Garden of the Gods

Birmingham, Alabama | Film Short

Drama, Horror

Katie Boyer

1 Campaigns | Alabama, United States

Green Light

This campaign raised $10,566 for post-production. Follow the filmmaker to receive future updates on this project.

116 supporters | followers

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Mike, a small-time drug dealer, is fed up with casually insensitive remarks from his sometime business partner Felix. Using the promise of a strain called “Garden of the Gods,” Mike lures Felix from a party to an empty home, where he meets his reckoning behind a steadily-growing cinder block wall.

About The Project

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

Mission Statement

The writer and executive producer is a woman, and the lead actor is a person of color playing a Latinx character. The film explores the wide variety of racial backgrounds and accents in the contemporary US Southeast, and the film’s subtext deals with microaggression and cultural appropriation.

The Story

Plot and Characters

          “Garden of the Gods” opens at a backyard party with a Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) theme. The party is full of lights and colorful costumes, but Mike stands alone, watching. In voiceover, he introduces his relationship with Felix. They have a mutually beneficial business partnership - as far as Felix knows. But Felix has insulted him once too often, and Mike has gone to great lengths to create the perfect conditions for his revenge. 

          Our film is a present-day retelling of “The Cask of Amontillado,” Edgar Allan Poe’s classic tale of psychological deception and revenge. If you were one of millions of students who read the story in high school or college, you already know how our story ends. But we’ve put that story into a 21st century context to see how well the dynamics between the characters hold up. As it turns out, deception and revenge have never gone out of style.

          This version of the story is set in our hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, and we’ve shifted the two main characters to be more like the people around us. 


Marley Gregory as Mike


Daniel Farias as Felix

          Mike, the main character, is quietly but fiercely proud of his Mexican heritage. He may sell pills to make money, but he’s not careless. In fact, he’s focused and determined. Intense and slightly morbid, bruised by the death of his mother and disappointment in his father, Mike knows that a carefully placed smile will hide his ill will. 

          Felix, his victim, is open-hearted and trusting. He comes from a family wealthy enough to keep him from wanting for anything, but he’s in the drug trade for the thrill. Felix spends his life surrounded by friends and takes far too long to realize that Mike wants to hurt him.  Felix may never even understand that his jokes about Mike’s heritage are insensitive. 


Inspiration and Themes

          So what are we saying? That microaggressions should be punishable by death? Of course not. Not really. But this film does step into a space where casual insults and cultural appropriation have serious consequences, especially for those who are not used to suffering those consequences. Felix embodies white privilege in a way, and he dramatizes the false assumption that charm is a sufficient replacement for respect. Mike’s role is to enact a dark desire for retribution.

          But even that explanation is too simple - because Mike isn’t thinking of his life in terms of symbols. He’s only aware of how deeply he’s been insulted and how profoundly he needs revenge. This, too, borrows from the characterization in Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” - it’s never quite clear why the main character needs to go to such great lengths, but SOMETHING obviously compels him.  

          We hope you’ll participate in finishing this film so you’ll be able to see it and to judge for yourself whether the themes described above are the ones that come across.



          Footage for principal photography was shot by Bill Schweikert, our DP, on a Red Dragon Camera, and the images are rich in depth and color. Bill and Kyle Sullivan, our director, were keen that the framing and lighting of the shots should help the audience visualize the power struggle between Mike and Felix. In every shot, Mike is lit in the cool, metallic light of cell phone screens and machinery, while Felix stays in the warm, organic light of fire, home, and friendship. Mike is kept on the right of frame, while Felix is kept on the left. The film’s final scene is a showdown on the levels of both character and image: Mike vs. Felix, cool light vs. warm light, right vs. left. These gorgeous images deserve a great edit, great music, and great sound design. We hope you’ll join us in whatever way you can to make that possible. 



