New York City, New York | Film Short

Drama, Mystery

Michael Schwartz

1 Campaigns | New York, United States

Green Light

This campaign raised $31,400 for production. Follow the filmmaker to receive future updates on this project.

170 supporters | followers

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Montana is an unraveling, psychological drama about hope, redemption, and the different ways in which we process grief. A percentage of the funds raised by this campaign will be personally matched by the filmmakers and donated to our partner, The American Foundation For Suicide Prevention.

About The Project

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

Mission Statement

Our inclusive team represents a diverse spectrum of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and ability. Three of our producers are women of color. The filmmakers wish to use the film as a catalyst for dialogue about suicide prevention and battling the stigma around mental illness.

The Story


I grew up around therapists. Not only in their offices, but in my own home as the son of psychologist, speaker, and New York Times best-selling author Madeline Levine, who has written a number of books about parents and troubled children.


I certainly had my own troubles as a kid. Depression and anxiety were an everyday battle. When I was 10-years-old, I was also diagnosed with a rare form of ocular migraines called hallucinosis that resulted in panic attacks, dizzying headaches, and both auditory and visual hallucinations.

Hallucinosis was a very rare disorder, one many doctors had difficulty understanding. I remember as a kid, my parents would joke about sending me off to a therapeutic boarding school. As I grew older, I became increasingly fascinated by the varied stories I would hear coming out of  these schools – stories of abuse, corruption, and cult-like practices in the “tough love programs” of the 1950’s - 1990’s,  but also stories of recovery and redemption in a number of successful present-day programs. Over the last few years, I’ve interviewed alumni, faculty, and founders from various programs in order to create the fictitious world of Lucas Academy.

With this short film, I want to examine, in a nuanced and original way, the aftermath of teen suicide from the parents’ perspective, exploring the conflicting feelings and actions of unimaginable personal tragedy.


Teen suicide is a national epidemic. The suicide rate among teenage girls reached a 40-year high in 2015, according to new analysis from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. From 2007 to 2015 alone, suicide rates doubled among teenage girls and by more than 30 percent among teenage boys.


Suicide is also the second leading cause of death for young people from ages 10-24. More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, COMBINED. Each day in our nation, there are an average of over 3,470 attempts by young people grades 9-12. And four out of five teens who attempt suicide give clear warning signs ahead of time (2015 CDC WISQARS).


It’s worth noting that for every completed suicide, there are close to 100 more attempts by others. And while much attention has been paid to those who have died by suicide, there’s been little focus in the media or in film on the aftermath felt by families and friends, or on the people who are working every day to try and end this epidemic.

With Montana, I want to tell a story about dark and complex inner landscapes set against the backdrop of wide-open and beautiful ones. A story about blood families and constructed families. A story about the intentional and unintentional ways in which parents shape their children. A story about the masks we wear in times of loss and transition.


It is my hope that this short film can spark the telling of a larger story, either in episodic or feature-length format. (The short is based on my original, hour-long television pilot of the same name, which was a Finalist in the Sundance Film Festival's 2016 Episodic Story Lab.)  I want to continue diving deeper into the lives and backstories of these diverse, complex characters, and examine larger, contemporary American issues such as the insufficient one-size-fits-all approach to our education system, and the failing of our mental health care system.


In May 2017, the GOP declared mental illness a “pre-existing condition.”

Now more than ever, we must talk openly about our fractured mental health care system, and share honest, empathetic stories in the process.


We’ve recently completed principal photography on the film, and are currently in post-production. We will begin submitting the film to festivals around the world starting in December, 2017.


The funds raised by this campaign will cover the costs of the short film’s production and post-production, including cast and crew fees, camera equipment, locations, wardrobe, props and set dressing, transportation, and production meals. (Check out the WishList tab for additional information.)


We MUST meet 80% ($24,000) of our goal by November 21, or else we don't receive any funds.


