It was from Lainee Meis’ 2017 graphic design class at Ponderosa Middle School that came the story that will be premiered as a short film on Sunday at the Klamath Independent Film Festival called “Stitched to Perfection.”
Meis’ fiance, Brian Ellis, adapted the film from a story written by Jillian Flogerzi, 13 at the time, for a graphic design assignment after Meis showed it to him.
“One of her students wrote a story that just knocked her socks off,” Ellis said. “And she said, ‘you have to read this story.’ ”
In March of 2017 Ellis bought the rights to Flogerzi’s story for $50 and Ellis said she will also get 10% of any profit the film makes. Flogerzi is also an extra in the movie.
Verbal, physical violence
According to the KIFF website, “Stitched to Perfection” is “an honest, but twisted look at the havoc generated by verbal and physical violence in schools.”
“One of the things that was important for me, actually in anything that I do, is having some sort of a message that will help improve the world in some way,” he said. “So even though this is a cautionary tale and a tragedy and truly a horror film, the idea is to highlight that it’s the non-action of a bystander in this bullying situation that causes all of the consequences.”
The film was shot in Klamath Falls and most of the people involved in the film call the city home. The cast and crew spent a weekend of Saturday through Monday in October of 2018 to shoot the entirety of the movie, with some of the crew working 18-hour days.
“But it doesn’t feel like it,” he said. “You’re so into it and present with what’s happening, and it’s exciting and it doesn’t feel like it. Until the end of the day.”
Ellis said locals will recognize some places around the county on screen, like Lighthouse Yogurt Company, Moore Park, the SmithBates Printing building, along with drone shots of the area.
After premiering the film at this weekend’s festival, Ellis plans to adapt the film to bring it to schools as a more engaging approach to getting kids thinking about how to handle bullying.
“As a substitute teacher I see a lot of documentaries that are shown in classes about bullying and that age range, documentaries, they just sort of glaze over,” he said. “And the plan ultimately is that we use this film as a discussion starter and we’re going to build anti-bullying curriculum around it and try and get it into middle schools and high schools so that it’s something fun for the kids, as well as bringing up some of these questions about what causes bullying, why does it happen, why isn’t it being stopped, why don’t people get involved.”
The film cost Ellis $14,000 to produce, which he said was largely funded by him in addition to some crowdfunding donations. This is his first film to produce, although he says he doesn’t plan on it being his last.
“I love being on set,” he said. “Except on my film. I was too nervous to be on the set very much. It was strange.”
“Stitched to Perfection” is the third film in the festival’s Sunday morning line-up, which kicks off at 11:20 a.m. The 14 minute and 25 second film is a part of the “Hard, Wacky and Weird” category that includes films that have mature content, though Ellis said it’s the violence that places his film in that category.
“The program our film is showing in may not be appropriate for middle schoolers,” he said. “Our film is. There’s no profanity, there’s no nudity, there’s blood and guts, but you know kids like that stuff anyway. But some of the other programs might not be middle-school appropriate, but I think they’d be okay with the high schoolers.”
Ellis also hope some of the cast and crew that go to school in the area will bring their friends with them to see their movie.
He said the crew bonded throughout those three days in a way he thinks is unique to smaller movies like this. One way that closeness played out was that during free-time Ellis said crew members would teach younger members about aspects of production, like sound, that they might not otherwise get their hands on. When it was time to wrap, some got emotional.
“We all gathered at the place where we shot the main scenes and people were teary eyed and you know it becomes this instant family.”