The Duchess of Grant Park

Atlanta, Georgia | Film Short

Comedy, LGBTQ

Ava Davis

1 Campaigns | Georgia, United States

Green Light

This campaign raised $5,215 for production. Follow the filmmaker to receive future updates on this project.

38 supporters | followers

Enter the amount you would like to pledge


This is a passion project and is as much a love letter to the people of Grant Park who have supported me while I've transitioned. But more than being a passion project, this is a delightful comedic tale of a woman who declares a neighborhood as her personal duchy, while also touching and emotional.

In Partnership With

About The Project

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

Mission Statement

Our project, and everyone onboard, is in support and practices the act of inclusion. The lead actress is a transitioning woman. The director is a gay male. The cinematographer, editor, and sound recordist are all female, and half of the cast are people of color. We will be as inclusive as we can.

The Story


The Duchess has declared Grant Park as her duchy and is an up and coming Atlanta local celebrity. James, a new media journalist, has decided to make a short documentary about the Duchess, in the vein of Buzzfeed/Vice, though he's heard relatively little about her and quickly finds that she isn't forthcoming with details about herself. 

At first, he refuses to acknowledge that she is a Duchess, and finds a like-minded soul in a rally onlooker. Meanwhile, the Duchess finds an unlikely ally and convert in a rally onlooker, and the Duchess takes off across town with her recent convert. 

James begins to piece together the person behind the Duchess persona; to learn more about the Duchess, her history and what influences her "style" and her actions. When James stumbles upon the Duchess performing a knighting ceremony for children in the park, the Duchess feels exposed. 

She stops by his house to set the record straight. James, impressed by what he’s learned about the Duchess, realizes how he has disrespected the Duchess. In turn, he gains an exclusive interview with the Duchess.




It’s my story. This is loosely based on my life. Not necessarily the adoption or the over-the-top antics of the Duchess, but some of the finer details. I bought my first crown for myself in 2016 as a promise to myself to be kinder to myself. And it’s worked; along with therapy.


Part of the message that the Duchess covertly spreads is a message of self-care and of being kind to one another and to oneself. Crowns and tiaras have become my totem to remind me to practice self-care. And, in the same vein as the Duchess, I also like to give my friends, and others, crowns to hopefully encourage them to practice self-care as well. 

As for the Duchess and her spouse, Andrew is very much based on my current partner and soon to be spouse, Eddie. From the moment I told him I wanted to transition he told me that it wouldn’t change how he felt about me much because he already honored and respected the feminine part of me. He’s always seen and acknowledged that part of me, and felt it was the natural progression. He has many times over made me feel like a Duchess. And the people of Grant Park have been just as incredible as I’ve transitioned. I feel beyond safe to express myself here and am treated accordingly.

And not only all of the above, but I’ve just had a lifelong love affair with crowns, British and French monarchy (two of my favorite movies are The Duchess and Marie Antoinette). I figure my first major short film should somehow reflect my lifelong love affair.



This story came to me after I’d finally begun the work of transitioning -slowly- in my personal life. I expressed my own anxieties to my therapist about pronouns and being accepted as a woman. And I’ve always been slightly obsessed with French and English monarchies.


A wonderful group that I work with, Critical Crop Top, invited me to write a micro-short (1-2 pages) to produce, and I wrote about an eccentric character who declared Grant Park as her duchy. 

When the micro-short project fell through, I still wanted to work with my director, Brandon, and to also expand this story so that she wasn’t a caricature. At the time, I was also getting frustrated with the lack of auditioning options and representations for people I identified with (black gay male, transitioning black female, trans black female). This project feels like a way of increasing representation while also making my own opportunities happen. And hopefully opportunities for others. 






I think the tide has shifted in telling queer narratives. What seemed to begin with Laverne Cox’s groundbreaking work on Orange Is the New Black, led in turn to black trans women in leading roles, whether on Star or Pose.

This story is also one I feel that is unique to Atlanta, as it is as much a love story to Grant Park as it is about the acceptance of trans-folks. Yet it is hopefully a story that many can identify with. At her core, the Duchess is grateful for her community and she wants to give back in some way, however misguided she may be at times. And I too feel the same. I’m grateful for the safe space that Grant Park has afforded me in being able to go throughout the neighborhood and feel safe.





Our Cast


Jon Vertullo as James.

James is a journalist for a new media company who has been assigned to write a piece on the up-and-coming local Atlanta persona the Duchess of Grant Park. He’s quite skeptical about the Duchess and her proclamation of the Grant Park neighborhood as her duchy and struggles to understand the motives behind her actions.