If we raise $24,000 (80% of our goal and the GREEN LIGHT to receive funds), we'll cover the costs of the film's production.

If we raise $27,000 (90% of our goal), we'll cover the costs of the film's post-production and many of the film festival's submission fees.

If we raise $30,000 (100% of our goal), we'll be able to pay our producers and director of photography, AND personally present the film at top festivals.


Additionally, 5% of the funds raised by this campaign will be personally matched by the filmmakers and donated to The American Foundation For Suicide Prevention.


When you contribute to our campaign, you are supporting a film that:


Our diverse, inclusive cast and crew represents a wide spectrum of races, religions, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, and abilities. Our team includes a transgender filmmaker, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, 40% of our crew identifies as female, and three of our producers are women of color. 


Through live events and social media, and in collaboration with The American Foundation For Suicide Prevention, we aim to use this film as a catalyst for dialogue, support, and education around mental health and suicide prevention.



Follw us on Facebook and Instagram for updates and opportunities to stay engaged. And be sure to FOLLOW us here on Seed & Spark (at the top right of this page) to help us unlock Filmmaker Rewards!


Tell your friends and family, share our campaign and social media posts, and be sure to use the hashtag #MontanaMovie.







 (Photography By Dominic Colacchio)


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


Costs $1,000

Without actors, we'd just be shooting trees. Pretty trees, sure. But come on, trees can't act.


Costs $10,000

Each of our 25 crew member's unique gifts help bring the world of Montana to life.

Field Equipment

Costs $3,000

It took a lot of equipment to make Montana, including an Alexa Classic, a Steadicam, and a drone.

Set Operations

Costs $3,000

Includes meals, craft services, and locations.

Travel + Lodging

Costs $4,000

Montana was shot 4.5 hours North of NYC. We transported and accommodated 22 people during the shoot.

Post Production

Costs $4,000

This is when the film comes together, with editing, sound mixing, color correction, and score.

Crowdfunding, Festival Submissions + Marketing

Costs $5,000

Last but not least, we need help getting the film out there to audiences around the world!

Cash Pledge

Costs $0

About This Team


Social impact plays a vital role in the projects developed by myself and by Boat Ashore Productions. Montana is a story that deals in part with mental health and suicide, and is based on extensive interviews, research, and personal stories. It was important to me to build a team that shares a core value: storytelling can be used as a catalyst for empathy building and for change.


Our diverse, inclusive cast and crew represents a wide spectrum of races, religions, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, and abilities. Our team includes a transgender filmmaker, veteran of the U.S. Air Force, 40% of our crew identifies as female, and three of our producers are women of color. 



Michael Schwartz - Writer, Director, Producer

Michael Schwartz is an award-winning writer, director and producer working across film, television, theatre, digital media, and large-scale events. He is an alumni of the USC Schools of Theatre & Cinema/Television in Los Angeles, and the British American Drama Academy in London. Current TV projects include Montana (Finalist, Sundance's Episodic Story Lab 2016) Pac Heights (Semi-Finalist, Series Fest 2016), Spice It Up! (Formerly In Development With Eko/Warner Music Group), and The Fools Errand (Barn Arts Residency 2017). Directing credits include numerous music videos, comedy videos, and documentary shorts, and theatre productions around the country and abroad, including productions at Yale University in New Haven, CT, American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, and at The Old Vic Theatre in London (Artistic Director, Kevin Spacey). He has also directed live theatrical events in non-traditional venues including The American Museum of Natural History, Carnegie Hall, The Plaza Hotel, The Rainbow Room, and the 4,000 seat Cushing Memorial Amphitheatre atop Mt. Tamalpais in California. He was the assistant musical stager on the 2008 Broadway revival of the Pulitzer Prize winning Sunday In The Park With George, and has assistant directed large-scale theatrical productions for TV and film, including Restoring Love at the Dallas Cowboys Stadium, and Company, starring Neil Patrick Harris, Stephen Colbert, and Patti LuPone, at the NY Philharmonic. Michael also has an extensive background in the social impact space. In 2013, he helped launch All Star Code, a national non-profit that bridges opportunity gaps for young men of color. He is a California Arts Scholar, a member of SDC, Lincoln Center Director's Lab, and Old Vic New Voices, a lifelong vegetarian, and a cultural carnivore.



