British Filmmaker Using Crowdfunding to Bring Short Film About Swimming To Life

DERBY, England, February 22. A new short film using swimming as the backdrop is getting a lot of support from the online community, raising more than its initial goal of UK£1,000 to help with filmmaking costs.

“Butterfly,” written by Alex Withers, tells the story of a teenage girl whose success in the sport is interrupted by a sudden epileptic episode. Using the poplar crowdfunding website IndieGoGo, Withers and his team have raised £1,238 (US$2,060) and have expanded their objective to bring in £2,000 (US$3,328). It’s Withers’ most successful IndieGoGo campaign, having raised just 503 pounds for “Men of War” last year.

Watch the filmmakers’ plea for funds to make “Butterfly” in this trailer:

In an email conversation, Withers told Swimming World about the origins of “Butterfly,” and why swimming is the perfect sport to use in telling the story.

Swimming World: Where did the idea for “Butterfly” come from?

Alex Withers: “Butterfly” really began when several ideas collided to form a new story. For a long time I’d wanted to tell the story of a young girl growing up and finding her feet amongst the many daunting choices life brings. I’d also been searching for an opportunity to explore epilepsy for some time, having had a number of friends throughout life who suffered with the condition and realizing how poorly it’s understood, and how little it’s portrayed in film. Another past idea I’d saved away, set against the backdrop of swimming, naturally found its way in when thinking about the driven, determined nature of the main character Jane, and from there the story took on a life of its own!

SW: The story – about a female swimmer whose athletic career is put on hold when she suffers an epileptic seizure – could have had any sport as the backdrop. Why swimming?

Withers: Very true! Swimming is one of the most demanding athletic sports a person can do and I’m always in awe of how driven and determined a person can be in order to succeed in what they love. For “Butterfly,” I wanted to tell the story of a young epilepsy sufferer refusing to let the condition rule her life and as a sport in which losing consciousness or lucidity means a life-threatening situation, it felt very natural for the character Jane to show great determination in the world of swimming. The beauty and unique feeling of being in and under the water is something we’re all eager to capture in “Butterfly,” and the power of water to inspire both wonder and fear is a striking motif throughout the film.

SW: The film has raised more than 1,200 pounds through crowdfunding in a little more than a week. What will the money be used for in production?

Withers: It’s been an incredible first half for our IndieGoGo campaign, with our original target hit in just 72 hours after launch! All of the funding we’re able to raise through our IndieGoGo campaign has an impact on “Butterfly” that can’t be underestimated – the look, feel and sound of the film rely on the hard work of the Production Designer, Director of Photography and Sound Designer along with everyone working in their respective departments. Everything from sourcing props and dressing locations to hiring industry-standard lenses and recording great quality audio means that the more we’re able to put into the “Butterfly” budget, the better the film will be and the more exposure it’s able to get! Our next big goal is to reach the £2,000 ($3,300) mark so that “Butterfly” can become the best that it can be.

SW: Will the film see theatrical distribution? If not, where will people see the finished project?

Withers: After finishing “Butterfly,” our hope is to get it screened as widely as possible at film festivals both in the UK and internationally. That way we can show the film to the largest audience we can over time, before seeking distribution for it via video-on-demand or DVD sales. I feel that the story has a very universal appeal that hopefully makes it something a great many people will relate to and remember.

SW: What got you interested in filmmaking?

Withers: As a kid I’d always had a fascination with the way films are made and loved to watch “Behind The Scenes” featurettes wherever I could find them. It wasn’t until my late teenage years though that I realized how accessible filmmaking can be. Watching indie films with smaller budgets than the typical blockbusters, my interest grew and grew until I finally knew I’d found my calling in life. Soon I was working on set in a lot of different roles on a variety of projects and making short films for myself, with an insatiable hunger for filmmaking. Several amazing years later I’m thrilled to be directing “Butterfly” alongside my fantastic producer Ciall Kennett.

SW: Who would be in your ideal cast for “Butterfly”?

Withers: We’re actually going to be announcing the official cast for “Butterfly” very soon, over on our IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign and our ”Butterfly” Facebook page for the film. To me an ideal cast is made up of actors who are truly passionate about their characters, bring something of themselves to the role and are not afraid to give it their all, and we’re lucky enough to be working with some very talented individuals who deliver that in spades!

SW: What’s your swimming background?

Withers: I’m just an intrigued viewer! After learning to swim as a child I did once join a local swimming club for a brief time and was very keen on it. Sadly I just couldn’t commit to the lifestyle at that time in my life, but ever since then I’ve been fascinated by the people who do get to compete!

SW: You mentioned Darren Aronofsky as an inspiration for this film. Who are some other filmmakers that inspire you?

Withers: Like many directors, I’ve always been very fond of the work of Stanley Kubrick. Not only do his films deliver a viewing experience like no other, but the man himself was an unparalleled innovator who pushed the boundaries of what’s possible to create incredible works of art and entertainment. The only modern equivalent for me would be Gaspar Noe, director of “Irreversible” and “Enter The Void.” He’s known for difficult subject matter, but there’s no denying the awe-inspiring craftsmanship and storytelling power to be seen in his films. For the sound of “Butterfly,” in fact, I and sound designer Matt Wright have found some key influences in Noe’s work.

SW: Any plans to make a feature film about swimming?

Withers: At present we don’t have one in development, but it certainly comes up in conversation a lot! Swimming presents a beautiful backdrop for shooting a film and it’s certainly something I’d be interested in writing about again in future.

Indiegogo campaign

”Butterfly” Facebook page