In a world where couples often come from different cultural backgrounds, the traditional rites of passage that once brought families and communities together may now bring bitter conflict.
RACHEL is a short film drama (10 mins) that explores the complex relationships between religion, family and love, and asks whether funerals are for the living or the dead.
The story opens in a funeral director’s chapel of rest. Laid out in an open willow coffin is RACHEL, a girl who has rejected her Conservative Jewish upbringing in favour of a bohemian life with her surfer boyfriend JOSH. When Rachel’s imposing father FRANK arrives to claim her body for burial in the traditional way, Josh has to stand up for Rachel’s last wishes.
I’m Karen Anstee, a musician and screenwriter. My experiences in the music industry inspired two novels and a series of short stories, including Symphony of Sighs, which was produced in 2015 for BBC Radio 4, starring Hugh Dennis.
Realising that what I was actually doing with prose was describing the movies running in my imagination, I decided to pursue a career in film. I graduated from London Film School with an MA in Screenwriting. My time there gave me the opportunity to take an active hands-on role in multiple LSF productions, using my editing, photographic, musical, management and art & design skills.
Since graduating I have completed four feature length scripts and there are several more in the works. My plan is to use RACHEL to showcase both my writing and directing skills, paving the way for directing one of my feature projects.
However, it’s not just about me, it’s about giving everyone involved an opportunity to shine and advance their careers. You may notice that my core team are all women – that’s deliberate. Women are massively unrepresented in the film industry, so it’s been important to me to make sure that I do my best to address that imbalance by seeking out some seriously talented women to take on leading roles.
But, above all, I am the guardian of the project and, as such, I’ve drawn together a team of like-minded individuals – whether male or female - who share my desire to work in a truly collaborative style and ensure that this story is told with love, honesty and compassion.
Why make RACHEL in particular?
Inspiration for RACHEL originally came from an impassioned conversation between my sister-in-law and mother-in-law. My mother-in-law had her own ideas about her funeral arrangements, whilst my sister-in-law, who didn’t agree, felt it ought to be her decision. It was a frank exchange, which left me with the question, “are funerals for the living or the dead?” And, though I have never found the answer, that question has again and again come to mind as I, and the people around me, have faced life’s inevitable tragedies.
For me, the safe option is to write with humour, to use laughter to make serious and difficult subject matter easier to deal with for both my audience and me.
But the story of RACHEL is different. It comes from my own personal experiences of loss, and from observing the pain that so many people I know have gone through in losing a loved one – there was, and is, nothing funny about that pain.
It is not always through death that we lose someone but, whatever form loss comes in, it is always difficult to talk about that pain. That’s true for me too – the process of writing the script was a distressing emotional journey in many ways, but this film was worth it because it allowed me to think and talk about some difficult things and hopefully it will do the same for its audience.
I want to make this film for me, for the people I have lost, for the people I will lose, and for anyone, which is everyone, who has lost or will lose someone.
What happens if we don't get the funding?
To be honest I don’t know. But, what I do know about myself, and if you know me you’ll also know, is that I’m not one to give up on someone or something I care about. The film is really important to me but so are the amazing team who have supported me in my efforts to get RACHEL made – I can’t let either the story or my team down, so it will happen one way or another. But I’d really like it to be now.
Akua Obeng-Frimpong – Producer, Kind Productions
Akua studied Performance before training as an Arts Manager. She has had a professional career in British Theatre, including work with arts venues (C Venues, Battersea Arts Centre, Watermans) training organisations (International Workshop Festival, Central School of Speech and Drama) and touring companies (Perpetual Motion Theatre, The Tell Tale Hearts). Akua was the Executive Director of Kazzum for 9 years, producing touring theatre and is currently Head of Business Development for Zealous, an online network for the creative industries.
Akua has earned credits as a production co-ordinator, production manager and producer on short films and has also collaborated on music videos. Through her company Kind Productions, her last project ROXANNE (2014), written and directed by Paul Frankl, was selected for 15 festivals internationally and has won 2 awards.