Jennifer Mudge - "Dr. Maddie Taylor"

Jennifer Mudge most recently appeared onstage in the world premiere of Alena Smith's Icebergs at the Geffen, and filmed a role in Mark Pellington's indie feature Nostalgia, starring Ellen Burstyn and Jon Hamm. Last year she starred opposite Matthew Perry in his West End hit The End of Longing and filmed a role in A+ for Stacey Cochran. Her most recent NY stage credits include the Witch in the acclaimed revival of Into the Woods for Fiasco at the Roundabout (nominee, Best Leading Actress in a Musical - Lucille Lortel Awards), Of Good Stock at MTC, Rocky on Broadway, and in Neil LaBute's Happy Hour as part of LaMama's aDa Festival. She played opposite Matthew Broderick in the Roundabout’s Broadway production of The Philanthropist, and was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for the first NY revival of Dutchman, at the Cherry Lane. She also played Maggie at the Geffen Playhouse in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, with John Goodman.

Other New York theater includes The Big Meal (Playwright’s Horizons), directed by Sam Gold, Don’t Go Gentle (MCC), OOH-RAH by Bekah Brunstetter (Atlantic), Fault Lines (Naked Angels), directed by David Schwimmer, Geometry of Fire and Craig Wright’s The Pavilion (Rattlestick Theater), the world premiere of Terrence McNally’s The Stendhal Syndrome (Primary Stages), Reckless (Broadway), and Only the End of the World (Company Charniere).  She has worked regionally at Arena Stage, Bay Street, NY Stage & Film, AL Shakespeare, CATF, Sundance, Perry-Mansfield, Westport Playhouse, Williamstown, and many shows at Trinity Rep Company, where she received her MFA. Film and TV appearances include Hal Hartley’s indie feature My America, recurring roles on "Shades of Blue" (NBC) and season one of “BOSS” opposite Kelsey Grammer (Starz), Dead Man Down, You Don’t Know Jack (HBO), and Mary Harron’s short film, Sonnet for a Towncar, opposite Josh Charles, as well as Stephen Belber’s Drifting Elegant, Lefty Loosey (Northside Festival winner), “The Big C”, “The Good Wife”, “Mercy”, “Life is Wild”, “Canterbury’s Law”, “Law & Order” and “L&O: Criminal Intent”. Upcoming appearances include NBC’s “Gone” and the independent feature Twelve. She was a 2007 recipient of the Marian Seldes-Garson Kanin Fellowship from the Theater Hall of Fame.


Chris Henry Coffey - "Dr. Dan Taylor"

Chris Henry Coffey has originated roles on Broadway, off-Broadway and regionally in numerous world-premieres including Eric Simonson’s Bronx Bombers at Circle in the Square, the Pulitzer prize-winning Water by the Spoonful at Second Stage, Gina Gionfriddo's Can You Forgive Her? at the Huntington Theater Company, Richard Nelson’s Frank's Home, directed by Robert Falls (Playwrights Horizons, NYC, Goodman Theater, Chicago), Richard Nelson's How Shakespeare Won the West (Huntington) and working alongside Arthur Miller in his penultimate play, Resurrection Blues at the Old Globe Theater, San Diego, among many others. Coffey has appeared in the films Trust, The International and Thirteen Days, and has starred in many indies including Impossible Monsters (2018), Walking on the Sky, June, and Play it by Ear. Coffey also starred in the short films BFF, written and directed by Neil LaBute and Epilogue, both premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival recently. Television appearances include guest-starring and recurring roles on all three versions of the Law & Order franchise, Instinct (upcoming), The Good Wife, Cupid and Billy & Billie (Neil Labute’s new series on DirecTV) among others.  He is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama. 


