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A short film about the existential terror of coming of age.
52 backers pledged $5,663 to help bring this project to life.

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$5,663

52

UPDATE: We're making a movie! 

Thanks to our new and growing ANIMAL family, we hit our goal FOUR DAYS EARLY!

Could not be more excited to get this project off the ground. And now that we've got some momentum, we're gonna see how far we can stretch across the finish line. 

To be more specific: We're setting a stretch goal of $7,500 by this Friday at midnight

Every dollar pledged above our goal will enable us to put more money in the pockets of our cast and crew here in Arkansas.

With the extra $2,500, we'll be able to hire experienced technicians - cinematographer, sound recordist, assistant director, editor - who will not only make this a better film, but will help train a young and eager crew of local film students. 

Let's see how far we can stretch this campaign. Keep spreading the word!

Nothing challenges our own existential ideas about what it means to be human than the shuddering shift from childhood to adulthood. Coming of age – the subject of hundreds of honey-colored tween films – is rarely the downy soft transition we tell ourselves it was or will be. It’s confusing, mysterious and often outright terrifying. 

Who am I? 

What am I becoming? 

Why do I feel so totally out of control over the one thing that is truly mine, my own body?

ANIMAL is a lyrical, impressionistic short form film that embraces fully the terror of this universal experience of coming of age. Set in rural Arkansas, the film centers on a young boy still deeply connected to the wilderness around him, unformed and unpredictable, but struggling with his own identity. He’s repelled by the toxic masculinity of the adult men he encounters, but also ill at ease with the softly civilized, maternal femininity of his own mother. 

But more harrowing than either is his own suspicion that something… happens to him at night. That he may, in fact, be some kind of shape-shifting monster that prowls the countryside. 

When he meets a young girl his age, there’s an instant connection, a familiar sparkle in her eyes that suggests she may understand his struggle. That she too might fear what she could become.

By the film’s end, we are confronted with the possibility that one or both of these kids might actually take the form of some wild animal, capable of terrible, unspeakable violence. And it may not be the gendered version we’re used to seeing on screen. That young girls have a power all their own. 

But more likely, we’ll see a metaphor for our own fraught experience of coming of age, of making sense of the emotional powder keg that propels us into adulthood.

ANIMAL is an ambitious project. Fortunately, we have an incredible community of artists and filmmakers to help make it a reality. Shot entirely in northwest Arkansas, we'll make the most of the natural beauty of the Ozarks, as well as the welcoming community of film lovers who are excited and enthusiastic about supporting filmmaking in the region. And that includes providing an opportunity for young people, mostly students at the University of Arkansas, to work on a film set and gain valuable experience. We are committed to using this project to not only create great art, but to support the burgeoning filmmaking community in Arkansas and to encourage the next generation of filmmakers.

As for the look and tone of the film, we shot some test footage with one of our lead actors to get a feel for the terrain and how the camera might move with him. You saw some of that in our opening video. You can see more of it here:

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We'll also be drawing inspiration from other off-center, unsettling coming of age stories that, to paraphrase Emily Dickinson, tell all the truth, but tell it slant...

ANIMAL is set to shoot this summer. We've got an amazing cast, a talented, enthusiastic crew, and all of the locations. We just need the money to make it all happen.

Of course, you can commit a story to film for next to nothing. (And believe me, I have. You can check out some of my earlier, no-budget, award-winning work below.) But a story like ANIMAL deserves to be told with as much care and support as possible. Your generous financial contributions will cover location and transportation costs, equipment rental, set design and decoration, and the care and feeding of our cast and crew. There will also be significant post-production costs for editing, color correction and sound mixing, as well as the one hard cost many low-budget films forget to include, festival entry fees (which can quickly add up!). 

All of the above could easily push our budget to nearly $15,000. But fortunately, we have an incredibly supportive community here that wants to see us succeed. We have access to state of the art equipment at no charge, and many of our locations are free or very low cost. Because of this generosity, your contributions will go even further and every penny will end up on the screen. 

$5,000 is enough to get the film in the can and will go a long way toward finishing the film. But every dollar past our goal will enable us to perfect the project in post-production and get it out to as many festivals as possible.

Russell Leigh Sharman - Writer/Director

Russell Leigh Sharman is writer, filmmaker and anthropologist. He's written for Hollywood since 2008 when his screenplay BOBBIE SUE won a spot on the Hollywood Blacklist, and has since written for various studios and production companies, including Warner Bros., Fox, Disney, MRC, DeLine Pictures, 21 Laps, Participant Media, Montecito Pictures, Original Media, Dark Horse Entertainment, Strange Weather and Real FX. He is the writer/director of SMALL OF HER BACK, a feature film adaptation of his stage play and distributed by RLJ Entertainment, as well as a number of short films and documentaries. He also has an undergraduate degree in film from the University of Texas, a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from Oxford University, and is the author of two books, THE TENANTS OF EAST HARLEM and NIGHTSHIFT NYC. He is currently a Professor of Practice in the department of communication at the University of Arkansas where he teaches film and filmmaking.

