As a champion of indie films as well as a massive supporter of Vancouver talent, I remember noticing a campaign pop up on my feed for Last Stand to Nowhere. I thought about supporting it, but I was so busy that I quickly forgot. That is until Michelle Muldoon contacted me personally. Once I read about the campaign and realized that I knew practically everyone involved, I had no choice but to contribute. However, I knew that positive press for a project like this is essential, so I also offered to interview Michelle, to which she quickly agreed. As the campaign enters its final days, enjoy reading a little about the creative genius behind this project and maybe even consider lending your support in some fashion.
RH: Why did you decide to pursue a career in entertainment? What kind of training have you had?
MM: I spent the first part of my life immersed in sports. I was burning out, so I turned to writing to recharge my batteries. I had already been playing around with story ideas when I attended a writing course one summer. My instructor was very encouraging. When a friend of mine read something I’d written, she suggested I write more like a screenwriter than a novelist.
I eventually picked up a copy of Final Draft screenwriting software. I realized fairly quickly I had a lot to learn so I sought out an instructor that I had heard lecture. Within a year, I won my first film festival screenplay writing award. I was encouraged by the festival director to make something, so being too green to know better, I made a short film with some friends. After that, there was definitely no turning back.
My education has been mostly through workshops, one-on-one instruction, and mentorships. Ten years later, I’ve created screenwriting competitions for two film festivals and I teach the introductory screenwriting workshop for an organization called Raindance Vancouver. They’re focused on the creative community and providing opportunity for independent filmmakers who don’t take a traditional career route.
It seems that most of your work has been in independent film. What are the benefits and challenges in indie film?
Independent film is a life born of passion. You have to love what you do. The main benefit is that you control your work, decide who you collaborate with, and become fully actualized by the process.
You get to tell the stories you want to tell. There isn’t someone over your shoulder telling you what you can and cannot do.
The main challenge though is financing: how to find it and how to work with very little of it. I’ve come to love this process. It’s the creative version of the Wild West and the “anything is possible” mentality of independent film can be exhilarating.
It appears that you have had a wide variety of experience in various roles–producer, director, writer, etc. What do you find the most interesting/fulfilling about each role you’ve played in the film process?
I am a screenwriter, first and foremost. I love the solitude of the writing process: the introspection, the joy in that moment an idea comes to you and the pleasure in creating a web of interlocking characters and stories. Independent film is made for the multitasker. Directing is much like coaching, and I am a trained coach. I enjoy working with actors to bring about a rich realisation of story and character. It turns out I have a knack for producing, which is a bit ironic because it’s my least favourite of the three disciplines. I’m good with details, and I don’t fluster easily.
For me, the joy in all of these roles is the joy of actualization. As Hannibal used to say on the A-Team, “I love it when a plan comes together”.
Up to this point, what would you say is your most-known work?
That’s a tough call. As a writer, I’ve had a number of scripts win awards on the film festival circuit. I think of myself as a filmmaker who is still growing and evolving. I’ve made three short films with the last two having had successful runs. I also collaborate regularly with Vancouver Singer/Songwriter The Land of Deborah.
A Rendezvous is a story about what happens when two women meet on a rooftop late at night. They meet for a date, and that’s a date to jump together. It’s a difficult topic, so I’m thankful that we have distribution on ShortsTV which is on DirectTV in the United States.
My last short film, Chaos Management, has screened at twelve festivals, winning seven awards in the process. Every time it screens, someone asks what’s next for the protagonist, Abigail, who’s a spy with an inability to separate her professional problem-solving techniques from the techniques that normal people would use. It’s been interesting to see how much she has resonated with people. We’re on the tail end of our festival run, then after that, we’ll see what happens. I might take her into a web series as a proof of concept for something larger.
Currently, you are crowdfunding Last Stand to Nowhere. What inspired you to start this campaign?
I had the idea for an all-female re-imagining of Gunfight at the OK Corral several years ago while working on someone else’s short film at Jamestown, the home of When Calls the Heart. I finally sat down and wrote it about a year ago. As more women in genre and women in action roles made their way to the big and small screen, I felt the time was right for Last Stand.
I grew up watching Westerns on Sundays with my Dad. I love the genre, but women have the least interesting roles in almost every movie I love. I wanted to change that, to highlight how few women we see in many mythological stories. And I believe the Gunfight at the OK Corral has transcended history to become a modern myth.
A western film, no matter how short, is a significant commitment. The resources it takes to make something like this are extensive, from location, to guns, to gun wranglers (for safety), costumes, and even practical effects. We want to film it in the Italian Western style which means more time will be required for camera set-ups.
This is not the type of film you get your friends to do for free with you on a Saturday. It’s something you plan for, budget, and then hire people for.
What can you tell us about this project, and how did you get so many amazing actresses on board?
This is a project that turns the myth of the gunfight upside down by giving us a world where the brothers are actually sisters. It’s a simple shift, but like a dropped pebble in a pond, it has a ripple effect that influences how we see what might be the most well-known story of its time. The Gunfight at the OK Corral has become a myth that supersedes truth and that is a powerful space for a story to exist in.
