Rewriting Heroes: Crowdfunding Picks

Everybody thinks they could use a hero now and again. However, the enshrined out-of-this-world idol dreamed up to cure all that ails often fizzles away in the face of reality. Super humans don’t appear at the urgent call of those in need, and caped crusaders are never quite all they’re cracked up to be, but real individuals can help in ways more sincere than a larger-than-life man in tights. This round of crowdfunds looks at projects that document or create meaningful, grounded heroes and icons whose importance stems from their personal connections — told by personally invested storytellers dedicated to broadening their heroes’ impact.

In “Inside the Beauty Bubble,” documentarians Cheri Gaulke and Julia Cheryl Bookout preserve the wonder of the Beauty Bubble Salon and Museum, and celebrate the legacy of inclusivity and vintage beauty curated by one-of-a-kind “hairstorian” Jeff Hafler.

Director and producer Nyasha Laing’s ethnographic biography of Imogene “Queenie” Kennedy, “Kumina Queen,” preserves the work of Jamaica’s foremost practitioner of Kumina, and connects the stories of her contemporary descendants and their own gifts.

Taking a genre approach, co-writer MJ Slide and co-writer/director Rebecca Isbill Davis come up with a hero of their own making in the Octavia Butler and Ursula K. Le Guin-inspired “E is for:”.

Here are Women and Hollywood’s latest crowdfunding picks.

“Inside the Beauty Bubble” (Short Documentary) – Directed by Cheri Gaulke and Julia Cheryl Bookout

Director Julia Cheryl Bookout first stumbled upon artist, collector, musician, and hairstylist Jeff Hafler’s outsize personality and generous spirit while visiting the Beauty Bubble Salon and Museum in Joshua Tree for a life-changing haircut. Naturally, as Bookout and Cheri Gaulke’s short film “Gloria’s Call” had just won the audience award at the Nevada Film Festival, they decided that the Central California landmark and its proprietor would become their next site of filmic affection.

Hafler has been curating his extensive collection of  3,000 vintage beauty artifacts for decades, and has since become a staple of the Joshua Tree community, described as sprinkling “pixie dust wherever he goes.” Before the California COVID-19 shutdown of small businesses like the Beauty Bubble, Hafler was set to have a banner year, as Nicole Mullen, San Francisco International Airport’s museum program curator, invited him to exhibit his “Hair-sterical Gals” wig sculptures in the new Harvey Milk Terminal at SFO.

Bookout and Gaulke’s short documentary “Inside the Beauty Bubble” will follow a year in the life of Hafler’s magical, but financially precarious business as he deals with the ongoing pandemic, as well as his personal life with husband Mikal Winn, and their teenage son, Cash. The filmmakers’ goals are that their short “affirms the transformative nature of art, desert life, love of community, and what it means to nurture a family,” especially in times of crisis.

You can learn more and donate to “Inside the Beauty Bubble” on Seed&Spark.

“Kumina Queen” (Documentary) – Directed by Nyasha Laing

Kumina, the ancestral Jamaican cultural practice that saturates music and dance, has long been reviled by colonial forces who seek to suppress and criminalize it as blasphemous “witchcraft.” Despite its survival through the popularizations of Rastafarian music, reggae, and dancehall, its traditional forms have been largely filtered out in younger generations. This is exactly why director Nyasha Laing decided to create a project centered around Imogene “Queenie” Kennedy, a foremost Kumina priestess and pilot of Kumina’s modern survival whose accomplishments and contributions have largely been lost to time.

According to “Kumina Queen’s” campaign page, the documentary seeks to shed light on the practice that “has served for over six generations as a vehicle for resistance and renewal,” while unearthing the person behind the dissemination of Kumina. Through stop-motion, rare archival footage, and interviews with current practitioners and cultural icons, “Kumina Queen” will canonize the work and memory of an essential community builder.

Laing hopes that her documentary will serve as an educational tool and vehicle for the preservation of Jamaican cultural heritage, and has also extended a call to any contemporary practitioners or researchers who have similar goals to get in touch with her team.

You can get in touch, donate, and learn more about “Kumina Queen” on Seed&Spark.

“E is for:” – Directed by Rebecca Isbill Davis; Written by Rebecca Isbill Davis and MJ Slide

“E is for:” is a transcendental sci-fi that mixes timelines, pronouns, genders, and alternate universes to find deep, meaningful companionship for those who feel entirely alone. Co-writer, producer, and lead actor MJ Slide and co-writer and director Rebecca Isbill Davis’ story of a non-binary street medic, E (Slide), who moves back to their hometown in South Carolina and discovers a connection to a far less self-assured alternate version of themselves, Eleanor, is inspired by the works of Ursula K. Le Guin and Octavia Butler, and the visuals of contemporary women-centric sci-fi like “Fast Color” and “Another Earth.” E and Eleanor communicate across the space-time continuum in order to hold one another, and lend each other the space to grow so rarely afforded by dominant society.

Through intentional visual symbolism, color palettes, and the unrestricted genre conventions of sci-fi, the film creates a world in which loneliness and identity crises can be solved through the strength of queer kinship — even when there aren’t any visible LGBTQ people to call family. As written by Slide, “E is for:” is “for the Black kids, the Queer kids, for the Nerds, and the misfit outsiders who want to find themselves and the place they belong. It’s a Reclamation.”

The script is the winner of 2020 SouthPitch: Narrative Open-Call, and will go into COVID-19 aware production this winter.

You can help make “E is for:” a reality on Seed&Spark.


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

November 20, 2020
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