Jon Vertullo is an Atlanta-based film, television and voiceover talent.

Jon Vertullo is an Atlanta-based film, television and voice-over talent.  He has received training at Howard Fine Acting and Voice Studio in Los Angeles, The Robert Mello Studio, The Basement Theatre and Atlanta Voiceover Studio.


Jasmine Waters as Roberta

Roberta appears at a speech that the Duchess gives, and is skeptical about the Duchess being a duchess. She finds a like-mind in James, who is working on a documentary about the Duchess but also skeptical about her dubious claims.


Jasmine Waters is an actor, comic, and writer in Atlanta. Jasmine likes evaluating serious topics through comedy, performing sketch, and acting on stage and in film.


Hillary R. Heath as Beatrice / The Countess of Cabbagetown

Beatrice attends the Duchess’s speech in the park with Roberta. While Roberta is less than enthused, Beatrice becomes a quick convert, and the Duchess quickly grants her a title.


Hillary R. Heath is an Atlanta-based writer, director, comedian, and performer. She is proud to have called Atlanta her home for her entire life. Hillary attended Oglethorpe University where she worked and studied with The Georgia Shakespeare Festival and graduated with a degree in Theatre.


Nicole Kemper as Lisa.

Lisa is an enthusiastic fan of the Duchess, and when her husband James mentions he's been assigned to work on a documentary about her, Lisa is more than enthused!

Nicole studied acting at Emory University where she received her BA in Theatre Studies. She has continued to act locally in the Atlanta film and theater community as well as work behind the camera after receiving her MFA in Directing for Film and Video from Columbia College Chicago.


Laura Meyers as Carol the neighbor.

Carol lives next door to the Duchess. James meets Carol while searching for more information about who the Duchess is, and Carol provides some missing information to fill in James' story.

When not collaborating with local theatres and independent filmmakers, you’ll find Laura “professoring” in the M.A. in Creative & Innovative Education graduate program at Georgia State University. She works as an artist scholar who utilizes storytelling to prompt conversations about social issues with not only educators but also the broader community.  


Melissa Kunnap as Naomi the jogger.

Naomi is an acolyte of the Duchess, and when James runs into her in the park she is more than knowledgeable about who the Duchess is and what she’s doing with the group she’s with!


Melissa Kunnap is an Atlanta based actor, writer, and director. You can catch her in The Evil Inside Her currently streaming on Amazon Video. 




Brian Ashton Smith as Duane the jogger.

Duane and Naomi are approached by James, and while Naomi knows all about who the Duchess is, Duane quickly finds out and turns into a fan.


Brian grew up in the very small town of Wharton, New Jersey. His interest in acting was sparked in middle school doing school plays. In high school he was very involved in athletics. He broke school records and led his track team as captain, while starring in school plays and playing for the school band.






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

Cash Pledge

Costs $0


Costs $1,000

We would love to be able to ensure that our cast and crew were able to eat while working!

Paying Our Crew

Costs $4,800

Top Priority! We cannot make this film without their technical knowhow!

Permit/Insurance for Park

Costs $700

Permit to film in Grant Park, and insurance to cover the production including Grant Park scenes

About This Team

Everyone who has signed on has been incredibly passionate about The Duchess of Grant Park. Most of the team involved on this project have been involved since the creation of the story. Nicole, Hillary and Sarah founded Critical Crop Top, where we would get together to write and perform sketches. This project started in one of the writer rooms for Critical Crop Top, when they were looking for microshorts.

Eventually, Brandon and I expanded the script, developed the characters more and gave the story additional depth. And this crew has stuck with us.


We are all equally excited about this project, and many of us are pulling double duties behind the scenes:

  • Brandon is both producer and director.
  • Patrick is producing and acting in the film, as well as having written it.
  • Nicole is acting, editing and serving as a general consultant for any filmmaking questions Brandon and Patrick have.
  • Sarah Hodges is our assistant director, and comes fresh off of having recently directed The Parts That Stay.
  • Kat Brennan comes with the knowledge of shooting in both reality TV and film, and is a tremendous asset for the blended tone of documentary and cinematic style that Brandon is aiming for.
  • Laura Meyers is acting as well as helping in any way she can behind the camera, including volunteering as “child wrangler” for our big day at Grant Park .
  • Hillary Heath is acting as well as serving as a general consultant.
  • Jon Vertullo is acting and serving as general consultant, coming on with a strong background in technical knowledge about camera and grip.
  • And Jasmine Waters is acting in the film as well as helping out behind the camera.

Rounding out more of our crew is Rina Manual on hair, Brittany Myers on Sound, and Miriam Mayer as our composer.


Current Team