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An aspiring marine biologist risks everything to conceal a medical condition that could destroy her ability to follow her dreams.
An aspiring marine biologist risks everything to conceal a medical condition that could destroy her ability to follow her dreams.
180 backers pledged $12,249 to help bring this project to life.

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MIRA - What if your mind could stop at any moment?

$12,249

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A psychological drama about Mira, a scientific illustrator who desperately conceals worsening temporal lobe epilepsy from Kaya, an immortal jellyfish expert, until tragedy forces Mira out of hiding. 

Test-shoot Stills: lab and underwater green screen! Featured: Actor Lorell Bird | Stunt Double Andrea Kemp
Test-shoot Stills: lab and underwater green screen! Featured: Actor Lorell Bird | Stunt Double Andrea Kemp

When Kaya invites her graduate student, Mira, to her remote island lab to complete a study of the life-cycle of the immortal jellyfish, and illustrate it for a research grant, it's the opportunity of a life-time for Mira. 

The immortal jellyfish life-cycle | drawings by MIRA artist Kate Wong
The immortal jellyfish life-cycle | drawings by MIRA artist Kate Wong

However, on the claustrophobic island, Mira struggles to hide worsening short-term memory loss from seizures. As her own mind cycles through life, reversal, death, and rebirth, she finds a sense of hope in the jellyfish's unique ability to regenerate itself. 

Though she refuses to be held back by her epilepsy, Mira must learn to do the thing she's most afraid of: be seen and value her life, flaws and all. Many of us can relate to Mira's shame: suffering in silence - valuing our work more than our lives - believing hiding is protection.

Mira and Kaya search for regeneration in their research, but ultimately find it through each other. 

MIRA is inspired by a friend of Amanda's struggle with improperly treated temporal lobe epilepsy that caused her to lose years of her life. Through emotional connection with these characters, Amanda hopes to convey how coping with this illness can effect ones emotions, identity, and relationships, and heighten a sense of impermanence.  

Portraying an underrepresented Point-of-View
Portraying an underrepresented Point-of-View

If you knew that at any moment, your mind might stop, what could you hang onto? How would you live?

Mira's sense of time & place become distorted.
Mira's sense of time & place become distorted.

If the jellyfish's ability to reverse is what makes it amazing, is there a silver lining in Mira's reversion?

Can a Jellyfish Unlock the Secret of Immortality? 

Turritopsis dornhii, the immortal jellyfish, is the only known species that reverts from an adult to embryonic state when stressed or old. If Turritopsis weren't so fragile, they could reincarnate indefinitely.

MIRA artist's practical jellyfish models
MIRA artist's practical jellyfish models

 CREW HIGHLIGHT:

Both our editor, David, and director, Amanda, won Student Academy Award gold medals for directing, an honor given to only 4 students in the U.S. per year.
Both our editor, David, and director, Amanda, won Student Academy Award gold medals for directing, an honor given to only 4 students in the U.S. per year.
MIRA key crew
MIRA key crew

Please check out our extended bios on our MIRA website!

Amanda's background is in animated storytelling. She is passionate about telling this story using a strong visual style, with hybrid live-action and VFX, tonally and thematically inspired by the following films (and Magritte!)

L to R: Rust & Bone, Persona, The Diving Bell & the Butterfly, Upstream Color, Blue is the Warmest Color, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
L to R: Rust & Bone, Persona, The Diving Bell & the Butterfly, Upstream Color, Blue is the Warmest Color, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  • underwater camera photography
  • hypnotic CG & Stop-motion jellyfish  
  • exteriors at a Marine Preserve
  • creative use of sound to immerse the viewer in the protagonist's mind as she struggles with temporal lobe epilepsy
Amanda & Mai Storyboarding out our VFX Test Shoot
Amanda & Mai Storyboarding out our VFX Test Shoot

SLOAN & SCIENCE ADVISERS 

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Film Program aims to influence the next generation of filmmakers to tackle science and technology themes and characters, to increase visibility for feature films that depict this subject matter, and to produce new films about science and technology and about scientists, engineers, and mathematicians.

MIRA is a Sloan Awarded film being produced at USC
MIRA is a Sloan Awarded film being produced at USC

To ensure scientific accuracy, the Sloan Grant requires filmmakers to work with a science adviser. For MIRA, we have the good fortune of having two! 

Dr. Christi Heck, Epilepsy expert     | Dr. Maria Pia Miglietta, Turritopsis expert
Dr. Christi Heck, Epilepsy expert | Dr. Maria Pia Miglietta, Turritopsis expert

Dr. Heck, medical director of the Keck Medical Center of USC Comprehensive Epilepsy Program and Chief of Neurology, has been instrumental in advising on the accurate portrayal of epilepsy.

Dr. Miglietta, professor of Marine Biology at Texas A&M, is one of few  scholars of Turritopsis dornhii, the immortal jellyfish, and has been Mira's lead science adviser on lab research and the life-cycle of this species.

  • 8 DAY PRINCIPAL PHOTOGRAPHY: December 2014
  • EDITING & VISUAL EFFECTS: Spring & Summer 2015
  • SOUND & FINAL POLISH: Fall 2015
  • FESTIVAL SUBMISSIONS: Starting Fall 2015
MIRA total budget
MIRA total budget

To make MIRA, we need to raise $15,000. 

The Sloan Production Grant covers 60% of our expenses. The following require this additional Kickstarter fundraising:

  • Underwater photography camera and crew costs
  • Visual Effects (all the jellyfish will be computer generated, for safety reasons the underwater world will be shot in a pool and recreated in post-production: models, animation, compositing, etc.) 
  • Water locations, permits, boat rental, stunt and safety staff

For this Kickstarter Campaign, we hope to raise $12,000 to make it through production and half of post-production. We will seek additional grants for finishing funds. 

Risks and challenges

To create a believable and immersive underwater world and to accurately portray the immortal jellyfish in the lab, MIRA will have Visual Effects shots and underwater camera photography, which are time-consuming and can be expensive. Luckily, Amanda has a background in animation and VFX, so understands budgeting time and money in this area, and can complete shots herself as necessary. Nonetheless, this does increase the amount of time that this project will take. Realistically, we expect post-production to take a full year, so we hope you'll be patient with us!

The other main risk associated with this project is that we are tackling a challenging subject matter told through a delicately unconventional voice. This is also what excites and draws us to this project. Amanda believes strongly in these characters and this story, and is in the process of developing a feature script based on the short. We are absolutely committed to seeing it through and have a talented crew with a great track record. We would love for you to join us on this journey!

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    NAME THE ISLAND! The Island location in the film will be named after you or your organization*, which will be mentioned in the film + All of the above! (*Please note: this reward is not included in "+ All of the above" for higher pledges)

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    Limited Edition HAND-CRAFTED JELLYFISH MODEL used in the film (US shipping only) or a Digital Download of the ORIGINAL IMMORTAL JELLYFISH SCIENCE VIDEO featured in MIRA + All of the above!

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Funding period

- (20 days)