My cast is exceptional and I am blessed that they all said “yes”. I’ve known most of them for a number of years and have become good friends with many of them.
I contacted the actresses and asked them to take a look at the script. They all said “yes”. It really was that simple. The roles in Last Stand to Nowhere are departures from what they normally take on. I believe that was part of the decision-making process for some if not all of them.
I’ve made a point of being an active member of the Vancouver Film Community. Vancouver has a close-knit film community with big hearts. We’re supportive of each other because we all understand how difficult the journey can be. The degrees of separation between us all are quite small.
Why crowdfunding and why Indiegogo?
We live in an age that can best be described as the democratization of film. Equipment and cameras are more accessible than ever. If someone wants to tell a story, they don’t have to wait for the studio or network to rubber stamp it. The audience can make it happen. That’s what crowdfunding does. It lets the audience decide who and what stories they want to support.
I chose Indiegogo because of their flex funding program. If we don’t meet the target, we pay the platform 5% of what we raise. At least we get something for our efforts, though. We know we need approximately $25,000-$30,000 minimum to make this happen. We chose to set our sights at half that so we could avoid paying the 5% and then have a base to raise more, if necessary, once it’s all said and done. The team is committed to making this happen. We believe we can beat the first goal and make this film. The amount of support we’ve received in donations and offers of assistance proves it. We believe in this film.
If all goes as planned, when are you hoping to make this film, and when should it be available for viewing?
If all goes as planned, we’d like to shoot for the end of September, beginning of October. It comes down to location and cast availability. We do understand that if a big part comes along we might lose someone, but all the actors want to make the timing work so I’m not worried. We would be looking at an early 2018 Festival run.
Any other upcoming works you can mention?
I’m on the production team behind a horror comedy called Puppet Killer. We’re currently in post-production on the film. The Puppet Killer cast is also exceptional: Aleks Paunovic from Van Helsing, Lisa Durupt from the Murder She Baked Series and Richard Harmon from The 100.
Last year I recorded the narration for an hour-long documentary called Mightier Than the Sword. It’s about women in Afghanistan who are using access to filmmaking and the media to move women’s rights and gender equity forward. I’m proud to be a part of the film. It’s an important story of hope and determination. These are brave women whose stories need to be told and filmmaker Roberta Staley has told them beautifully.
My eventual goal is to move towards my own feature film debut and Last Stand to Nowhere is an important part of that journey. I hope I’ll be sharing that news with you one day.
As a woman in the industry, what has been your experience with gender bias? How have you seen this changing?
I don’t think there’s a woman who hasn’t experienced gender bias in film. The statistics show the stark reality, and every woman I know has a story to match them. I was at a festival last year where the topic came up in casual conversation. I was standing at the information table with a female filmmaker from Europe. We were comparing stories and the man working the table started to turn white. I will never forget the look on his face as he asked, “That really happens?” I think a lot of men don’t see it so they don’t realize how prevalent it still is. We need to have these conversations with our male friends. They can’t help if we don’t tell them what they are missing.
The positive change is that more men seem willing to stand up and say this is wrong. We need men in power to realize that now is the time to lend their voices to gender equity. It takes everyone to create a positive culture. I think we’re in the early stages of awareness and change.
When you’re not working, what do you like to do for fun?
Vancouver has a significant amount of green space. There’s nothing better than going for a walk or a hike in one of the local parks or endowment lands. There’s something magical about the smell of the forests here. Sunset at the local beaches is also spectacular!
I love supporting my friends in their creative endeavours. When you have a lot of actor friends, that means going to local theatre or improv shows. I also have a number of friends with bands. There’s so much going on in this town, it’s hard to keep up.
Lastly, I have to admit, I’m a foodie. I write for a local Brunch Blog called Brunchcouver. Discovering new restaurants and different kinds of food is never a dull venture in this town. The variety and quality is hard to beat.
I would like to finish with saying thank you for your support for Last Stand to Nowhere and for the many local Vancouver talents. We’ve got some great people in this town and I think it’s wonderful that someone has chosen to let people know about them.
Having supported a wide variety of indie crowdfunding projects in the past, I can speak from experience when I state that contributing to a campaign like this is something that will mean more to the filmmakers involved than you might realize. Filmmakers like Michelle, who pursue a once insurmountable project like this truly have to take a leap of faith, and when “normal” people like you and me come alongside them and support them either monetarily or via social media, their appreciation is overwhelmingly timeless in its ramifications. I realize that technically Michelle has reached their campaign goal, but as she stated, they genuinely are in need of more than what they requested. Every time you share the campaign on social media, that simple act is potentially far-reaching. I salute the efforts of all the amazing individuals involved in this project, and I, for one, have no problem throwing my complete support behind this particular project. Please consider visiting all the links below, and if nothing else, please wish Michelle and her crew all the best in their most worthy endeavors. I can hardly wait for the final project! And just for the record, I think Vancouver has some of the best talent on earth, and I truly enjoy the honor or promoting and supporting such great artists!
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