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Female bike messenger Jasper competes in a midnight race that takes a dogleg into uncharted territory and becomes a spiritual journey.

The Alley Cat

a film by Marie Ullrich - in production July 2012

The Story

“Jasper is the coolest character I’ve come across in the film business”

- William Akers, author of Your Screenplay Sucks!

The events of The Alley Cat take place during a single night.  Jasper, the main character, is the same character from the short film Faster! in a completely new set of circumstances.

We meet Jasper and her messenger friends during an alley cat race - an alcohol-fueled competition that is put on by bike messengers for bike messengers in alleys and deserted downtown streets in the middle of the night. The night takes a hard turn and becomes chaotic, then a meditation on the meaning of life and a spiritual journey for Jasper as she engages with the eccentrics and loners of the night during her ride to a mysterious destination.

By taking place during one night, the film exists in a liminal space. This liminality is echoed by the events that occur - things are overturned and unresolved.  This liminality is part of Jasper’s character; the mythological Messenger communicates between the gods, the mortals, and the underworld, occupying no space fully. The film occupies a dark space, but  Jasper’s emotional and physical journey ends with hope and uplift.

The Budget

What's the money for? Well, I'll tell you:

  • AIRFARE and HOUSING - we're bringing together a tight-knit team that will perform well together in these rugged circumstances.
  • SALARIES - we're all professionals. No one is making their actual day rate, but I don't know anyone who can work for a month for free. 
  • INSURANCE - enables us to rent gear, get permits, and feel okay about ourselves.
  • FOOD - gotta feed people well, or they will leave.
  • CAMERA and SUPPORT, LENSES, etc. - getting a deal, but it's not free. Shooting on the RED EPIC-X courtesy of www.Verrechiastudios.com
  • PRODUCTION VEHICLES - a camera car so the camera can be part of the action, plus a van to haul our gear and ourselves around town. Because we're gonna be super portable.
  • PROPS - not a huge part of the budget, but it's necessary.
  • TECHNOLOGY - need some serious hard drives and faster processing to deal with the footage we'll be generating.
  • GENERATOR & FUEL - shooting at night means making our own light.
  • CONSUMABLES and CONTINGENCY - the small random expenses that can make or break your day.

Creative Team

Marie Ullrich - Writer, Director & Producer

Marie is a film director whose stated goal is to make films with strong female lead characters for whom neither the essential problem nor its solution is romantic, while still entertaining her audience.

Her narrative films have screened internationally at juried film festivals such as the British Film Institute’s London Film Festival, interfilm Berlin, the Chicago International Film Festival, Cannes, and more. Her commercial for Chrome Messenger Bags, "The Race," was the winner of the 2011 Bronze Telly Award. The Alley Cat is based on the main character from her film Faster!,broadcast internationally on the Dish Network, AT&T U-Verse and DirecTV on ShortsHD throughout 2011 via Shorts International, the world's leading short film distributor.  A previous version of the screenplay for The Alley Cat was a finalist for the Sundance Filmmakers Labs.

In 2006 Marie walked 500 miles across Spain in 30 days, on El Camino de Santiago de Compostela.

Dylan Verrechia - Director of Photography

Dylan is an award-winning director of photography who graduated in Film with Honors from NYU, Tisch School of the Arts, and has worked with Jean Rouch, Fred Elmes, Franz Walderdorff, Kim Peirce, Lisa Rinzler, and Luke Geissbühler.

He has served as Director of Photography for Todd Solondz, Spike Lee, Sam Pollard, Richard Kroehling, Mark Daniels, Bob Coen, Pete Chatmon, Shawn Regruto, Sebastian Lemke, Sonia Gonzalez, Ole Schell, Sal Sorrentino, and Gene Graham, in affiliation with ARTE, BMG, CBC, Condé Nast, Double7 Images, Goethe Institute, Good Machine, Greenpeace, HBO, InDiGent, JWT, Killer Films, L'Oréal, MGM, MTV, New Line, PBS, Time Warner, VH1, Youku TV, and Easyup Medias. He has lensed music videos for artists such as The Calling, Nortec Collective, UrbanRockBand, Tetonica Castro, NoJazz, Nuriya, DJ Vadim, Deuce Eclipse, Paco Mendoza, Open Ocean, Nova Heart and Von Haze.

Dylan is the CEO at the rental company Verrechia Studios, and he has received 25 awards for his work on features, documentaries and commercials. More at www.verrechiafilms.com

Kathryn Henderson - Producer

Originally from Michigan, Kathryn studied film at the Illinois Institute of Art in Chicago and has produced multiple short films, promotional videos, documentary-style corporate films, and annual reports. This will be her third collaboration with director Marie Ullrich.

The two have previously co-created Faster!, broadcast internationally on the Dish Network, AT&T U-Verse and DirecTV on ShortsHD throughout 2011 via Shorts International, the world's leading short film distributor, and the Telly-Award-winning spec commercial, Chrome Messenger Bags, "The Race,".

