The Canary

California, United States | Film Short

History, Thriller

Karl Herrmann

1 Campaigns |

Green Light

This campaign raised $26,460 for production. Follow the filmmaker to receive future updates on this project.

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Orville Combs has come to California at the height of the Gold Rush, but he's come a little too late--"all the big easy gold has been got." Refusing to admit defeat, Orville buys a condemned mine, hoping to realize his dream of striking it rich. But soon discovers his dream is actually a nightmare.

About The Project

  • The Story
  • Wishlist
  • Updates
  • The Team
  • Community

The Story

I've always been fascinated with history. As the child of two teachers, my summer vacations and spring breaks weren't spent playing on a beach (much to my childhood chagrin) but instead making pilgrimmages to Gettysburg and Plymouth Rock, and Pearl Harbor. My imagination would run wild trying to recreate the scenes that made these hallowed places iconic: soldiers in their Union blues making the final charge; pilgrims struggling to survive in a foreign land; Japanese kamikazees dive-bombing into Naval destroyers.

As I got older, this fascination only grew stronger and took on new dimension: I wanted to understand the context of historical events; I wanted to know what everyday life was like for people in these times; I wondered what it would have been like to be one of them. And as I explored these ideas, I began to see history not as a series of big events but rather as one continuous narrative of life on planet earth.

When I started working in the entertainment industry, one of my goals was to use film to bring history to life; to show how history itself has been epic, and dramatic, and romantic, and terrifying. That history itself can be really exciting if told well. As a producer I am making several projects that seek to accomplish this goal, but The Canary is my first attempt at writing and directing the story myself.

I think most people have a nostalgic sort of feeling about The California Gold Rush. For me this nostalgia comes partly from the classic imagery: gold-panners plucking nuggets from the Sacramento River, catapulting common men from poverty to wealth. But I'm also interested in the harsh realities of life on the frontier, and what happened to those early Californians that didn't strike it rich.

Through Orville's story I'm going to capture both the nostalgic and the realistic, to show a glossy ideal of the Gold Rush before stripping it down to a bleak reality. The Canary is also going to be exciting; it's going to entertain. There's romance and suspense, comedic moments and truly horrifying ones. The Canary is going to be a fun ride, and I promise the final product will be one you're not only glad you saw, but supported.

          So, Blow boys blow, for Californio

          There's plenty of gold so I've been told

          On the Banks of the Sacramento.

-Karl Herrmann (director/screenwriter)


Use the WishList to Pledge cash and Loan items - or - Make a pledge by selecting an Incentive directly.

Cash Pledge

Costs $0


Costs $1,975

Help us cast our hero, Orville, his wife, Emaline, and our wizened gold miner, Lemuel.


Costs $1,000

Help us get a badass line producer who will help us wrangle a terrific crew and hit our days!

First Assistant Director

Costs $500

A strong 1st A.D. is key to a smoothly run set. Help make our shoot a breeze.

First Camera Assistant

Costs $750

Help us build out our Cinematographer's team with a great 1st Assistant Camera.

Second Camera Assistant

Costs $625

Help us build out our Cinematographer's team with a great 2nd Assistant Camera.

Steadicam Operator

Costs $1,000

Help us get some awesome steadicam footage in Bodie.

HD - Arri Alexa

Costs $2,750

The Arri Alexa is THE camera we need to capture the low-lit tension of our mine. Help us get one!


Costs $1,250

Grips are the backbone of the crew. Help us hire a great team!

GRIP CART (TACO CART) KIT (Large): Tool Kit - everything

Costs $1,750

Accessories - Tripods / Heads

Costs $1,700

Sweeping shots over gold creek would be so much cooler with a crane. Help us rent one!


Costs $750

Lights need electricity, and someone to work them. Help us light our set up!

Wardrobe Stylist

Costs $500

Orville's hat, Emaline's dresses -- we need a stylist with a great eye to outfit our cast!

Makeup Kit

Costs $100

From an everyday look to a gruesome finish, help us buy the makeup we need!

Make Up Artist

Costs $600

Help us hire a makeup artist to make Orville and Emaline pop on screen!

Production Sound Mixer

Costs $600

Capturing the sound of the Gold Rush is just as vital as the look. Help us pick up all of it!

Mixers - Sound Devices 302 3 Channel Mixer

Costs $800

Capturing the sound of the Gold Rush is just as vital as the look. Help us pick up all of it!

Walkie Talkies

Costs $250

Copy. What's your 20? Help us stay in touch on set.


Costs $1,500

We need a great editor to help us weave Orville's tale together. Please help us get one!


Costs $1,000

Great movies have great music. Help us find a composer to make the Canary sing!


Costs $1,000

Help us make our blue skies pop, our gold glow yellow, and our cave a rich pitch black!

Festival Fees

Costs $700

Help us submit to festivals such as Sundance, Slamdance, SXSW and more!

Production Designer

Costs $625

Making our sets authentically 1850 is no small feat. Help us hire a production designer to do it!

Hard Drive

Costs $500

Help us store all our great footage and sound! Say it with me, two terabytes...

Production Insurance

Costs $2,200

"Better safe than sorry."

Craft Services Food

Costs $850

A well fed crew is a happy crew, and a happy crew makes a great movie!

