... Some people have a fire burning so hot that it singes the edges of their life. Relationships, passions, work, the fire touches everything, and unknown at first to that person, it begins to steer the very course of their life. It’s as if they are stumbling through darkness, chasing the only thing they can see: a fire, offering warmth and security, ahead of them, calling to them.
A week of 65 degrees and balmy gives way to a damp, seeping 17 degrees that finds its way through window sills and under duvets in the dark of night. Doorways and walls seem to all carry a draft, as if the house I live in is inhaling, taking in the cold air of January, readying itself for an exhale come late winter, early spring. Outside my window, a few minutes ago, a cloud of blackbirds chose my backyard as a place to find food and rest as they headed further south. For a moment, the windows were covered in squawking, fidgety creatures. I watched in awe at the sudden shift of color: the low, harsh sun of winter that silhouettes pine trees against golden beams of light switched to a cloud of darkness as blackbirds dropped what was left of my backyard into shadow. I shivered a bit, watched for a long minute or two, then… inspired, I sat down to write.
I met a fellow filmmaker this past week who I want to write about. A friend of a friend connected me. Someone I played basketball with growing up, a friend from the old days of Durham, connected me to someone he knew growing up: Andie Morgenlander. He said that Andie was raising money for their first feature film and that like us, Andie grew up in Durham, so naturally I was excited to connect.
And, for the sake of transparency, I’m writing with a very clear objective: I’m hoping to compel you enough to make a matching contribution to Andie’s film of $250 or more. Andie’s trying to raise an additional $100,000 or so over the next five months to cover production costs, and I’m hoping we can raise close to 5% of it.
I first spoke with Andie over the phone for about 90 minutes. They were driving east from Tennessee, crossing the border into North Carolina, and I was on my normal “commute” from my office in downtown Durham, which consists of a long walk to a car parked on the outskirts of downtown (I refuse to pay for parking) with time to think. After the call, we texted back and forth for a few days as I watched a bunch of Andie’s previous films and read more about their work, and then finally, intrigued, I asked to interview Andie for the purposes of writing this post.
In some ways, I do not know Andie, having just met them and having only interviewed them once, but in other ways, their story and short films resonated deeply with me, and I recognized something I hope is worth writing about. There’s no telling where Andie’s career will go or what exactly this first feature film will become, but there are a few things worth sharing with you:
Some people are born with a fire inside them.
Some people have a fire burning so hot that it singes the edges of their life. Relationships, passions, work, the fire touches everything, and unknown at first to that person, it begins to steer the very course of their life. It’s as if they are stumbling through darkness, chasing the only thing they can see: a fire, offering warmth and security, ahead of them, calling to them. They find themselves waking up in the morning simultaneously in control of their next steps and completely surrendered to the way their life is burning and narrowing to a singular mission. It’s this voice, call it divine, call it God, call it spiritual, call it what you will, that begins to fuel their work. They can feel it, just as you feel something reading the words in this post, or as I feel the cold draft seeping in through windows once covered by blackbirds, and as this voice becomes clearer, this person learns to harness it. And as it becomes harnessed, this person begins sharing it with the world.
There’s no doubt Andie has a fire inside of them fueling their work.
I know this because I recognize in their work the details that only someone extremely good at something can produce. I watched a few short films of Andie’s, including the short film that they are now turning into the feature film, “Whistle Down Wind” (here’s the trailer), and there’s a lot that can be said about their work, so I’ll try to keep it simple.
