This is a unique film that dives into the toxicity that parental expectations may have on youth, while telling a universal story about a person attempting to find the best version of themself. More than just promoting non-binary representation, this film is understandable and true for many people.
Mission StatementI've told stories hoping to help at least one audience member feel less alone. This film explores a number of themes from defying parental expectations to understanding the confusing transition into adulthood. These are conflicts my team and I experienced and want to illuminate for others.
About The Project
I remember the night a guest at my house, who saw my abundance of LEGO sets, turned to me and said, "you're STILL a kid?" I don't know why that emphasis bugged me, but it did. Because when you're a kid and someone sees a Cardboard Castle in your living room, they say, "You're still a kid," which means: it's fine because you're not old enough to know castles should be made of stones and cement. I grew up and learned that, and my castles are still cardboard. Then, the emphasis shifts. I felt compelled to explore the struggles of a character forced to explore that differentiation in Cardboard Castles.
Charlie, a non-binary teenager about to leave for college, ventures into their imaginary world to kill their imaginary friend, Rex, hoping to satisfy their mother’s belief that one must abolish childhood to become a successful adult. But Charlie is challenged by this task as Rex reintroduces them to the wonder of their imaginary world through the cardboard rockets, structures, and creatures that inhabit it.
Now Charlie must decide what kind of adult they want to be before they leave the next day.
(At this moment, the team is designing our wardrobe and props, the actors are undergoing readthroughs, and I am working with my Director of Photography on our shot list!)
CHARACTERS AND CASTING
CHARLIE (Gracie Lacey) had a very creative childhood, often finding themself on daring adventures with Rex. One day, when their father walked out on their life, Charlie began losing that fun-loving side, finding themself more lost than ever before. Now, 18-years-old and on the cusp of going to college, Charlie wants an answer on the kind of adulthood worth leading, but is pulled both ways by their mother (who wants success in their life) and Rex (wanting them to return to the child-like innocence that fueled their childhood).
Charlie created REX (Jackson Jones) at the age of 7. Since then, they'd been inseparable through awesome adventures and brilliant landscapes within Charlie's imaginary world. But once Charlie's Dad left, it became longer and longer until their next adventure, and Rex sat in Charlie's mind watching it slowly lose its color. That is, until Charlie appears out of the blue, now 18, holding a sword above Rex's head. Ultimately, Rex wants the best for Charlie but is too naive to realize that what he is doing may be hurting Charlie rather than helping.
(Charlie will be dressed in a collared shirt and tie. Rex is wearing a coat and a more classy kind of attire, though it doesn't detract from his adventurous and childish soul)
The casting process was extensive, with inclusion being a huge part of finding perfect fits for these characters. Because this story is so universal, the casting team and director felt that Charlie's role should be open to any person regardless of gender or ethnicity, even if Charlie was written as male in the script. Through incredibly talented submissions and four rounds of auditions, we found our lead actors:
"Through every callback and audition for this project, Gracie Lacey continued to surprise and shock us, bringing forth the contemplative and playful nature of Charlie. As an androgynous actor, representation is important to them, and portraying Charlie in this project is a role they are quite excited for."
"Jones' audition blew us away. It wasn't just the animated parts of his tapes that sold us; it was also the understanding Jackson had of Rex's more subtle and nuanced moments. One of those magical casting moments where we knew he was the one."
THE IMAGINARY ENSEMBLE
Surrounding our main characters in the imaginary world are a slew of creatures vaguely resembling different types of animals; elephants, cubs, etc. These will be portrayed by actors in morph suits and cardboard outfits designed by our wardrobe team. For reference, they will look A BIT like the Broadway version of 'The Lion King' as they aid our characters through their journey.
This film's look is critical in shot composition/color and the world that our characters interact with. One major component is (obviously) CARDBOARD. Barring the landscape and main characters, every prop, structure, and ensemble character will be made of (or feature components made of) cardboard. Why?
"I think back to when I was a kid and the things I would create (weapons or castles or anything). Cardboard is the perfect representation of childhood and the limitless imagination that Charlie had when they were young. By using cardboard, we save on prop costs and create a truly unique yet nostalgiac world."
BELOW IS THE CHARACTER DESIGN FOR REX
Designed by Nicholas Larson, Rex has both Rabbit and Elvish features, with a clothing scheme made up of frilly maroon and emerald green colors.
I have worked closely with my Director of Photography, Bryce Bromberger, on the film's overall look. We want the film to have a sort of sad overtone (much like Where The Wild Things Are or Christopher Robin). This will help add to the film's realism and match the struggle that Charlie is going through.
