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Locally Produced Feature-Length Film Seeks Kickstarter Funding

The A.P. Lovecraft-esque "Necronomicon" (Book of the Dead), a prop from Ryan Smith's full-length horror/comedy/musical film about to start production, "Eldritch, USA."
(Photo: Randy Stewart)
The A.P. Lovecraft-esque "Necronomicon" (Book of the Dead), a prop from Ryan Smith's full-length horror/comedy/musical film about to start production, "Eldritch, USA."
The A.P. Lovecraft-esque "Necronomicon" (Book of the Dead), a prop from Ryan Smith's full-length horror/comedy/musical film about to start production, "Eldritch, USA."
Credit (Photo: Randy Stewart)
The A.P. Lovecraft-esque "Necronomicon" (Book of the Dead), a prop from Ryan Smith's full-length horror/comedy/musical film about to start production, "Eldritch, USA."

Local film production company Passive Aggressive Films has begun a Kickstarter campaign to help them raise funds to produce "Eldrich, USA," "an energetic feature-length horror/comedy/musical film about sibling rivalry, a backwoods cult, and the lengths we'll go to in order to right a wrong.” The man behind Passive Aggressive Films, Ryan Smith, will produce and direct the new film.                                                       Local filmmaker Ryan Smith.

“Passive Aggressive Films is an L.L.C. that’s primarily composed of me,” Smith said with a laugh, “but we bring on people to work on film projects such as ‘Eldrich, USA’.” Smith wrote the story over the last few years. “It started as a small idea, I bounced it off some friends and kind of built it out.”

Smith described his start in the film business. “It’s kind of funny. I started out wanting to work in comic books. And I found out pretty quickly that I wasn’t that great a drawing. It makes it difficult!  I did find that I liked the framing of comic books, and the way you can tell a story with that. And that actually translated very easily into doing films. So I started researching how to do special-effects shots, how to do compositing, and just started with short films. I did some corporate films for the other company I work for.” 

Asked if he had ever tried to enter the local SATO48 Film Challenge with an original short film, Smith said he had been involved in a project—but it didn’t pan out for them. “We missed it by, I believe, 10 seconds! It was a heartbreaking moment. We had the computer in the lobby, putting the file on the card. It was so close!”

“Eldrich, USA,” according to Ryan Smith, “definitely could be labeled as a ‘quirky’ film. It is a horror (film), and a comedy, and a musical—which is very ambitious, to bring all three of those together. So all of the music is original, it was all made by local artists. And it’s going to involve local talent. We have gone through the process of very intentionally putting music in places throughout the film where it’s not just, ‘something happens in the film, they sing a song, then something else happens.’ It is music that moves the story forward, so that you get from point A to point B by the time you get to the end of the song. So it is very entertaining from that perspective. It’s got some ‘spooky’ elements to it.

“It’s all about two brothers,” continued Smith. “One of them is accidentally killed, and the other one ends up trying to bring him back to life.  He’s successful—but things go wrong. In fact, the main song that you hear in the trailer is called ‘It Doesn’t End Well.’ His buddy is trying to convince him—‘Hey, don’t bring your brother back to life! It’s not going to end well.’ And he keeps giving examples from Stephen King stories where it doesn’t work right.”

As the fundraising process continues via Kickstarter, Smith has yet to begin full-scale production on “Eldritch, USA.” “What we’ve done so far is a ‘Proof of Concept’ trailer.  We got together and, over the course of one weekend, we spent about 24 hours filming. Then we spent a few months adding special effects, color-grading, adding the music, and that’s what you can see on the Kickstarter (page) now. And we are hoping to begin filming within the next two or three weeks—as long as the Kickstarter (campaign) is successful.”

The publicity blurb for “Eldritch, USA” says, “the blending of genres sets it apart, and should appeal to fans of quirky cinema, in the same vein as ‘Little Shop of Horrors,’ ‘Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog,’ ‘The Voices,’ and ‘The Muppets’.” As Smith explained, “The reason for that is, we are intentionally trying to keep the visuals very bright, very cheerful… but there’s still this underlying story of something kind of dark that’s going on.” Smith readily acknowledged it’s rather difficult to do a “bright and cheerful” horror film, and that’s why they compare it to “The Voices.” Said Smith, “If you haven’t seen ‘The Voices,’ it’s rated R, but it’s very bright, very cheerful—but you realize there’s something wrong with this guy! So it’s very interesting the way it plays out.”

Ryan Smith actually brought one of the “Eldritch, USA” props with him, which is pictured above: their version of the “Necronomicon,” the fictional ‘Book of the Dead’ that appeared in the horror stories of 1920s horror writer H. P. Lovecraft. “A lot of the inspiration for the things that happen in the (film) story come from… H. P. Lovecraft. He wrote a lot of what is called ‘cosmic horror.’ He was very interesting in that a lot of his stories all tied together in unique ways, which was kind of unusual for the time period.”  Not that Lovecraft’s stories were light or humorous, said Ryan Smith. “Typically they weren’t (humorous), so I’m definitely (assuming) a lighter take on it. Part of that is, I want to be able to appeal to a wider audience. I have several kids, I’ve got a grandkid. I’d like to be able that I can watch with my children and I’m not worried about them being like, ‘Dad, why did you MAKE this?!’”

Smith says their Kickstarter funding campaign is currently at 69% of their goal.  “It’s still considered a low-budget film. I think the goal is only a little bit over $11,000. But we are currently at, I think, over $7500 now, so we’re almost there. And we still have three weeks to go. There’s still time to bring it in.” The campaign concludes on April 3rd. “The big thing about Kickstarter,” said Ryan Smith, “is that it is all-or-nothing. So, as close as we are to the goal—and I’m confident that we’ll make it—every dollar counts. If it gets down to the line and we end up, at the last second, five dollars short, we still don’t get it.  We, of course, would love to go above and beyond (our goal) because that will increase the production value of what we are creating. But step one is, we’ve got to hit that funding goal.”

For information, and to see the trailer for “Eldritch, USA,” visit www.eldritchusa.com;  www.kickstarter.com/projects/eldritchusa/eldritch-usa; or their Facebook page.


Copyright 2021 KSMU. To see more, visit KSMU.

Randy Stewart joined the full-time KSMU staff in June 1978 after working part-time as a student announcer/producer for two years. His job has evolved from Music Director in the early days to encompassing production of a wide range of arts-related programming and features for KSMU, including the online and Friday morning "Arts News." Stewart assists volunteer producers John Darkhorse (Route 66 Blues Express), Lee Worman (The Gold Ring), and Emily Higgins (The Mulberry Tree) with the production of their programs. He's also become the de facto "Voice of KSMU" in recent years due to the many hours per day he’s heard doing local station breaks. Stewart’s record of service on behalf of the Springfield arts community earned him the Springfield Regional Arts Council's "Ozzie Award" in 2006.