Meme - A Film About a Woman, VHS Tapes, and Memetics
Meme is a feature film about a woman, Jennifer, who seeks out the creator of an unusual videotape she receives at a VHS swap.
Meme is about Jennifer, a graphic designer, who finds herself involved in the VHS trading underground and a television obsessed cult after seeking out the creator of a homemade tape she finds at a video trading meet-up.
The film is rooted in part in memetics, the theory of mental content based on an analogy to Darwinian evolution. In the theory a "meme" is a unit of culture (an idea, habit, or belief) that spreads from person to person much how a gene passes from generation to generation. In the case of this film, Meme, we explore how these units of culture spread via different methods, including group methods like cults and underground communities, and via media consumption and remixing. In particular Susan Blackmore's TED Talk about Memes and Temes served as a thematic inspiration.
Why Make this Film?
This is the next iteration in my exploration of the interaction between people and media. It’s not really a theme that I knew I was exploring when I first started doing it. It’s arguable that most of my films back to my student film Living explore it. Living, in some respects, connects the lack of media access to a almost the atrophy of the modern person (and then there’s zombies). Then, Modern Prometheus shows an interaction between the written word and the character Henry (both in his consumption and creation of the written word). Almost how words can become and even change our reality. Those two were really unconscious explorations of the theme. Somewhere in the depths of my creative mind I was working on this issue. So, it was expressed in the films.
The most conscious effort so far has definitely been the short I produced last year, Abel and Cain, in it the main character Abel is literally transformed by his experience with a mail-order self help DVD. Still, even other unrelated projects have hints of this theme. My two-day short film The Box includes something of the interaction between a photo’s representation of the world and our own experience of it (it’s a minor connection, I admit). And the music video I made for PS XO, Glossolalia, certainly taps that both in my selection of the song to shoot and the story in the video about the creation of a collage.
Meme, is the next and really most aware version of this theme that I can see has dominated my work, even when I didn’t know it was. Meme is inspired by the theory of memetics, how an idea, habit, or belief spreads from person to person and group to group much like how genes spread. Media in a broad sense is a group of memes. The film still focuses on a few particular types of media, the largely dead VHS format, and the television. Each is used as an expression of how memes spread and each medium affects different characters in different ways. The interactions between the people and the media are, in a way, the most important interactions in the entire film.
I want to make Meme, because it is the the climax of my exploration of the dominant theme of my work (whether I was totally conscious of it or not) for the past four years. It is my ultimate expression of the ideas that have been working through my mind for perhaps even longer than I have been making films.
Writer-Director Sean Mannion is a Brooklyn-based filmmaker who has made nine short films since moving from Alaska to New York in 2008. In addition to the short films he has also created videos for Channel 101 NY and produced Jeffrey Gurian's Comedy Matters TV.
In 2012 Sean brought his project Abel and Cain to Kickstarter with returning collaborators Alex Bone and Tara Cioletti. They raised $4,060 of their $3,500 goal and are currently submitting the short film (completed in October of 2012) to festivals.
Producer Katie Carman-Lehach is a film director and producer living in New York City where she’s been creating independent short and feature films for the past 10+ years. Her work can be seen on Epix HD, Snag Films and Amazon OnDemand. Katie is also the official Film Editor for the Viscera Organization, a non-profit dedicated to promoting female genre directors, and a contributing writer for the HerFilmProject.com.
Her most recent feature film, Off Season, was produced after successfully raising funds via Kickstarter.
Special Content for Backers Only
In addition to the standard Behind-The-Scenes content you can expect to get from a film's Kickstarter, we are producing special content exclusively for backers. We'll be sharing with you documentary videos giving you insight into:
- Simon and Yvette and their Children of Televion cult.
- Jeffrey, the creator of the film's "Meme" VHS tape, talking about his history as a VHS filmmaker.
- An interview with Tommy from a documentary about his favorite film, a movie released only on VHS, Beneath the Black Moon.
There will also be other materials available to backers only, including a look at short films produced by our friends that will play during scenes in Meme.
Additional Promotional Videos
The intent is to shoot Meme with a minimal crew and on location in New York City over 16 days in October and November of 2013. Even trying to keep costs down as much as possible, costs arise. Filmmaking is an expensive prospect even when you do everything you can to keep costs down. Here's a quick breakdown of where your money as a backer will be spent:
- 23 Cast members with commitments ranging from 1 day to the full 16 day shoot.
- 5 Crew members/production staff (not including Producer/Director Sean Mannion) again with commitments ranging from 1 day to the full 16 day shoot.
- Food! Filmmaking is hungry work and cast and crew need to be fueled on shoot days so we're all making the movie you supported to the best of our abilities.
- Props including stacks of old VHS tapes for set dressing, VCRs, and anything else we can't beg, borrow, or steal to make sure what you see on screen is the best we can put together.
- Location fees, because some locations will certainly require it and those locations may very well make this a better film.
- Post-Production! Once the shoot is done the film has to go to people to edit the video and make sure it looks and sounds worthy of your money.
- Finally, there's festival fees. Once the film is shot and edited and looking and sounding the best we can possibly make it we've got to get it out there on the festival circuit and show it off (after you all get to see it first, of course). Unfortunately, that's a pricey proposition, so your help with it is very much appreciated.
Risks and challenges
One of the project's biggest challenges is the schedule. We are attempting to coordinate approximately 30 people (not including extras!) in approximately 10 locations in a 16 day period. 16 days seems like a lot but filmmaking is a long process even when done as efficiently as possible. We will have many long days and will attempt to maximize available resources on each and every day of the shoot.
Once funded the biggest risks we face are related to people, locations, and equipment. Unfortunately for reasons positive or negative it is entirely possible a member of the cast or crew may become unavailable. At such time we will have to seek out a replacement.
Similarly, a location that we need for scenes may become unavailable with or without notice. This is overcome in part by the flexibility of our script. Many scenes can be moved to alternative locations, should that become necessary. For other scenes we'll leverage our network to find a replacement. Equipment failures or sudden unavailability is another danger as part of the shoot. Our network is robust enough that we should be able to replace anything.
Following the shoot there is always a risk of losing data. As great as digital media is, it can also be lost or corrupted. Maintaining backups of footage will be our primary approach to preventing this potential setback.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)