Considering Alison Bagnall has been hatching the idea for “Funny Bunny” since well before there was such a thing as Kickstarter, it’s understandable that the production team created a different term for the crowdsourcing service to do it justice, first coined by producer Ted Speaker: “Joystarter.”
“The outpouring of excitement and faith from people has made us triply energized to make the movie,” says Bagnall, who once had the film set up with a bigger budget through traditional means but was fiercely protective over creative control. “I’ve been caught by surprise at the effect the Kickstarter has had on me. We were only thinking of it in practical terms of needing to raise the first pre-production money. I didn’t know it would feel like gunpowder in a cannon, launching us into the air psychologically and emotionally.”
In a way, Bagnall could have just as easily been describing her last film “The Dish and the Spoon,” a jaunt around Delaware in which best friends played by Greta Gerwig and Olly Alexander literally danced around the issues of a dark past. No doubt its warm reception on the festival circuit is why there’s been so much enthusiasm already around the campaign for “Funny Bunny,” which sees Bagnall once again lightly stepping into serious terrain by following the tenuous friendship between two young men who have isolated themselves – one with his blunt, outspoken nature (Kentucker Audley) and the other (Alexander) who has taken his father to court for his inheritance – and find a kindred spirit in an animal rights activist (Kate Lyn Sheil) bent on shutting down factory farms if she’d ever leave her house.
Bagnall has a unique perspective, not just as a filmmaker, but on the reality of how films are made having risen to prominence as the writer of “Buffalo ’66” during the height of the indie film wave of the late ‘90s and currently riding high on the current one where there are often more people in front of a camera than behind it on a set. The filmmaker believes it was on the set of Joe Swanberg’s 2008 drama “Nights and Weekends” where she had an epiphany.
“If you are having fun on your set, and finding that childlike place, like when you were a kid and had your best friend over and they stayed for several days because no one wanted to go home, that is how you get your best and most creative work,” says Bagnall.
With that in mind, Bagnall “only hired people for whom I had the deepest artistic respect and also enjoyed being in a room with” for “Dish and the Spoon,” on which she worked no less than three jobs besides her role as a writer/director, handling locations, makeup and catering. She also made sure everyone who worked on the film “from cast to crew – was a storyteller and had a hand in the storytelling,” which makes it only natural that in turning to crowdsourcing, she’s invited a much larger group to help her tell the story she wants to with “Funny Bunny.”
“I see current indie filmmakers as being fiercely committed to highly personal, unfiltered storytelling,” says Bagnall. “They’re not making films that are calling cards for getting higher paid directing work. That’s why we’re seeing exciting American indies again because filmmakers are working from a pure and authentic place. They’re not aping other movies they’ve seen before. They’re finding their own voice. And using it. That’s also my goal in ‘Funny Bunny.’”
If all goes according to plan, “Funny Bunny” will begin shooting on a real pig farm near Philadelphia at the end of this summer with a cast that reunites “Sun Don’t Shine” stars Sheil and Audley, “Dish” partners Alexander and Bagnall and will grow to include “Girls” star Alex Karpovsky as the leader of the activist group Sheil’s a part of and “Squid and the Whale”’s Halley Feiffer as well a production team that includes veteran casting consultant Ellen Parks and “Nancy Please” producer Vinay Singh. While the thought of shooting on an operational pig farm is daunting to Bagnall, who emphatically notes “pigs are aggressive!” – a considerable weight will be lifted when filming begins since she’s been living with “Funny Bunny” for nearly a decade.
“It just kept forcing itself back into my mind and the story and the characters wouldn’t go away,” says Bagnall. “I decided to listen to that and bring it back to life, realizing that it was evidently quite important to me to make. It’s such a insane hassle getting a movie together. You have to love it like a child or a lover in order to go to the trouble to get the damn thing made. I love ‘Funny Bunny’ that way.”
No doubt others will too if “Funny Bunny” can reach its fundraising goal before its deadline on April 13th.