CMU graduate students use Kickerstarter to raise funds for self-produced film

A Central Michigan University graduate filmmaker has launched a campaign on crowdsourcing website Kickstarter to fund a movie set and shot in Mount Pleasant.

“Niner” is a feature-length film directed by graduate assistant Grant Pichla, and it has been recognized by Vimeo and as a promising project. About a third of the movie has been filmed, but further funds are needed to complete it.

“Production's been smooth so far,” Pichla said. “We haven’t had any real snags in the shooting schedule.”

The Kickstarter campaign started on March 19 with the goal of raising $5,000 dollars by April 18. As of Sunday, the campaign had raised $4,820 with the support of 59 backers.

“Niner” follows homicide detective Rawley Niner as he crosses paths with Abby Samms, a young woman who has just escaped the massacre of her family by a group of criminals. The plot deals with issues such as morality, justice and revenge.

The movie, which will be rated PG-13, draws influence from film noir dramas such as "Fargo," "Seven" and "Insomnia." It was filmed in cities throughout the mid-Michigan area, including Mount Pleasant, Sterling Heights and Midland.

Pichla is producing the movie alongside fellow graduate student and temporary infrastructure staff for the Office of Information Technology Kevin Neil Smith. The finished film will be Pichla’s thesis for his master’s degree in the Broadcast and Cinematic Arts program.

Filming for the movie started Feb. 4. Pichla and Smith financed the movie themselves through the early stages of the production process. They paid for expenses including props, technical equipment, wardrobe, catering, and wages for the crew and actors.

Pichla said one of the largest expenses the Kickstarter funding will cover is the rental of a Canon C100 camera. The camera is needed to shoot exterior nighttime scenes later in the production schedule and rental costs are expected to be about $100 dollars a day.

After creating a profile on FilmBreak to promote the project, Pichla was contacted by the website within hours. They expressed their support for the project and asked the Ubly native to provide a banner image for FilmBreak’s home page.

A promotional video made for the project’s Kickstarter also attracted attention from Vimeo. The video hosting website featured “Niner” on their Kickstarter page alongside other independent film projects.

The script for “Niner” was written by Eric Dickson, who is credited on IMDB for writing two other feature-length films. Pichla found the screenplay on the Amazon Studios website and got in touch with Dickson.

“I knew that I was going to spend two years working on this thing, so the script had to be good,” Pichla said. “After reading 100 of them, 'Niner' was the best script.”

The movie will star Dave Giles as Rawley Niner and Lindsay Chestnut as Abby Samms. It will also feature Katie Sullivan as Niner's girlfriend, Carly Dennis, and Braden Thompson as Bobby Van Den Camp, a dangerous parolee.

After it is completed, “Niner” will be entered at various film festivals, including the Traverse City Film Festival, the Bare Bones International Film and Music Festival and Ebertfest, Pichla said.

It is scheduled for release in local theaters in May 2014.


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