Maja Biton - First Assistant Director
Maja is an Israeli writer/director working in both Hebrew and English. During her twelve years in London she earned a BA in Film & Video from London College of Communications and an MA in Screenwriting from London Film School, whilst working on various projects as screenwriter, director, editor, producer and floor manager. Her short film LETTERS TO GOD was screened at the BFI, ICA and festivals around the world. She currently has two feature length scripts in development.
Maja is currently Production Manager for the Israel Film Festival in Los Angeles. As part of her work at the Festival she helped establish and build the first ever Israeli Exhibition Space at the 2015 American Film Market.
Tania Freimuth - Director of Photography
Tania is an award-winning UK based cinematographer. An avid photographer from an early age, with an interest in the human condition, the move to cinematography was a natural transition. She is a graduate of Manchester University and Maine Media Workshops Film & TV degree courses, and she lensed her first feature on 16mm in 2005. A member of BAFTA Crew & the GBCT Tania has won awards for her work with Lloyds Bank, the Limelight Film Festival and has had her photographic art published by the Guardian Media Group.
Tania’s career is founded on a successful period as an assistant, working through the grades on films and television drama, and she feels this experience informs her role and allows her to work as a cinematographer today. Tania isn’t allied to one particular media format, believing that a story should dictate the form. She has travelled the world in pursuit of her craft, and has knowledge of lighting for both film and high definition across many genres, including drama and documentary.
Lucy Harris – Editor
Lucy has worked with film and video for the last 18 years as a broadcast Avid and Final Cut Pro editor, artist filmmaker and teacher. She specialises in working with independent filmmakers, arts organisations and visual artists and recent projects include the artist feature HEATED GLOVES, (selected for BFI London film festival 2015, Rotterdam Film Festival 2016), THREE MINUTE WARNING, (Channel Four) and SOME DAY I’LL FIND YOU, (Open City London Documentary Festival). She is currently working with Animate and the London Sinfionetta as an edit consultant.
Her own artist film works have been exhibited in galleries and cinemas in the UK and internationally. CROSSING POINTS received a special mention at the London Short Film Festival 2014, Best Experimental Film Category and CREMER was selected for the 2013 BFI London Film Festival, EMAF 2014 and Hamburg Film Festival 2014. Her artist background informs her professional editing and she enjoys developing long term working relationships with the filmmakers that she works with.
Aislinn De’ath – Rachel
is an actress for stage, screen and radio. Trained at the National Youth Theatre and Drama Centre London, she is known for her work as Veronica McShell in internationally acclaimed app ZOMBIES, RUN!, as Caitlin in BBC's SILENT WITNESS, as well as her leading roles in a plethora of short films, theatre shows and music videos for artists such as Ghostpoet and Apollo 440.
Aislinn also writes and currently has a film in post-production for Flight of Fancy and two in development with Little Glass Films and Triskelle Films.
Robert Dukes – Josh
Robert Dukes is an actor for stage, screen and radio. He earned a degree in Drama at Lincoln School of Performing Arts, after which he worked with acting and success coach, Bernard Hiller in London and at his studios in LA. Since then he has worked and trained with The Actors Class in London, culminating in a performance in The West End.
Robert has his own film production company, Flight of Fancy Films, which has seen success in recent years with its films SHREW’D and EARLY BIRDS. They are now working on their follow up film titled FRIGHT!
TBA – Frank
We have approached a respected actor for this role, someone who could lend kudos to the production through their professional gravitas.
We’re shooting with a digital camera but my aim is to recreate some of the qualities of 16mm film, not only for its innately beautiful tones but also because it represents both long-standing tradition and the ‘authenticity’ aesthetic of Rachel’s surfer community. The story will inform the style, with the opening being claustrophobic, dark and aggressively up-close, to contrast starkly with the light, spacious and dialogue free culmination.
