Inclusion StatementSad Orangutans deals with the often taboo subject of mental health in an approachable, comedic way. We are committed to an open, inclusive approach. Our team consists of a primarily female crew.
About The Project
Walden and his friends are hopelessly depressed living the carefree life of an affluent orangutan in Los Angeles until he decides to do something about it—they’re going to rob a bank. These orangutans wear human clothes, speak English, and are going to be people in 60’s-Planet-of-the-Apes style masks.
This is a dark comedy about how depression can make you feel like an animal.
Sad Orangutans Rob A Bank is a USC School of Cinematic Arts MFA Thesis.
We’re going for a “Luscious, Flat-Space” style. Flat space because we want there to be literally no depth to the Orangutans’ lives (it’ll open up a little bit during the bank robbery and then close back down), and luscious because what the Orangutans’ lives are filled with instead of depth stuff.
The style: a mid-century base for the world. This should be especially evident in Walden’s house. His world contains burnt oranges and greens, the world outside is locked in slates, blues, and metallic.
The world: a presentation of the Jungle indoors. Bringing organic shapes and textures into urban spaces, and overlaying that with a mid-century flair. A redefined concrete jungle.
The camera work and the characters mirror each other. There's the bleak, stillness of depression, the slight movement of hope, and the collapse back into stillness when the hope doesn't pan out.
When I tell people about this project I say, as seriously as possible “it’s about Sad Orangutans who Rob a Bank.” And then there’s this pause and then, even though I’ve just said the phrase “Sad Orangutans who rob a bank,” they say “so…it’s a comedy?”
The tone is kinda like that. Or kinda like a stress dream with jokes.
Basically, I wanted to talk about something personal and vulnerable in the only way I know how, which is to try to make the other person laugh while doing it.
Two years ago, I was groggily sitting in a 9AM writing class listening to people complete our assignment for the week: pitching 5 one-sentence ideas for short films. I hadn’t prepared anything.
See, the night before I was busy laying in bed for hours feeling a massive sense of dread and anger churn and morph into an overwhelming NEED to work for something bigger than myself.
The need was mildly interested in doing something productive, and deeply interested in doing something noisy and risky and wild. This was not a new feeling for me: I’ve been depressed on and off throughout my life, and that Need is always there. It transforms you into something you’re not used to — one day you’re a human and the next, the prospect of studying for a calc test, or sending an email, or writing a fundraising letter that’s not a complete chore to read, seems completely insurmountable. You feel fundamentally different; other. Of course, you carry on best you can, because you’re not an animal - and slowly those challenges shrink back to their normal size.
So when it came time for me to turn in the assignment, I pitched four okay ideas and Sad Orangutans Rob a Bank, a story that asks “What if I didn’t push through my depression? and I had no motivation to? and I just let that Need build and build until I snapped and did the craziest thing imaginable? and also, what if I was an animal?”
Two and a half years later I’m attempting to turn my depressed ape friends, Walden, Helen, and Drummond, who walk like people, and talk and wear clothes like people and care deeply about instagram aesthetics like some people, into a reality for my thesis film.
(For this final paragraph: please imagine that Sarah McLachlan song playing over pictures of producers with nothing to produce, production designers with no mid-century modern furniture, and actors tragically not covered in prosthetic masks). These Sad Orangutans need your help. Financially. They have very particular lifestyles. And If you’ve ever felt the need to do something, anything, and the need to laugh at yourself, I’d really appreciate it if you considered helping them.
WALDEN (Male Orangutan, 24) is the unofficial leader of his small group. He’s never had any particular ambition, and, after moving back in with his Dad after college, he’s lived an empty, depressing life. Though he knows he should make a change, he doesn’t know how to take initiative. Until one day, he snaps, and decides to take the most drastic thing he can think of. Also, he’s an Orangutan.
HELEN (Female Orangutan, 23) is living an empty and solitary life, but, where you would be able to tell that Walden doesn’t have his shit together, Helen has always been able to publicly hide her depression. Intelligent. Sociable. More than a little self destructive.
DRUMMOND (Male Orangutan, 24), leading an empty and solitary life, but lacking the emotional intelligence of Helen and Walden, who he trusts and views as his older siblings. Drummond is a participator, jokester, and conspiracy theorist. He says “How do I know that the colors you’re seeing are the colors I’m seeing,” like once a month.
We hope to raise our goal of $10,000 to cover the inevitable costs of making our dreams reality. Our team consists of hard-working, creative volunteers. Principal photography commences in Los Angeles early March of 2019.
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THANK YOU FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION AND SUPPORT. THIS WOULDN'T BE POSSIBLE WITHOUT YOU ALL. Peace, Love, and Bananas.