In a good film, you need a kind of theme or meaning that holds everything together. And by everything, I mean literally everything: the writing, color, the frame, the actors, the music, the pacing, the budget, etc. etc. etc. It all needs to be bound together by some highly specific meaning (it’s maybe more aptly described as a smell or a flavor, something more intimately tied to memory), and in my opinion, to make it something really worth watching, that thing that holds the film together needs to be something an audience feels deep inside of them, but when they are finished watching, they struggle to really articulate. They might leave the theater in a quiet daze, saying to themselves, “Wow, that was really good.” But they are unsure of how to say anything else because whatever the hell they just watched certainly cannot be put into words on a ride home with their family nor can it be adequately written about in a post. Instead, it touches a piece of their humanity that they might have forgotten or that they hadn’t considered in a long time. Maybe the film threw kindling on their own fire, twinkling up ahead on the horizon. Maybe It reminded them to reach out in the dark, to call out loudly for this fire, to step towards it, because maybe their life has been taking them further out into the cold and dark and the film awakened them to this fact. A good film reminds them to protect their own fire at all costs.
Andie’s film has this.
As Andie and their co-writer, Julia Christgau, put it, "This is the film they needed as teenagers." As a femme queer person who struggled to come out because of the cultural norms in the south, Andie is passionate about sharing nuanced portrayals of sexuality and gender, as well as platonic and romantic relationships. Andie's film shows us a relationship that tells a beautiful coming of age story of two young women, best friends turned lovers, who try to fight through oppressive ideologies of their hometown in North Carolina. Andie’s film presents audiences with something simultaneously so fresh you can taste it and something so damn southern in its flavor. Filmed on site in and around Asheville, the scenes from their short concept film are filled with the south that I have fallen in love with. The strangeness of it. The beauty of its landscape. The diverse people who fill its borders. And, maybe at the end of the day that is what excites me most about the feature film Andie is making. Andie is part of a wave of filmmakers I know who are reclaiming what it means to tell a southern story, a wave I like to consider myself a part of.
To me the south is a place full of contradictions. As Flannery O’Connor said (and I’m paraphrasing here for sake of expediency) to the best of my recollection, “For anything that can be said about the south, the opposite can be said with equal validity.” And Andie’s film is holding this truth aloft, with a beautiful and radical angle, for all of us to see, as if saying to us, “Protect your fire at all costs.” Andie’s work reminds us of this. It did this for me. And I know it will for countless others. And I’m not the only one noticing: Andie has already won grants from Warner Media, Cucalorus Film Festival, New Orleans Film Festival and others. Andie’s production is partnering with Raleigh-based production company Solis Films and Western Carolina University, on the production. Andie, their co-writer Julia, and their team have put the pieces in place, and the project is moving.
But, I’m not just here to write abstractly about Andie’s work. I’m also writing with a call to action. The film just needs capital. I’ll be donating $250 towards their film, and I’m asking that you consider matching (or giving more!). And if you’re not moved enough yet by my writing, here’s another thought on the matter:
Capital to produce independent films is exceedingly difficult to come by in North Carolina. I know this because I fundraise for all of my projects similarly to how Andie is fundraising for theirs, and I’ve begun helping a few other filmmakers fundraise for projects. There just is not the same kind of patronage culture that happens in bigger markets or elsewhere in the world. The truth is that for first feature films (for most films in general to be honest), this is generally how they get made: shared wealth from friends and family. So in the spirit of friends and family, I’m asking that you consider matching my donation of $250 (feel free to give more or less depending on your capacity for giving).
Andies’ film will go into production in Asheville, North Carolina starting in June.
To view the trailer and donate, visit this link: https://fundraising.fracturedatlas.org/whistle-down-wind-independent-feature-film
For more about Andie and to see Andie’s work: https://www.andiemorgenlander.com/
Finally, if you are interested in attending a fundraising event in downtown Durham on February 1st with me that Andie and their team is hosting, please send me an email for additional information. I just ask that anyone coming to the event matches my check of $250.
It should be a fun event. And, I am hoping for a very cold night, with a sharp northern wind so that we might feel the contrast between the chill against our skin as we enter into the warmth that Andie is kindling. Stay in touch and do good work!
-David Delaney Mayer
P.S. And lastly, here’s some legalese I’m required to add since I’m asking you to make a contribution (add it to the list of strange things Indie filmmakers are required to do to raise capital)
Whistle Down Wind is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions for the charitable purposes of Whistle Down Wind must be made payable to “Fractured Atlas” only and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.