Not enough films are being shot in Kansas City, said brothers Ben and Jacob Burghart.
“The bigger problem is not enough feature films are utilizing Kansas City’s vast talent pool,” said Jacob. “[Kansas City is trying to] shoot more now, but we want to be a part of kind of kicking into another gear.”
The duo’s planned horror film, “Follow the Leader,” reflects the concept of “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil,” said Ben.
Its plot follows three men who get taken to an abandoned mall after a brutal car crash and each loses a sense. One cannot see, another cannot hear, and the last cannot speak, Ben explained. The three soon realize they’re being hunted and have to learn to trust each other to survive.
“Throughout the film, we actually go into the perspective of each character,” he said. “When we go into the character that can’t hear, all you see is video, no audio, and you’re looking around trying to figure out what’s going on. When we go into the character that can’t see, all you can see is a black screen.”
The thriller is expected to be shot mostly in Kansas City, they said, though finding an area mall in which to film is proving difficult. The film rebate percentage also is not as great as in other places, like Oklahoma City.
The brothers’ hometown has been supportive, they said.
“Most of the time, when we reach out and ask for help, it’s more likely than not everybody wants to jump in and help,” said Jacob. “In a bigger place like LA or Atlanta, there are more people whose job is focused on narrative work, but they’re usually have very full schedules, usually they’re asking for a lot more money. [Kansas City is] kind of insulated from all of that.”
Everyone is Kansas City seems to be connected, the brothers said, which could soon help them solve a problem faced by all startups at a certain point: a lack of funding.
“We’re running a small business essentially — we have the LLC, we have the budget, we have production insurance, we have all the markings of a small business,” said Jacob.
The two have been bootstrapping the film for the past 10 years, but it has really taken off in the last two years, they said, A successful Kickstarter campaign reached a goal of $10,000, and they’ve partnered with KC-based production company Rockhaven Films.
The brothers now are contacting investors and working on product placement deals for a new goal of a million dollars, they said.
“We can scale this movie to whatever budget we end up getting, but after meeting investors and talking to other filmmakers and having some success, we’re getting more and more confident that we can actually raise that goal.” said Jacob. “I think it’ll show up on the screen and I think it will just make it even better [than the Kickstarter trailer teaser]. We’re willing to be patient to get to that number just because you only have one shot to make your first movie.”
Filming is projected to start next spring if the fundraising goes well, the brothers said.
“People will always go to see a horror movie. It’s super reliable,” said Jacob. “[Interest] ebbs and flows for every genre, but there will always be a handful of teenagers that want to go get freaked out by a movie on a Friday night.”
Jacob and Ben have been making short films together since childhood, they said.
“I think we filmed our dog and our cat fighting and we were doing commentary, like ringside commentators. I think we called it ‘Rocky 5,’ not knowing that ‘Rocky 5’ actually existed,” said Ben, explaining their first film.
In recent years, taking on employees and actors has helped free up the duo to look at the bigger picture, they said.
“When we were growing up making films, we were the cameraman and the editor, the writers and we were the actors,” said Jacob. “Now that we’ve kind of built these connections, we can actually just sit back and direct — do what we really love to do.”
The two use their relationship as an advantage, they said, unafraid to tell each other “no.”
“I couldn’t imagine how you would direct by yourself because you have to convince yourself what you’re doing is right,” said Jacob. “Whereas with us, we can take each other aside and make sure nobody sees us and then have our own personal doubts, figure it out and then come back to everybody like we know what we’re talking about.”
Watch a teaser trailer for the forthcoming film, “Follow the Leader,” below.