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About This Team
Grant Raun - Writer & Director is a writer and director interested in medium and tone. From Houston, TX, he has a degree from Rice University in Theatre (Directing and Producing), and Political Science (just interested). He’s fond of choosing his next project by deciding what scares him most. Hence, the move to LA, the jump to film, and this project, where the relevant fears are his own mental health, loneliness, and that weird animatronic band at Chuck E Cheese.
Stephanie Furtun - Producer is a recent graduate of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts with a B.A. in Film & Television Production. Growing up in New York City, Stephanie studied theatre and film theory in high school, which led her to apply to USC’s production program. In the past four years, Stephanie has produced over two dozen short films and music videos, and has worked for award-winning producers and directors. Stephanie’s work aims to reflect societal issues and/or ideals, in the attempt to better connect with one another, regardless of race, religion, or gender. ‘Sad Orangutans’ immediately clicked with Stephanie, as the script acts as a commentary on millennials today, with a humorous, imaginative twist.
Sam Frickleton - Producer was born and raised in Kansas City and earned his BA degree in Media, Film & Journalism Studies, with a minor in Political Science, from the University of Denver in 2011. Previously, he’s produced and directed various short films and music videos as well as working full-time on multi- part documentaries at Florentine Films, under the direction of Ken Burns. Now in his final semester at USC’s prestigious School of Cinematic Arts, Sam has proven himself as one of the program’s top graduate producers. In 2018, he produced Wolves, one of three projects selected for the highly competitive 546 class; as well as the 4-part series Coventry, a first of its kind straight-to-series class. Both received funding awards from the university, and Wolves won the First-Look Faculty Award for Producing. Coventry recently won the Television/New Media category at the 36th Caucus Foundation Awards. In addition to his work in film, he enjoys performing with various music projects in Los Angeles where he currently resides.
Alanna Hoffman - Producer is a filmmaker from the suburbs of Detroit. She is currently in her third year at the University of Southern California, working towards her Masters of Fine Arts in Film & TV Production, studying writing, producing, and editing. She earned her B.A. in History from Brown University and is currently writing a feature film for her graduate thesis. In 2018, she edited the pilot and finale episodes of Coventry, USC’s first script-to-series production, which won the Television/New Media category at the 36th Caucus Foundation Awards. Most recently, she finished editing two USC graduate thesis films, Deliver Us and Parkway, and Katharine Stocker’s short film In the Pink, produced by Carolyn Manetti, Abigail Urban, and Florence Chater.
Delaney McIntyre - SFX Make-Up Artist is an LA-based Makeup Artist Specializing is special effects and makeup for film. She studied at Cinema Makeup School in 2017 and has been working on various films, commercials and events ever since. Delaney is trained to create customized prosthetic pieces and specialized makeup effects to help bring creators visions to life. She is excited to work on Sad Orangutans Rob a Bank and being able to and put her own original twist on the three ape like characters.
Jake Harbour - Director of Photography Originally from Santa Fe, New Mexico, Jake majored in Film & Media Studies at Stanford for undergrad. After graduation he worked briefly in the art department as a set dresser, then interned with the Sundance Documentary Program. Since starting at USC, he has served as director of photography on a variety of projects both in school and independently, including music videos, commercials, and short films. His most recent projects include shooting the pilot episode of Coventry for the Advanced Projects course in Episodic Drama at USC, which went on to win the Television/New Media category at the 36th Caucus Foundation Awards, and filming a series of web advertisements for Mercedes Benz Vans Future Transportation division. Currently in his final year at USC, he works as the student assistant for both graduate and undergraduate intermediate cinematography courses, assisting with student projects on both 16mm and digital capture.
TJ Ryan - Production Designer Born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, TJ got his start in film early as a child actor in local shorts and commercials. Captivated by the magic of sets and props, he quickly got started building his own DIY worlds out of cardboard and construction paper. Now studying Production Design, TJ emphasizes in the fantastic and macabre - bringing life to films about ancient royalty, serial killers, and everything in between. He has never robbed a bank.
Shaina Ghuraya - Editor is a graduate student in the University of Southern California’s Master of Fine Arts program in Film and Television production. She grew up in the suburb of Elk Grove in California, and began her journey as a political science major in order to become an activist for people with disabilities such as herself. When she saw the changes that were implemented as a result of a film she made documenting the inaccessibility issues at her undergraduate college, and she began pursuing media production. At USC, Shaina has continued her undergraduate work of bringing issues that minorities face to light, but this time through comedy. Her film WHEELCHAIR WENDY screened at ReelAbilities Film Festival and was featured on LA This Week. She is passionate about promoting diversity both in front and behind the camera.
Ilana Rozin - 1st AD is a graduate film and TV student at USC. Trained as a stage director, Ilana has worked in theatres in Iowa City, Raleigh, Chicago, and Los Angeles. At USC, Ilana has produced and edited short films and music videos. Most recently, Ilana interned with the Academy-Award nominated team of Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering and worked on their upcoming documentary on sexual assault in Hollywood.
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