Our team has been expanding and expanding with each passing day. Each member is more than qualified to bring this world to life, from our incredible team of Assistant Directors (Felix Malms and Lilly Tran) to the entire Art Department (spearheaded by Production Designer Jaala Jones). Everything is moving swimmingly with this team of dedicated individuals, and we could not be more excited to bring this film to you.
Click the image below to learn more about each team member.
CONCERNS (COVID AND OTHERWISE)
Firstly, we know that the poet/rap artist, George Watsky, has an album with this same name, and we have already gotten the blessing from him and his manager (via email) to use this name freely as long as it isn't directly about or referencing the album.
Secondly, COVID is still (more or less) an enigma to the film set. We will be ensuring COVID safety with standard mask practices, sanitizing stations, equipment cleaning, etc. We will have no more than 15 crew members on set at any given moment. If there is a rise of COVID cases that would delay the shoot, we would be willing to delay the shoot. But throughout the way, no matter what happens, we will be transparent and clear with each backer, follower, and producer, and the project will be completed one way or another.
With that said, we are crowdfunding now for an early February shoot because we don't believe this project should wait any longer. There is a shockingly low number of stories about the importance of themes and representation that we do. We live in an increasingly more confusing society to grow up in, where more and more kids are growing up, finding their identities, and struggling to accept the people they want to be because of parental expectations. This story is for them, and the longer we wait, the longer it will take for them to see.
(Upon completion, we hope to do a festival run and then put the film on Amazon prime OR a free platform depending on accessibility and recognition of the short post-festival run).
ANY additional funds will go to raising cast & crew wages, upgrade equipment, and post-production costs.
Any support you can offer is greatly appreciated (even SHARING this project). If you can donate, we have some pretty unique incentives for you to check out, from exclusive artwork to cardboard postcards! Check them out!
A FINAL NOTE FROM THE DIRECTOR
This film is more than just a conversation about the delicate and necessary balance of adulthood and childhood. It’s a film about change and taking steps to do so. About resisting parental pressure and becoming your own human being, whoever that may be. That you are more than just what your parents are. You can be a king, a queen, a knight, an anything really. That those childish thoughts and dreams did not die at the hands of a cardboard sword or leave with the cardboard rockets, they are still there. They are there to help you realize your ambitions and see the world as more than just “the world.”
This team believes in this project. We have all fallen in love with the story and are ready to give it our all to realize and share it with anyone who may need to hear it. For anyone who’s told, “You’re STILL a kid,” and are forced to question the meaning of adulthood and why there are standards for it. This film has an identity, passion, love, energy, and a kick-ass group of people that are ready to go. All we need is you.
Use the WishList to pledge cash and loan items - or - Make a pledge by selecting an incentive directly.
About This Team
Our team has been expanding and expanding with each passing day. Each member is more than qualified to bring this world to life, from our incredible team of Assistant Directors (Felix Malms and Lilly Tran) to the entire Art Department (spearheaded by Production Designer Jaala Jones).
Writer/Director Jonathan Rome approached his co-worker at GeeksOfColor (an online entertainment news publication promoting diversity within art) to produce the film (USC SCA Alum Robert Butler III). After the pitch, RB3 graciously joined the project, and both he and Rome excited Butler's online audience of over 3,000 YouTube subscribers, who are all very excited to follow this film's progress. With the magical touch of Bryce Bromberger's real and grounded cinematography, this film sprinted into Pre-Production.
Malms and Tran were on the team of Rome's last short project, Here Lies Lauren (2020), a short which went on to play at 10 festivals and garner 7 awards. Their dedication to running a set and keeping the crew safe is truly a sight to behold. Jones, on the other hand, has made her mark throughout her college, with some incredible feats of set design and more. There is no doubt that this film will be as magical in its look as it will be in its story with her overseeing the art department.
Within the Art Department, Nicholas Larson has created incredible creatures and so graciously came up with Rex's design. Also, Larson will be providing exclusive inked drawings of concept art from the film and part of our incentive reward tiers (look into that). Bringing Rex to life will be Angie Shellhamer and Daisy Dunbar, ready to tackle the challenge of making Rex and believable and loveable character. Then, Liliana Seidel, whose experience creating sets and characters out of cardboard, truly wowed the director. With the ever-so-dedicated and loving Art Director, Julia Costa, rounding out the crew, there is no doubt that this production's visuals are in good hands.
Finally, Remy Fonseca will be composing the original score for this film, after winning awards for the score he made for Rome's previous film. In discussions between the director and composer, Fonseca has promised a truly unique and magical score that will call back to an audience member's time as a child and truly feel the conflicting emotions (both good and bad) Charlie is feeling within the piece.