Currently a producer at VSA Partners in Chicago, Kathryn works with such clients as Procter & Gamble, IBM, Harley-Davidson, & First Data. Formerly with Resolution Digital, Kathryn also produced the short films: Tom Carter, The Assassination of Chicago's Mayor, Fall in Love, & The Coldest Winter, and Refuge (also distributed with Shorts International).

In her free time, Kathryn takes voice & dance lessons, and is a certified Zumba instructor.

Acclaim for Marie Ullrich’s short film, Faster! 

Distributed by Shorts International.

Official Selection

  • 46th Chicago International Film Festival
  • 46th Chicago International Film Festival Educational Outreach Screening
  • 54th British Film Institute’s London Film Festival, London UK
  • Cannes Short Film Corner, Cannes, France
  • Chicago Filmmakers Narrative Shorts, IL
  • Carolina Film and Video Festival, NC
  • Clermont-Ferrand Market, France
  • Columbia College Chicago at the Sundance Film Festival, Park City, UT
  • Columbia College Chicago Recruiting Presentation, Chinese Normal School, Taiwan
  • Corto Helvetico al Femminile, Losone, Switzerland
  • Davis Feminist Film Festival, Davis, CA
  • Dyke Delicious Shorts, Chicago Filmmakers, Chicago
  • Fargo Film Festival, Fargo, ND
  • International Women Film Festival ŠERŠÊLIAFAM, Vilnius, Lithuania
  • interfilm Berlin Shorts Attack touring festival, Germany (16 screenings in 13 cities)
  • St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival, St. John’s, Newfoundland, CA
  • University Film & Video Association, Burlington, VT
  • White Sands International Film Festival, Las Cruces, NM 

Sounds Good, Doesn’t It.  Well get on board! This is a short campaign - don't hesitate! 

~ thank you!

FAQ

  • Well, yes and no.

    We definitely appreciate all the offers and enthusiasm, and we'll come calling if we do need help, but keep in mind that we’re going to have a tiny crew so that we can keep our costs down and our set portable. Keep in mind also that we’ll be shooting all overnights, so this is not going to be glamorous in the least.

    Right now, the help we need is in helping us get new backers! If 3,000 people sent us just $10 each, we'd be golden. We can do it! With your help!

    Other things we will definitely need help with include mid-20’s (ish) cyclists and messengers to be in the alley cat race in the beginning of the film. Some cyclists will ride with Go Pro cameras strapped to their frames or on their bodies somewhere to grab POV video. Keep in mind that this means doing multiple takes of individual shots in the middle of the night - it will be fun, we hope, but a lot of hard work with plenty of Hurry Up and Wait thrown in - like all films.

    ** The thing we need most of all is your support in terms of backing, publicity (please invite your friends to our online https://www.facebook.com/events/234872883282697/), and in - kind donations such as catered meals and housing for the crew.

    If someone has a property in Chicago where they could house 5 people for the month of July, that would save us a lot of money and be super awesome!

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  • Ha hah hah ha ha. An excellent question, my friend.

    Before even talking about the film’s qualities - and granted, I’ve only seen the trailer so far - let me say that it already fails me as a film because the lead character is male.

    Being male is not the default setting for humanity. There is a female character in it, who I suspect is the Love Interest. This is what I hate about (many) (Hollywood) films. I don’t identify with being male, and I don’t want to watch films from a forced male POV.

    Don’t get me wrong. There are films I adore with male protagonists, such as Rushmore, Breaking Away, and too many more to mention. But even after seeing a film that is wonderfully entertaining, well-crafted and thoughtful, I wonder: What might this film have been like if the protagonist was a woman?

    Aside from that, I’m just gonna come out and say it: Premium Rush looks cheesy. I’ve talked to some bike messengers about going to see it at the theatre and giving it the MST3K treatment; we hope it’ll be So Bad It’s Good. Hey, maybe we’ll be pleasantly surprised. But… come on, the main character’s name is “Wiley.” Barf. No offense to Gordon-Levitt, who I think is a very talented actor. I’m sure the film was a blast to make and that a lot of heart and soul went into it from the actors perspective - but it seems like a cynical Hollywood film to me.

    Consider The Alley Cat the antidote to all of the above.

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  • e may be crazy, but we are NOT giving up! This film **needs** to get made, and we’ve got amazingly talented people who are on board. If we can get the word out, WE CAN DO THIS by June 21st! Please help us spread the word, and please back us at whatever level you can!

    What you can do:

    BACK us!

    JOIN our https://www.facebook.com/events/234872883282697/

    INVITE your friends to our Facebook event

    WRITE, BLOG, TWEET and POST about us

    GIVE US PRESS in any form possible

    CALL your friends to ask them to get on board!

    We can do this - but only with your help!

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  • The amount of enthusiasm for the story has been overwhelmingly positive! We’re so excited and it makes us really happy that people really want to see this film made.

