Our feature film, ACTS OF MERCY, is currently doing an indiegogo campaign to raise finishing funds. This my first feature and truly a labor of love of all involved. I wanted to be a filmmaker since I was twelve years old. I grew up with cinephile parents that encouraged me to follow my dreams. Problem was, there was no film industry where I grew up, so I came to the U.S.A. from Ecuador when I was seventeen years old to pursue a degree in Film at the University of Central Florida. Film school is a different experience to many people, but for me it was a wonderful place to learn and grow as an artist. I also happened to meet my husband (also a filmmaker) at UCF and developed friendships that will last me a lifetime. Here’s where I developed and wrote the script for Acts of Mercy.
Acts of Mercy is my exploration of compassion and corruption. The film is set in a 1974 Florida nursing home and follows the story of young nurse, Maggie Collins, as she begins to work at a remote hospice under the mentorship of nurse Ruth Baker. Slowly, Maggie finds herself on an ethical minefield where good intentions turn into ambition, and mercy evolves into murder.The project became my M.F.A. thesis under the guidance of producer Randy Finch. The script attracted the incredible talent of Emmy and Tony nominated actress Tovah Feldshuh and Aleksa Palladino (from HBO’s Boardwalk Empire) for our leads. My producer Erica Harrell (also a UCF alum) and I raised the money necessary for the shooting of the film from a close network of family and friends.
Where money wasn’t enough, we used local resources to push the value of our production. With the support of the State of Florida Film Commission, we were able to obtain twenty-four hour access to the old nurse’s quarters at the former Sunland Hospital in Pine Hills. This Florida Department of Juvenile Justice building became our main shooting location. Valencia Community College partnered with us and provided their students as crew as well as their top notch equipment under the supervision of the film program’s director Ralph Clemente. Hotelier Harris Rosen, a patron of the University of Central Florida, helped us house our cast for a reduced rate in one of his hotels.
Central Florida gave us such unique opportunities, but the summer weather in the area made us face our hardest challenges. Our main location had no electricity making it so the temperature on our sets ran so high that we had to ice our monitors and camera to keep their cores from getting heat damage. Like most productions, we faced unexpected weather, cast and schedule changes. Our small crew and cast was so dedicated and truly became close during these trying circumstances. Everyone rose to the challenges at hand and after a physically exhausting production phase Erica and I had completed our first feature.
The film premiered at the Shanghai International Film Festival. Erica and I traveled there to represent the U.S. in their panorama section. Our trip to China was an incredible experience as was the positive feedback from our audience. Our expectations were high, but once we came back from the States, we realized that getting this film in front of audiences was going to be a bigger challenge than we imagined. The genre became a concern for many that watched the film. They felt it wasn’t a clear drama or a thriller. We stood somewhere in between making it a harder film to market. I was aware of this transition in the film prior to shooting, but took it as a natural progression since my structure was inspired by noir films, which have a little bit of both.
Now, after years of pushing, we finally got interest from a reputable distributor. With such offer comes the dreaded deliverables list. We are confident we can produce all of these requirements, however, the bank account ran dry and we have to still buy E&O insurance, script clearance and pass a QC prior to delivery. Here is where we find ourselves at the moment. Ready to find a home to our film, but short of enough cash to make it through to the other side. We knew we would most likely not see an advance, but we didn’t think we would have to pony up as much as we have to in order to get the film out there. We were lucky enough to have an investor step in to get our E&O insurance but need to bridge the difference for the rest of the expenses. Here’s where we turned to crowd-sourcing.
I have heard of several projects successfully funding different phases of projects by using kickstarter or indiegogo. Erica and I discussed the amount and method to better suit our project. We decided to go with indiegogo in case we weren’t able to meet our goal. That way we could at least keep what he had managed to raise. Here is the interesting thing, by campaigning to raise $800 with our indiegogo page, we have not only started to successfully raise funds, but have been able to raise an incredible awareness of the film with social media tools such as twitter and facebook. I have connected with filmmakers, cultural organizations and film lovers alike. The sense of community with these efforts are so exciting and allow filmmakers to connect with audiences in a real way, demystifying the process of film creation.
Our campaign still has a few days to go, and we’re hoping we’ll be able to raise enough money to get our film’s deliverables taken care of so we can share the film with our audience and complete our journey from film school to distribution.
Director and Ecuadorian Filmmaker, Laura C. Lopez has worked in many areas of film and multimedia production. She is a Master of Fine Arts graduate from the University of Central Florida.
She began her career as an intern in prestigious production companies such as Kennedy Marshall, Red Wagon and Jerry Weintraub productions. Shortly after, she moved on to manage operations and talent for a daytime spanish speaking television series based out of Burbank, California.
She has since directed short form documentary and narrative films in various formats as well as interactive educational iPOD videos for museum platforms. She currently resides in Los Angeles, California, where she develops new projects for her production company Ambrosia Films.