Kris Katrosh - Producer

Kris Katrosh is a veteran TV, film, live event, and digital media producer. He worked as a gaffer before becoming a producer and general manager at a 30+ person film and video production company. His love of documentary filmmaking led him to the role of director for an oral and visual history program at the University of Arkansas. He now runs a large media team at the U of A Global Campus and freelancers as a film producer.

Alexander Margulis - Lead Actor

Alexander Margulis previously appeared as Connor in the short film Day 177, and as Christian in the TheatreSquared production of Fun Home. He has performed at Arts Live Theatre (The Boxcar Children), attended the T2 Summer Drama Academy and New School Musical Theatre Camp, and sung in All Region Choir.  With his brother, he co-founded and coordinates the 7 Hills Youth Council.  He plays trumpet in the Northwest Arkansas Youth Jazz Workshop and is a 7th grader at Ramay Junior High School in Fayetteville.

Jonny Schremmer - Lead Actor

Jonny Schremmer came to Fayetteville nearly six years ago from NYC with husband Troy and son Huck. While there she acted and taught with HB Studio, Mabou Mines, Theatre for a New Audience, Columbia University, Dodger Theatricals, New Georges and Six Figures. Here in NWA she was in "The Wolves," "Rapture, Blister, Burn" and "Proof" at TheatreSquared, Trike Theatre's production of "Charlotte's Web" at the Walton Arts Center, "Much Ado About Nothing" at Classical Edge Theatre, "Craving Gravy" at Arkansas Staged and "Talking With" at Smokehouse Players. Jonny is on the drama faculty and serves as the Arts Director for The New School here in Fayetteville, and for three years she was the Theatre Director for the Prison Story Project. Films include the Independent Spirit nominated "Chalk," An Ordinary Family," "All Dogs Must Have People," and "Day 177," and she can be heard in the current season of "True Detective" on HBO. Jonny received her MFA in Acting from the University of Texas at Austin and studied with Uta Hagen in New York.

Troy Schremmer - Lead Actor

Troy Schremmer works as a preschool music and movement teacher by day and is the Theatre Director for the Prison Story Project. He has also been in TheatreSquared productions like "Hamlet" (Claudius), "All the Way" and "The Ballad of Rusty and Roy" (which he co-wrote with his wife, Jonny Schremmer) as a part of the Arkansas New Play Festival in 2012. Off-Broadway he was in Mint Theatre’s "The Charity That Began at Home" and also acted with HB Playwrights Foundation, New York International Fringe Festival, Theatre for a New Audience and Ensemble Studio Theatre.  In Chicago he worked with Shakespeare’s Motley Crew ("Comedy of Errors") and Pillar Studio ("Coyote Ugly").  He played Mark Rothko in Lucky Clover Studios’ production of "Red" at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Film credits include: "Chalk," "An Ordinary Family," "Neighbors," "All Dogs Must Have People" and "Day 177." He studied with Uta Hagen at HB Studios in NYC.

My first feature film, SMALL OF HER BACK, was a micro-budget SAG production (to Hollywood, that's anything under $500K), with a small, dedicated crew. We managed to pull together a beautiful film and double our investment after a distribution deal with RLJ Entertainment. Thank you to those who gave generously to that campaign - my first - back in 2010.  

For the past few years, a core group of actors and I have been making no-budget short form films in New York and Arkansas. For each of these projects, I served as writer, director, cinematographer, production sound mixer and editor, honing my skills in each aspect of filmmaking. Preparing, in a way, for ANIMAL, a much more ambitious film that will require a dedicated crew, a team of collaborators to fulfill the promise and the vision of the project. 

You can check out some of our earlier efforts below to see what we were able to accomplish with little or no money. And how much more we can do with the relatively small budget we are asking for here.

NEIGHBORS

ALL DOGS MUST HAVE PEOPLE

DAY 177

Risks and challenges

Filmmaking is a fragile compromise between art and commerce. Few art forms require as much capital investment for as little financial reward. But we're not in this for the money. We want to make art that moves people, that connects with that universal quality of being human.

Given our experience with low to no-budget filmmaking, we are confident we can pull this off for the $5,000 requested. In fact, my first feature film was a micro-budget SAG production that received distribution and doubled our investment.

Of course, there are always risks. Much of ANIMAL will be shot outdoors, so weather will be a factor. And given the relatively low budget, cast or crew might need to step away to take higher-paying opportunities. But unpredictability is part of the filmmaking process. It's what makes it exciting! It's also why we've built flexibility into our schedule to accommodate shifts in the weather, and why we've developed a deep bench of crew people to shore up any potential holes. It's also why we're asking for as much as we are. We'd like to actually pay everyone involved to make it worth their time!

As I referenced above, another challenge will be covering the costs of post-production. $5,000 will go a long way to making ANIMAL a reality, and we'd like to use most of that to get in the can. But editing, color correction and sound mixing all cost money. In an ideal world, we will raise more than the $5,000 and be able to outsource those tasks to skilled technicians. If not, we'll reserve a portion for post-production, especially the hard cost of festival entry fees. Fortunately, I have edited, color corrected and sound mixed most of my own work out of necessity and have the skills to do so for this project at no cost.

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Funding period

- (23 days)