          Funds for principal photography, which was completed in February 2020, came (mostly) from an opportunity provided by Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival. We’re lucky to have Sidewalk as our local festival and as a source of networking and educational events for Alabama filmmakers. Their annual 10K Party is one of their biggest fundraisers and best opportunities. They sell 150 tickets at $150 each, all for a chance to win $10,000. After a few years of crossed fingers and losing tickets, Kyle won the jackpot in 2019.  We’re thrilled that this absolute stroke of luck allowed us to put our dream into action.


          The filmmaking community in Birmingham may be small, but it’s mighty. We spent a great four days shooting overnight with a crew made up of industry veterans, lightly seasoned professionals, and newcomers. Among just the director of photography, assistant director, and gaffer, we had over 90 years of experience on set, and that really shows in the images. Other members of the crew were writers, directors, and producers of their own projects. Everyone worked hard to do whatever needed to be done, and the crew’s generosity and positive spirits helped us come in at our relatively tiny budget while still getting shots that rock. We hope to work with this crew again on many future projects. 


Community support

          One huge thing that made shooting so fun and successful was support from tons of different people in our community - some we already knew, and others we met because they were willing to help.

          Our first call for extras to be in the film’s opening scene was targeted at participants in Birmingham’s Day of the Dead festival, Dia de los Muertos Alabama. Not only did we get a lot of interest and people in gorgeous costumes and makeup they could provide themselves - but they also put us in touch with leaders of the event who helped us understand its history in Mexico and its growth in Birmingham.  

          When it came time to film the party scene, we shot - literally - in our own backyard. Kyle and Katie live in the Crestwood neighborhood of Birmingham and are fortunate to have a backyard that could accommodate 30 volunteer extras and 20 crew. We also had a volunteer face painter and shuttle van driver, and we managed to serve dinner from the house’s kitchen - even with the light turned off to prevent it catching in the camera. The night required a bit of a logistical feat, but thanks to the hard work and optimism of our great crew and volunteers, we got everyone in, kept them warm and fed and caffeinated, and captured beautiful footage.

          For other outdoor scenes, Birmingham real estate agent Donna Farmer helped us get set to shoot in front of a house she had listed, and she saved us a lot of time and discomfort by letting us use the house’s bathroom. 

          For the scenes in Mike’s family home, Lorie Schumann generously allowed us the use of her house - and her son, a theater major, served as location manager. The kitchen and basement starred in front of the camera, and the living room and bedroom were dressing areas and green room. The crew had meals in her carport and caught snatches of the 2020 Academy Awards in the den. And, somehow, we kept the carpet clean and were all still friends at the end.  

The wall

          As it turns out, real cinder blocks are cheaper than prop cinder blocks. They also photograph a lot better. We discovered these things in pre-production as we were making plans to fake construction of the wall Mike builds to trap Felix. Fortunately, we and our film were rescued by a friend of Kyle’s - professional mason Stephen Taylor - who built us a REAL cinder block wall. He was kind enough to let us film some of his work, and patient enough to let us slow him down to get additional shots. He and his assistants from Taylor Hardscapes really allowed us to make the last section of the film disturbingly realistic.   



Coming next
          The production team has had an amazing and exciting experience so far, and we're proud of the work that's already been done.

          Our next steps include having a professional editor do the final cut of the film and color grade the footage. And we've already got an editor on board: Eddy Fernandez, whose former clients include Warner Brothers and Disney. We're also set to have Birmingham-based composer Brooke Mitchell write a musical score as brooding and captivating as this story, and sound designer David Zagardo is standing by to provide compelling post production sound. Once the final version is finished, we hope to show at as many film festivals as possible. We're living through crazy times right now, and we're grateful for the chance to support these artists.

          If we raise more than our target, we'll submit and travel to more festivals to better show off the great work of our cast and crew and to make connections that could lead to future projects. We've got a couple of narrative features already waiting in the wings.


...and YOU!

          We can't wait to see the final version of this passion project, and we hope you'll become part of this ever-growing community! Donate if you can, enjoy some of the fun incentives for supporters - or just get in touch to tell us what you think or follow our other projects in the world.  

DID YOU KNOW that you can help us just by following our campaign? The more people we have in our community, the closer we get to Seed & Spark's great filmmaker rewards! 