The films that have inspired my vision include: Tree of Life by Terrence Malick, Harold and Maude by Hal Ashby , The Graduate by Mike Nichols. These are films that use music beautifully and meaningfully, and they are films about love, about breaking with expectations, about what is important in life.
Music in film is one of my passions – working in the recording industry, both playing the violin and fixing musicians for sessions, I’ve seen that all too often the music is the last thing anyone thinks about and that decisions are made about it based on what’s left in the budget (not much usually) rather than what is right for the film.
As a musician I cannot help but imagine a soundtrack when I am writing. RACHEL was a tough script to get through – I was pretty depressed by the subject matter but at the same time I wanted the culmination of the film to be a truly uplifting release. To get me through the process I started listening to an album by Ned Landin, aka ‘Flathead’ - a folk singer who used to perform in Harvard Square, Massachusetts. And what started as a way of cheering myself up soon began to influence the script itself. His song “Down at the Levee” (from the album ‘Corner of My Heart’) absolutely communicates the joyous sense of freedom I’m looking for at the end of the film. Currently, I’m trying to track him down to secure the rights to use it, but he’s as free spirited as my characters, so only time will tell…
Our plan for producing RACHEL covers the end to end process, ensuring that we not only shoot the film but complete post-production. The film will be submitted to festivals and, where selected, RACHEL will have its opportunity to garner industry recognition.
March 2016 – Mid-June, Pre-Production
We’re currently securing our locations and a production manager, who will help drive the logistical elements of our shoot. In parallel the producer is developing the marketing and festival strategy, ensuring that once RACHEL is complete we maximise the opportunities available.
May 2016, Crowdfunding
This campaign is running for 4 weeks and in that time, we’ll spread word of the project as far and wide as we can, by email and social media. Hopefully you’ll assist us with that too.
June 2016, Production
We plan to shoot over 3 days in June and have ear-marked dates which we’ll set in stone once our funding is secured.
June & July 2016, Post-production
We’ve allocated 6 weeks for the edit, grade and sound mix.
September 2016, Cast & Crew/ Screening
An opportunity to survey and celebrate the end product. We’d like to celebrate our efforts as a team as soon as possible, before RACHEL begins its journey around the festival circuit.
October 2016 – May 2018, Festival Screenings
We anticipate that RACHEL will have a life of approximately 18 months within the festival circuit. In addition to festivals we aim to seek distribution (either online or via a distributor). This ensures we share RACHEL with the widest audience possible.
Our budget focuses on covering people’s time at a nominal rate. We’re also benefiting from the in-kind resources of our DP, whose Black Magic camera - a key and often costly piece of kit - she’ll offer as part of her fee, saving us the cost of hire. We’ve also accessed reduced rates for the post-production process.
I will be investing my own money in the project and we aim to raise the remaining 60% of our funding here on Kickstarter.
These are our costs:
Cast = £807
Crew = £2,408
Locations = £660
Camera & Lights = £1,090
Art Direction & Make up = £370
Transport = £475
Catering = £648
Insurance = £800
Post-production, Music & Sound = £3,650
Marketing & Festivals = £1,627
Contingency = £1254
Total = £13,789
Risks and challenges
Filmmaking is a risky business, with possible delays in schedule due to unforeseen location, permit and kit problems (and many others). But with a talented creative crew and super-organised production team, we feel the risks are minimised, and any problems or delays that do come up will be handled efficiently and professionally.
Communication is the key to any successful shoot, that includes on set between crew, between the heads of department in preparation, and between us and you!
We will ensure you are kept up to date with our whole production process, letting you know what is going on and when, so that everyone is on the same page and kept in the loop. We feel that open and honest communication is the best and fastest way to resolve and avoid any unwanted bumps in the road.
These factors will ensure that our funds are managed well.
- An experienced team with strong technical, creative and project management skills
- Crew sourced through tried and tested networks
- Ensuring the collaborators connect with the story, this job is not for the money
- Contracts to ensure fairness and transparency
- Reliance on good scheduling and logistics to manage funds efficiently
- (32 days)