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Student filmmakers discuss production process of horror brainchild 'Meshes of Dusk'

By Jamie Bircoll, For the Daily
Published April 1, 2013

There’s no shortage of film expertise among LSA sophomore Matt Birnholtz, his brother LSA senior Jordan Birnholtz and Public Policy sophomore Matthew Gold. This group of Hollywood hopefuls cited no less than 15 very different films, spanning from 1895 to 2012, to explain their take on the horror genre with their film, “Meshes of Dusk,” which revolves around a film crew that goes up to a cabin to shoot a film (sponsored by a mysterious art patron). Shooting goes according to plan until one of the crew disappears.

“Throughout the rest of the film, it gets very tense, very tight, and by the end of the movie there’s this very shocking twist,” Matt said.

“Essentially, it’s about the making of a movie that goes very badly awry,” Jordan said.

“One of the good and bad things about working with Screen Arts and Cultures majors … they’re always asking me, ‘Have you seen this movie, have you seen that movie,’ and just the vast pool of knowledge of them is just ridiculous,” said Gold, the producer of the film.

That vast amount of knowledge will only prove useful when Jordan (writer) and Matt Birnholtz (writer/director), and Matthew Gold take 20 other University students to a cabin in Oscoda, Mich. this summer to film the bulk of, what they call, their psychological thriller.

The crew aims for the highest degree of professionalism and independence, despite the lack of influential connections, which stands as a point of pride for the filmmakers.

“It’s a crew of students, but it’s not a student film,” Matt said.

Matt and Gold had been making movies for several years but feel that this brainchild is their best yet, and the time has come to bring it to fruition.

“We really think we have the right idea,” Matt said. “The story is really an awesome story; it’s a thrill ride. In terms of technical skills … I wanted to make sure I knew enough to make this, and I feel I’m finally ready as a director. And I feel we need the right crew and the right cast, and our crew is incredible: sound guy, lighting guy. Everyone is just so ready to go.”

Matt emphasized that “Meshes of Dusk” seeks to be more than today’s standard gorefest horrors — it’s a film with a message, a critique of modern social media.

“It’s a film about what horror really is, which is people’s emotions getting the best of them in very tense situations when you’re isolated. I mean, the whole concept of horror is isolate, isolate, isolate, and in the 21st century that’s nearly impossible to do.”

Only through sufficient funding can these ideas be brought to the big screen. The group applied for and won the Screen Arts and Cultures Department’s Alice Webber Glover Scholarship Award, which funds students up to $2000 to aid with special costs in writing or producing a student-led project. They also have taken advantage of the SAC Department’s allowing majors to rent much of the necessary equipment directly from the University, saving a great deal of money.

The filmmakers hope the rest of their funding will come from their Kickstarter, the crowd-funding website that allows users to post their project goals online and hope that an interested public will donate to get that project up and running. The team has calculated a fundraising goal of $4,250.

“We’re paying not just for transportation and equipment, but for people to eat and subsist for a month.”

According to Gold, costs from necessities including makeup, props and a U-Haul truck, as well as food and equipment, all accumulate very quickly and substantially, despite the fact that no member of the crew is paid.

The three expect the funds to come from a network rooted in their close group of friends and family.

“You’re drawing on your friends, and you’re drawing on your family, and you’re drawing on people who just find you interesting, who are very often friends of family. That proportion of random people coming from, say, Uruguay, who are like surfing the internet, is probably relatively low,” said Jordan, who has had a past experience fundraising but never before for a movie.

Regardless of how much money they receive from Kickstarter, however, the team guarantees that the film will be completed, albeit with less room for comfort and leisure. The crew demonstrates a great deal of commitment.

“If it comes down to it, we end up rationing food, we’ll ration rice and apples. And what’s great is our cast and crew are committed to this that they won’t have an issue doing that,” Gold said.

The filmmakers have an idea they want to bring to life, and their dedication might drive them to success. Every contribution of money, time and ideas, large or small, goes towards making a winning film. As he was putting on his coat at the end of their interview, Matt found $5 in his pocket.

“Awesome,” Jordan said. “Put it in the fund.”