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

Editing and Color Grading

Costs $3,500

We've captured beautiful images but need a professional to edit the footage to maximum effect.

Soundtrack composition

Costs $2,000

A good story needs good musical accompaniment to support the characters and build tension.

Sound design

Costs $2,000

Good sound design is 60% of a moving picture. If you can hear it, you can believe it.

Crew Salary - Retroactive

Costs $850

Members of our excellent crew donated their time, and we'd like to thank them for it.

Festival Submission Fees

Costs $1,000

We can't wait to share the finished film with the world and want to start at film festivals.

Film festival travel

Costs $2,000

We want to meet our audience in person and plan to travel to festivals where the film is accepted.

Licensing for song in film

Costs $500

A local band let us rock out to their song on set - and we'd like to license it for the final cut.

Domain Hosting

Costs $150

So we can share updates, photos, and clips on a dedicated website.

Cash Pledge

Costs $0

About This Team

We're a team based in the US Southeast and dedicated to films and television showing life in our region. We're also committed to increasing opportunities for local filmmakers and to promoting inclusion in cast and crew. In the wild days of the coronavirus pandemic, we're grateful for the opportunity to support these artists.


Kyle Sullivan, Director and Co-Writer

Kyle is a filmmaker hailing from Birmingham, Al. He has worked in multiple production departments, as an assistant director, as a transportation captain, and, most especially, as a camera operator. Kyle has been involved in narrative and documentary work of various stripes as well as a boatload of online video. His film credits include The Death of Dick Long, Survivor Girls, and Altschmertz. He describes himself as an "armchair anthropologist" and is really into Afro-Peruvian music.

Kyle and his wife Katie Boyer own Screen Door Pictures, a small video production services company that has done work for local nonprofits and provided support for narrative projects. They also produce the popular Trekspertise channel on YouTube, which explores all things science fiction through the lens of Star Trek. 


Katie Boyer, Writer and Executive Producer

Katie has been through several incarnations as a writer. Small town journalist and college newspaper editor. Newsletter writer from foreign shores. Graduate student in comparative literature, teacher of composition and lit survey classes. Most recently a writer of short stories and screenplays. Her story credits include "Bartleby the Scavenger" in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and, along with her husband Kyle Sullivan, she writes and edits for Trekspertise.  


Jehoshua Peters, Producer

Josh Peters is a filmmaker from Birmingham, Alabama, who has had the pleasure of working in the film industry since 2015. Josh has worked as a 1st AD, UPM, Director and Producer, and he enjoys the puzzle-building and problem-solving aspect of filmmaking, He describes his work as emphasizing community and enjoying himself.


Eddy Fernandez, Editor and Colorist

A writer, producer, and editor for fifteen years, Eddy started out simply as a lover of television and film, passionate in the pursuit of his dream. He's had the privilege of writing, producing, and editing on major projects for the most well-known and respected entertainment companies of all time. His clients have included Warner Brothers, TNT, Disney, Focus Features, Paramount, Sony, and many others. Eddy is currently based in Atlanta, Ga. Find Eddy online.


Brooke Mitchell, Composer

Brooke is a singer, songwriter, and producer from Birmingham, Al. Her love for music started as a teenager, listening to Nine Inch Nails, and she still enjoys all types of music, from classical to pop to electronic. In addition to collaborating with new artists, she has produced music for film and television. Her work has been featured on MTV's The Challenge; Oxygen's Fix My Mom; and E's Total Divas, among many others. She has also won awards for composition. Find Brooke online.


David Zagardo, Sound Design

David earned his degree in Physics from The University of Alabama. Specializing in post production sound, he works out of his studio in Birmingham, recording and producing audio for films, games, musicians, podcasts, and more. Various projects and clients include audio on four successfully funded Kickstarter campaigns for “Bellwether Games,” post production audio work for Red Clay Media, as well as score and sound design for Outjogging Pictures’ 2018 short film “Parked,” nominated for Best Sound Design at the 2019 Indie Short Fest held by Los Angeles International Film Fest.  

Current Team