Joe Cross - "Ed"
Joe Cross, of the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma, is best know for his traditional storytelling with Leafarrow Theatre, having performed since 1990. In film, his role as a Homeless Vet in Smithsonian (NMAI) signature piece, "A Thousand Roads", directed by the Cheyenne Chris Eyre. For theatre, his direction and production of Smithsonian (NMAI), "Harvest Ceremony: Beyond the Thanksgiving Myth", which ran in New York's NMAI for five years. Theatre credits include Macbeth (AMERINDA), Powwow Highway (Yellowrobe), The History of Asking the Wrong Question (North Fourth St Theatre), White Woman Street (Daelaus), Inktomi (Public), Harvest Ceremony (director, Smithsonian), Earth, Sun & Moon (Lincoln Center), and Broadway Melody 1492 (Ohio Theater). TV credits include One Life to Live, SNL, CBS Sunday Morning, The Jury, David Letterman, Spin City, Chris Rock, The Whitest Kids I Know, LA Law, ESPN, History Channel. Film credits include Lucky Dog, Affluenza, Aimless, Creating Karma, The Storyteller, Natives (NYU), Smoke Break (NYU), BuzzKill, The War That Made America, The Story of the Pequot War, Royal Tanenbaum, Kinsey, and A Thousand Roads (signature piece for NMAI, Smithsonian). Awards: Silvercloud Outstanding Service, Metro Caddo Cultural Club, SAG Cultural Award, Fort Monmouth Heritage Award, Bergen County Community College Historic Award, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (Wiping Away the Tears-WTC) a four year blessing at ground zero.


Nilou Safinya - Producer

Nilou graduated from Columbia University and has been working as a producer in NYC for over a decade. Nilou’s many theatre credits include work with Juilliard and the award-winning, Off-Broadway Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. She has also served as the President of the Board of Directors for Noor Theatre for the past six years. Nilou’s film career began at Levantine Entertainment (Associate Producer for AMREEKA, 2009) where she served as VP of TV and film development and production for 3 years. Independently, she focuses her attention on work that highlights global and culturally diverse issues, helping to bring people together through the arts. Nilou currently has a feature film, JULIA BLUE (2016), an IFP fellowship film and Gotham Award winner, in post-production and two others in development.


Josefina Laban - Producer

Josefina is a Producer and Production Designer based in New York City. Born in USA, raised in Chile, with direct ancestors from Palestine, Syria and Brazil. Josefina has been influenced not only by the knowledge and pride that she belongs to more than one place, but also to the love and desire to express this multicultural background in every work she does. Since she moved to New York, Josefina has designed an ongoing number of feature and short films, photography campaigns, commercials, and produced fashion editorials for Harpers Bazaar Chile. Montana is her first Film Producer’s credit.



John Schmidt - Director Of Photography

Award-winning Cinematographer working on commercials, features and music videos for brands like Google, Versace, Bayer, and Complex and bands like Coldplay. His projects have received numerous Best Cinematography awards at festivals, Cannes Lions, finalist at Camerimage, and MTV music video awards. He is based in NYC and works internationally.





Michael Kramer - Composer

Michael Kramer is an Emmy nominated composer and multi-instrumentalist for film, television, and video games.  A graduate of USC’s prestigious film scoring program, he currently scores the hit Disney XD TV series LEGO STAR WARS: The Freemaker Adventures, for which he received a 2017 Emmy Award nomination. Combining a spirit of inventiveness with meticulous attention to detail, he uses his expansive collection of instruments and cutting edge technology to craft a score uniquely fitting of each project. A passion for the process of filmmaking lies at the core of his work, and Michael relishes the challenge of guiding a project from the script to the final mix.

Current Team