Magical Empathy: Crowdfunding Picks

By Tatiana McInnis and Shayna Maci Warner 

This round of crowdfunding picks offers reflections and representations of gender identity, environmentalism in a crumbling world, and how climate change and political resistance converge. While ranging in themes and focus, each invites audiences to imagine and empathize with places they may never visit and people they may never meet. 

“PONY” builds on the conventional coming-of-age narrative to share the experiences of a young gender-confused child’s exploration of their identity. “Goldilocks” utilizes the visual spell-casting of magical realism and mixed-media storytelling to encourage respect and humility toward all living things. “Calle de la Resistencia: El Musical” captures the aftermath of the devastation of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, focusing on how local activists and community members exposed governmental corruption in a short-lived victory in the U.S. territory’s long legacy of colonization and global neglect. 

In genre-bending musicals, shorts, and mixed-media animations, these projects will inform audiences of important societal issues, and encourage compassion and understanding.

Here are Women and Hollywood’s crowdfunding picks.

“PONY” (Short) – Written and Directed by Halo Rosetti

Halo Rosetti’s “PONY” will use a familiar coming-of-age trope to tell the story about a gender-confused child, Zoe, as they explore their identity, grieve, and defy expectations of those around them. Departing from the often-depicted parental rejection of LGBTQ children, Rosetti explains that they drew inspiration from their own experiences growing up in the ’90s and 2000s in what they describe in the above video as a “thoroughly haunted house.” Rosetti explains that “PONY” also draws influence from  “Midsommar,” “Tomboy,” and “Stranger Things,” among other media, to “visually represent a phenomenon that many people have never viscerally felt,” according to its campaign page.

The creators note the importance of telling this story, citing an ongoing epidemic of queer and trans youth homelessness, poor mental health outcomes, and suicide. Rosetti hopes to cultivate understanding and encourage acceptance among queer and trans potential support networks, and to intervene in support of queer and trans youth by presenting characters with whom they can identify.

Learn more about “PONY” and donate on Seed&Spark.

“Goldilocks” (Short)  – Written and Directed by Meryl Jones Williams

From the outset of its concept trailer, the 1989-set “Goldilocks” invites suspension of disbelief in the name of unprecedented openness to the mysteries of an adaptive, but disappearing, natural world. The 16mm mixed-media short, written and directed by Meryl Jones Williams, and animated by James Thatcher, will follow two siblings, 13-year-old Ramona (Jax Powers) and 15-year-old Lenny (Mackie Mallison), as they unravel the mystery of a roaming mountain lion whose appearance in the nearby woods coincides with the emotional vacuum left by their recently-absent father. 

The short’s unique style, which incorporates hand-drawn animation and title cards reminiscent of a children’s storybook onto live-action celluloid, is representative of Ramona’s imagination and empathy superimposing “an animated layer on a deteriorating world.” The main narrative thread involves a curious, determined Ramona following her brother into the woods after he tears off on his own, shunning his vulnerability and in pursuit of the mountain lion as the object of his anger. Along the way, the short promises to explore the dangers of disconnection from nature, the strength of sibling bonds, unconscious germination of political and environmental thought, and navigating gender identity and fluidity in the face of toxic masculinity. 

The team hopes that the short will not only engage narratively with thoughtful conversation around how we ignore or recognize disconnection from the natural world, but, per its campaign, will help to “shift the cultural landscape of cinema through the film’s essence.”

“Goldilocks’” initial campaign was cut short due to COVID-19 interruptions, but its quest for full funding is back up and running, and the team plans to start production safely this fall. 

You can see more of “Goldilocks” extensive lookbook and donate via Fractured Atlas. 

“Calle de la Resistencia: El Musical” – Directed by Denise Blasor

Identifying music as an integral mode of representing Puerto Rican culture, the creators of “Calle de la Resistencia: El Musical” are collaborating to tell the story of how environmental and man-made disasters collided in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

The musical will follow nine Puerto Ricans whose lives are forever changed after the storm. The story will focus on Bieké, an independent journalist based in Los Angeles, who returns to Puerto Rico to cover the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, and members of his family to provide a multidimensional representation of life after the hurricane. The musical, directed by Denise Blasor, with book, music, and lyrics by Milton Carrero, will spotlight the devastation, corruption, and resilience that characterize Puerto Rico’s contemporary moment as the region gears for another potentially cataclysmic hurricane season.

The producers note their intent to continue development of this project during the pandemic, citing continued work as a deliberate choice on behalf of many of the unemployed cast and crew members, and noting compliance with strict safety guidelines. 

Learn more about “Calle de la Resistencia: El Musical” and donate on Seed&Spark.

To be considered for Women and Hollywood’s biweekly crowdfunding feature, please write to All formats (features, shorts, web series, etc.) welcome. Projects must be by and/or about women.

August 7, 2020
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