keep us on our toes for shifts in weather. Our scheduling and travel logistics will have to be well planned and executed.
The good news is we're working with true professionals. Everyone on our team has worked on feature films, television shows, shorts, commercials, and music videos. Much of filmmaking is adapting to the situation and we love that part of the process.
The other major challenge is finding the right distributor to release the film. With many possible avenues including online platforms and international film festivals, we'll search for the best way of bringing this film to the world.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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