    Can you give $10? That's all it takes! Of course I like to see the Big Money post on the board, but all the little donations add up too!

    The other thing you can do is help us SPREAD THE WORD. Posting our Facebook link is awesome, and so is Twittering about us - but there is more you can do!

    We’ve created anhttps://www.facebook.com/events/234872883282697/ Why don’t you JOIN it and INVITE YOUR FRIENDS? Then you can write a little note about why this is such an important project to back, and you can invite friends so you know they’ll see it since they’ll get a personal notification from you.Tell them it's only $10! We're going to host a free Chicago screening for backers at the $10 level, and we'll try to do the same in other cities where our FAN BASE lives! Just think of it as buying your film ticket way in advance - only in this case, your film ticket is actually helping us make the film!

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  • Nope. Never. I’ve worked in film production most of my adult life, but I happen to really like bikes and bike messengers.

    Faster! was sort of my prep work and a trailer for this film while I was still developing the plot for the feature, and the Chrome spot was awarded to me based on the success of Faster! - but after this film, I have other films to make that are not bike related. This isn’t the only idea I have, it’s just been the one that has been the most urgent for me, and the time feels right.

    I’ve been an urban cyclist in Boston, MA (where my daily cycling commute was 15 miles), Tokyo, Japan (bike parking lots!), Nashville, TN (where drivers would pull over and ask me if I wanted to throw my bike in their pick-up trucks and ride with them in the cab; um, no, I’m riding a bike on purpose), and Chicago (it’s flat!).

    All my films start with a character: a teenage kleptomaniac, a bike messenger, a professional athlete aging out of her sport, a bio-pic of a famously tragic personality. It’s the character that intrigues me, and thinking about what problems she might have and what drama exists there that I can explore. I sketch out ideas, and then I do research. Tons and tons of research.

    So for The Alley Cat and for my previous short, Faster!, I’ve been talking to bike messengers, hanging out with them, reading their blogs and zines and watching their videos. I’ve been volunteering at alley cat races and going to messenger bars and events. They’ve been super supportive about the idea, the character, the story - everything. And they’re smart, creative folks who know how to have a good time.

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    ALL MY LOVE. You want to give something, but you're broke. I get it. But every donation counts! I will call everyone who donates any amount at all to thank you personally. Feel the love.

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    FAN BASE Level: You rock! Receive a special thank you on The Alley Cat official website, and access to behind-the-scenes updates and videos. High five!

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    FAN BASE: You rock! This is the same as the old FAN BASE reward, but I decided to add something: you'll be invited to a FREE SCREENING of the finished film. This won't be a film festival or private screening; it will be outdoors, in a bar, or in someone's back yard. It will definitely happen in Chicago and I'd like to add SF and NY dates as well. The exact date of delivery will depend on when we finish the film, but expect it to be in the summer or fall. You guys are our FAN BASE and YOU ROCK!

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    FASTER! Level: The Alley Cat is based on the same main character from the short film Faster! in a completely new set of circumstances. We'd like to reward you with a digital download of the Faster! short plus the Fan Base rewards. Ups your street cred just by watching.

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    CINÉASTE: It's on! We'd like to say thank you with an HD DVD or Blu Ray of the finished Alley Cat film! Please also enjoy all benefits from previous levels. Please note that the actual fulfillment date may be earlier or later than noted - but this is our best guess at present. Your taste is impeccable.

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    THE ARTISTE: Receive a prop straight off our set after we finish shooting! Please also enjoy the CINÉASTE level rewards. We'll choose what we send - it'll be a surprise - but you can use or display your piece of cinema history proudly!

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    KINO EYE level: A print of an official film still, signed by the photographer and cast. Note that this is a limited reward. Please also enjoy the CINÉASTE level rewards. Display your support proudly!

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    FASTER! Special: We have ONE special Faster! bundle, which includes a LARGE Seagull messenger bag silkscreened with the Faster! logo, straight off the set of the film (this bag was a prototype which was not used during filming). The bag comes with a DVD of Faster! and a Faster! postcard. The bag is grey with red silkscreened logo. One of a kind - get it!

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    THE ASSOCIATE PRODUCER: Your name appears in the end credits of the film itself as an Associate Producer! Please also enjoy the CINÉASTE rewards. You're kind of a big deal, aren't you?

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    INDIE SPIRIT Level: You're cordially invited to the cast & crew screening of the film. Location is TBD (Chicago or New York). Lodging and Airfare are not included, but the experience of being an insider is unmatched. Also includes the CINÉASTE rewards, your name in the credits as an Associate Producer - One of us! One of us!

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    RED CARPET: You'll be credited as an Executive Producer on the film. Please attend a film festival with the filmmakers as a guest of the film! Lodging and airfare not included; locations and dates are TBD. Please also enjoy the CINÉASTE rewards. By the way - have you lost weight? You look fantastic.

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Funding period

- (21 days)