Kickstarting a Career in Filmmaking: Sam Dunnewold and Kaitlin Randolph


Kaitlin Randolph was writing stories before she started kindergarten in northern Wisconsin. Sam Dunnewold started making films as a seventh grader at Northfield Middle School. Sam was also a member of the last class of Northfield eighth graders to go through their entire middle school career in the building which is now the Weitz Center for Creativity.

Both Kaitlin and Sam ended up at Carleton College, where they majored in Cinema and Media Studies (CAMS). Now the two young filmmakers are preparing to graduate from college and embark on the next stage of their careers: making their first feature-length film.

With several other partners, they’ve created a production company, Lucid Films LLC, and have created a Kickstarter account with the goal of raising at least $5,000 before June 24, 2012.

But the process began in the summer of 2010, when Kaitlin began brainstorming ideas for a screenplay about “two depressed twentysomethings” who literally share each other’s dreams, but who eventually “find reality catching up with them.” The story gradually took shape over the following fall and winter terms at Carleton, and in early 2011 she brought Sam on board. In the fall, they decided that the film, Lucidity, would be their project for the year after their graduation from Carleton.

Kaitlin wrote the screenplay and is set to direct, while Sam will be the film's producer.

The film was cast in May with actors from the Twins Cities who responded to a casting call on Minnesota Playlist, and filming is due to begin on August 13. Meanwhile, there’s the matter of securing funding to pay for equipment, locations, actors, props, insurance, food, gas, and festival submission fees. This is where Kickstarter comes in. The Kickstarter website was launched in 2009 as way of “crowdsourcing” funding for creative projects—or “crowdfunding,” as it has come to be called. Since 2009, more than 20,000 Kickstarter projects have been funded.

For a pledge of as little as $10, anyone can become a backer of Lucidity.  For as little as $25, backers can earn rewards, including a DVD of the completed film. The credit cards of backers are only charged if the project goal is reached on time. 

For Sam, the first creative task as producer—after creating the company and setting up a bank account—was “setting the ground rules” that would give members of the creative team opportunities to share their ideas, while insuring that the project remains true to Kaitlin’s creative vision. So far, producer and director have been on the same creative wavelength.

“He’s really understood my vision,” Kaitlin says.

The film, Sam explains, is about the lure of dreams, the conflict between fantasy and reality, and, ultimately, the need to come to terms with reality. The tagline is: “They can share their dreams, but can they share their reality?”

After the filming in August—in the Northfield area and in Duluth—the post-production process, including editing and professional mixing, will take about six months. Sam expects a final product between March and May of 2013.  Meanwhile, both Sam and Kaitlin will be taking part-time jobs to make ends meet.

Despite their early interest in filmmaking, both Kaitlin and Sam chose Carleton, a small liberal arts college, over film school.  Their time together at Carleton has had an enormous influence on their approach to filmmaking.

“Carleton,” Sam says, “has one of the best, if not the best, film programs of any small liberal arts college in the country.”

He points out that the program’s stature has been raised by the opening of the new, state-of-the-art Weitz Center for Creativity. But it isn’t just Carleton’s technical resources that shaped their craft and their creative vision.

“For us, film is just a medium for telling stories,” Sam says. “You don’t learn about what stories to tell from going to film school. You learn that from hanging out and being a person. And college is a great place to hang out and be a person, and to get life experience.”

“And the community at Carleton is so much more diverse,” Kaitlin adds. 

The opportunities for conversation, for discussion, for learning from the experience of others, open up so many possibilities for deeper insight into what it means to be human.

“I have definitely had conversations that were not at all about film,” Sam says, “that very much inform the way I think about film.”

Get Involved. Become a backer of Lucidity: The Movie on Kickstarter with a pledge of as little as $10 and as much as $5,000. 

Short Films by Sam and Kaitlin.

Sam and Kaitlin's Book Recommendation: The Screenwriter’s “Bible”: Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting, by Robert McKee.

More Stories about KickstarterOn NPR.