Location fees

Costs $200

Helps us film in a real Gold Rush town, an authentic Homesteader cabin, actual gold creek and mine!


Costs $1,000

Prop Package

Costs $625

Help us buy Gold Rush props: pickaxes, gold pans and a real life Canary!

Wardrobe package

Costs $750

Hats, dresses, suspenders and boots -- Help us put an authentic wardrobe together for our cast.


Costs $1,050

A well fed crew, is a happy crew, and a happy crew makes a great movie!

Sound Designer

Costs $1,250

Great sound is crucial to making the world of THE CANARY come alive!

Putt - Putt Es6500 Watt Honda Geny

Costs $750

Lights need electricity, and among other things, a generator. Help us light our set up!


Costs $500

We need gas to get our awesome crew and cast to to set and back! Please help us fill their tanks!

Cube Truck

Costs $600

Since we don't have sherpas, we need a cube truck to carry our gear. Help us schlep it all easily.

About This Team

Karl Herrmann - Director / Screenwriter
Karl Herrmann is an independent filmmaker, screenwriter and producer. He is a founding partner in Pioneer Pictures, which produces content for both film and television, among which is the biopic, Titan, an exciting look at the life of John D. Rockefeller Sr., directed by Lasse Hallström, and written by Craig Borten. In addition to his work as a producer, Karl has written numerous screenplays for film and television. The Canary marks his first time as a director. Karl began his career at Sony Pictures working in production on such films as Click, starring Adam Sandler, and Spiderman-3, starring Tobey Maguire. He graduate with honors in Political Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a lifelong Ohio State Buckeye.

Noah Rosenthal - Cinematographer
As the son of a filmmaker, Los Angeles “native” Noah Rosenthal became fascinated with the art and craft of movies at a very young age. This early interest led him on an unconventional path to a career as a Cinematographer. Attending Middlebury College in Vermont, he took a double major in Film and Media Culture and American Literature (with a little Division III Football mixed in!), guided fly fishing trips on wild trout rivers of Wyoming, traveled the country taking photographs, studied acting at The Beverly Hills Playhouse before eventually receiving an MFA in Cinematography from The American Film Institute where he was the first second-generation graduate.

Noah prides himself on strong collaboration and the ability to work from the elements of a story to find the best look for a film. In finding and defining visual choices and structure, one can support a narrative visually in ways that help to elevate the story far beyond what is on the page. He has experience across the genres and looks forward to expanding it, fully expecting his passion for visual storytelling to be a life-long pursuit.

Noah's recent feature film work includes Cold Comes the Night, starring Bryan Cranston, Drones, starring Matt O'Leary, and Fat Kid Rules the World, starring Jacob Wysocki and directed by Matthew Lillard.

Bert Kern - Producer

Bert is a producer at Whitewater Films, an LA based indie film production company whose credits include the critically acclaimed feature “Mean Creek” as well as “Nearing Grace” and “Kabluey.”   Whitewater has also executive-produced are the 2013 Sundance  opening night film “May in the Summer” and dramatic competition selection “Afternoon Delight". Other Whitewater productions include "Fat Kid Rules the World" (SXSW Narrative Spotlight Audience Award 2012), “California Solo” (Sundance 2012), “Arcadia” (winner of the Crystal Bear at Berlin 2012) and “On the Ice” (Sundance 2011 and Berlin - Crystal Bear). Bert is an Associate Producer of “According to Greta” (2009), starring Hillary Duff and Ellen Burstyn, as well as “Fat Kid".  Bert is co-producing Whitewater Films’ anticipated feature "7 Minutes", recently released film "Drones" and is an executive producer on "King Jack" and "Band of Robbers". 

Ian Coyne - Producer
Ian Coyne has been making films since his teenage years. Working for highly reputable companies such as Echo Lake, Permut Presentations, Duly Noted, Fresh Produce Films, and Skybox Films, has given him extensive production and development experience. Most recently, Ian produced the first national TV spot for Tesla Motors and two highly acclaimed feature films. After nearly two decades of working in the industry he has established a reputation for being personable, professional, and innovative.

Robert Kravis - Producer
Prior to founding Pioneer Pictures with Karl Herrmann in 2013, Robert Kravis produced an adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary, which starred Johnny Depp, Aaron Eckhart and Amber Heard. He worked closely with Academy Award nominated, and BAFTA award winning writer/director, Bruce Robinson to adapt Mr. Thompson’s novel for the screen, and was instrumental in bringing Johnny Depp aboard to star, and in securing financing for the picture through GK Films.

In 2006, Robert produced Lucky Number Slevin, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. The film starred Josh Hartnett, Bruce Willis, and Academy Award winners, Morgan Freeman and Sir Ben Kingsley. Following the film’s release, Mr. Kravis collaborated with Lucky Number Slevin producer Tyler Mitchell, and writer Jason Smilovic on the NBC TV Series My Own Worst Enemy, which starred Christian Slater.

He began his career at the independent film production company, The Shooting Gallery, where he served as Co-President of Production. While at The Shooting Gallery Mr. Kravis produced such films as Sling Blade, for which Billy Bob Thornton won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay and was nominated for Best Actor. Mr. Kravis also developed and produced You Can Count On Me, for which Laura Linney received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, Kenneth Lonergan received an Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay, and for which actor Mark Ruffalo received critical acclaim.


Current Team