Logline: A young woman, her face illuminated only by match light, tells the story of an Austrian serial killer who murdered 20 immigrant women – one per year.
9 minutes, 38 seconds
Director/Producer/Writer: Mark Tapio Kines was the first filmmaker to ever crowdfund a film, for his debut feature Foreign Correspondents. He also directed the feature Claustrophobia and several shorts, and has a screenwriting course on Lynda.com.
Key cast: Nina Rausch
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists):
All of the above (producers for other projects, that is; this one's been produced already!)
Funders: Crowdfunded via Indiegogo in 2015
N/A (but the film festival premiere was March 17, 2016)
Where can I watch it? Dances With Films in Hollywood this Sunday, June 5 at 5pm. It's also screening at FilmQuest in Salt Lake City on June 19 at 11pm, and at Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival in South Korea in late July.
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
Years ago, I became intrigued by the idea of shooting an entire film using only the light of a single match. I thought it would be visually unique, and wanted to do it before someone else could beat me to it. The film's story, about a murderer who uses matches to psychologically torment his victims, sprung from this basic vision.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
A good film boils down to a strong story, compelling performances, and a memorable visual style. I think 20 Matches has all three. Nina Rausch's performance and the eerie match light really draw people in, and I think my story is suspenseful and satisfying.
We made an effective "horror" film that doesn't rely on any blood, violence or jump scares. I hesitate to even call 20 Matches a horror film – it's more of a drama, told in monologue form – but a lot of film festivals have programmed it in a horror context, so there you go.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
I joked to a friend last year that because 20 Matches is my least personal film, it will be my most successful – and in a way, that's been true. On a universal level, though, the film does touch on how the West treats immigrants. That doesn't just reflect on the current migrant crisis in Europe, but on America's own complicated relationship with immigration, and I'm sure you deal with it in Australia as well.
But by making the killer's immigrant victims Eastern European girls, I sort of de-politicized the story, allowing audiences to fear for the victims without being guided by their own prejudices, whatever they may be.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development and production?
I don't want to give away the film's ending, but last year I had finished the script and was all ready to shoot it as it was, when a friend read it and said that the ending lacked a "personal" connection. I took her words to heart, then had a sudden – and rare, for me – "lightbulb above the head" idea, which made 20 Matches a much stronger film. A non-discouraging critique can really pay off.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
If anybody has hated the film or been bored by it, it hasn't gotten back to me. Most everybody seems to find it an effective little thriller.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
I haven't heard anything that has made me look at the film differently. Though there is a part of me that wishes I'd made this Austrian killer's victims Serbian – that's a bit more politically loaded – than just standard Eastern European (e.g., Czech, Hungarian).
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
I'm always happy to have more people know about this film. Hopefully it will draw some interest from festivals. That said, I plan to post the film publicly once I'm done with the festival circuit, which should be by November. So if I've gotten some people interested in 20 Matches via your website, hopefully they'll want to see the whole film once I make it public.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
Short films don't usually sell, so while I'd love to talk to any serious buyers, distributors or sales agents, I'm not expecting them. I love a good film festival, though, and it would be great to be invited to more, now that I'm tapped out on my submission fee budget. 20 Matches looks fine on a computer, but it looks fantastic on the big screen. Just Nina's giant face, flickering in the match light like a Georges de La Tour painting, looming over the audience – it's really intense.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
For general audiences, I just want to give people the chills. For my fellow filmmakers, though... ever since I got hired to do a screenwriting course for Lynda.com, I've been encouraging people to write suspenseful, unpredictable scripts. I think 20 Matches is proof that you can make something non-commercial that's also accessible and story-driven. A well-structured plot doesn't have to be formulaic. Every good story needs to be suspenseful in some way.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
I'd love it if people could look at what this fictional murderer did to his immigrant victims, compare it to how immigrants are treated in their own countries, and discuss any parallels.
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
My cinematographer Marianne Williams is wildly in-demand now – her career is really on the rise. Nina Rausch is also doing very well with her acting; she just had a big guest-starring spot on "Grey's Anatomy" and I'm sure she'll continue to get more work. She's great. As for me, I have a lot of ideas for both shorts and features, but as usual it's a matter of raising the money. I'll have to get serious about what I can most reasonably afford to make next, and then focus on that.