The Adventures of Penny Patterson

New York City, New York | Film Short

Comedy, Teen

Stephanie Donnelly

1 Campaigns | New York, United States

Green Light

This campaign raised $10,895 for production. Follow the filmmaker to receive future updates on this project.

158 supporters | followers

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The superhero’s love interest has consistently been a marginalized character in film. Usually, her story only revolves around the hero. We think that she deserves to finally have her own story told!

About The Project

  • The Story
  • Wishlist
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  • The Team
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Mission Statement

This film, which is written and directed by a woman, seeks to address diversity by focusing on a female character and critiquing misogynistic aspects of the superhero genre. Additionally, we would like to cast an actress of color for Penny since most superhero films only feature white characters.

The Story

The Adventures of Penny Patterson is my NYU graduate thesis short film. It is an 18-minute comedy about high school student Penny Patterson, who faces growing obstacles to winning the science fair after Steve Striker, her science partner and boyfriend, becomes a superhero overnight. Essentially, it is a superhero origin story from the point of view of the girlfriend to provide a feminist commentary on the superhero genre and deconstruct its conventions.


Growing up on Long Island, NY, I read hundreds of comic books and watched dozens of superhero films and TV shows. I realized that the superhero’s love interest was a consistently marginalized character. While there are notable exceptions like Peggy Carter and Selina Kyle in The Dark Knight Rises, the majority of love interests have mostly been used as supportive girlfriends or damsels in distress for the hero to save. Her life and story usually revolves around him. Thus, she typically exists to further the male character’s arc and hardly ever has arcs of her own. This reflects the larger issue of female underrepresentation in film. According to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, females comprised only 29% of protagonists and 32% of speaking characters in the top 100 films of 2016. As a filmmaker, I strive to change those statistics by telling more stories about strong, complex women. I think now more than ever, we need to see more empowered female characters in superhero movies.


For inspiration, I turned to young adult fiction, including Gwenda’s Bond’s Lois Lane novel series and Judith O’Brien’s Mary Jane books. Not only do these stories treat superhero love interests as fully developed main characters, but they also background the superhero’s story, making him a secondary character, which I have not really seen before in film. I believe the girlfriend’s story should be given more weight and importance because her experiences are just as valuable.


In addition, I wish to use this film to shed light on what I believe is unsettling behavior by male superheroes. Not only is he an undependable boyfriend because of his busy schedule, but he also is constantly “just trying to protect her,” which is a line that I have heard countless times throughout the years. He often uses that explanation to justify controlling behavior, such as lying, stalking, mass surveillance, and even violence. I think that inherently, this need to always “protect” his girlfriend is misogynistic because it assumes that women are incapable of protecting themselves. I want to create a movie where a woman not only protects herself but also critiques the hero for his overprotectiveness. I love characters like Lois Lane, Mary Jane Watson, and Felicity Smoak but believe they often deserve to be treated better. 


Tim Hanley, the author of Wonder Woman Unbound and Investigating Lois Lane, praised my script, stating, "By presenting a classic superhero origin story from the perspective of the male hero's beleaguered girlfriend, The Adventures of Penny Patterson exposes the genre's tired conventions and showcases a new brand of heroine."


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

3-Axis Gimbal Stabilizer

Costs $1,400

So our camera moves will be stable


Costs $1,000

Because every superhero film needs a cool fight scene


Costs $2,200

It's the most important part of the film

Remote Follow Focus

Costs $600

So the shots will be in focus

Production Design

Costs $2,000

So the world will feel real


Costs $800

Because every superhero needs a kickass costume


Costs $400

So we have a place to shoot the climax


Costs $1,000

So we can get our equipment to set

Catering & Craft Services

Costs $1,600

A well-fed crew is a happy crew

Cash Pledge

Costs $0

High School

Costs $1,000

So we have a place to shoot most of the movie

About This Team


Stephanie Donnelly grew up on Long Island, NY, where she read hundreds of comic books and watched all 218 episodes of Smallville. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Filmmaking from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. The Adventures of Penny Patterson would be her thesis film. Her previous short films have screened at the Palm Springs International ShortFest, the Cleveland International Film Festival, and the Woodstock Film Festival, among others. Her feature screenplay The Sound of Settling was a Graduate Screenplay Finalist at the Fusion Film Festival.



Ria Tobaccowala is an Indian-American filmmaker from Chicago. With a passion for storytelling and technology, she began her career at Google developing content for new media platforms. Ria produced the 2015 YouTube interview with President Obama and seven short films. She is currently in post-production for her film "Life After." She is concurrently pursuing an MFA in filmmaking from NYU Tisch School of the Arts and an MBA from the Stern School of Business.



Reiana Lorin is an activist and artist currently based in New Orleans, LA. Working primarily in the mediums of film and video, Reiana centers her work around marginalized communities that lack visibility, to portray narratives that are overlooked within mainstream media.  Reiana is currently working on her thesis film Paris Noir for her MFA studies at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. 



Christopher Campbell-Orrock is a New York City based theatre director, dramaturg, and administrator. He serves as an Artistic Associate with the theatre companies Upstart Creatures and West of 10th. He works as assistant and dramaturg to Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright/screenwriter Ayad Akhtar as well as assistant to literary agent Donna Bagdasarian at Publication Riot Group. Chris most recently worked on the world premiere of Junk: The Golden Age of Debt at La Jolla Playhouse and is currently helping Akhtar develop an original television series. His theatre directing credits include Lonely I'm Not (West of 10th), Matt and Ben (Creative Motion Players, NYC), Next to NormaltempODYSSEYAdding Machine (Vassar College), Sidney and Laura by Halley Feiffer, and the Giantess by Maria Vail (readings, Berkshire Theatre Festival).



Liam Donnelly is a gay comic book writer/artist from Long Island, NY. He was first inspired to create female-focused comics after discovering Gail Simone’s “Women in Refrigerators” website in seventh grade. While a student at Wesleyan University, he wrote comic book reviews for The Wesleyan Argus, making a point to highlight comics that were created by and/or starred women. In 2011, he received the Darrel R. Lund Award for his artwork and the Bruce L. Dennis Creative Writing Award. He received honors for his senior thesis at Wesleyan, a graphic novel about campus rape culture, in 2015.



Felipe Vara de Rey is an award-winning director and cinematographer. Born in Madrid, Spain, he is currently developing his career in New York City, where he moved in 2011 to pursue NYU’s Graduate Film program. Over the last ten years, Felipe has directed and shot many projects, including feature films, documentaries, narrative shorts, music videos, electoral campaign ads, and commercials. The first feature documentary he worked on as a cinematographer, Cooking Up a Tribute, premiered at Berinale 2015. Nosotros is his feature-length directorial debut. Felipe is a Fulbright Scholar, a recipient of the Steven J. Ross Fellowship, and he has been nominated for Arri’s “Volker Banhemann Award” for Excellence in Cinematography.



Kris Layng is a set and production designer based in New York. Kris recently art directed a film for Netflix and did concept art for a new Judd Apatow produced comedy, The Big Sick, which was a hit at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. In addition, he is the lead designer of a research project exploring Virtual Reality and live performance taking place at NYU. Kris holds a BFA from NYU Film School and an MFA from NYU/Tisch Design, where he was awarded a Tisch Fellowship.



Ceci Cholst hails from New York City, where she spent her childhood obsessively reading and rereading Wonder Woman and Sailor Moon comics. She was involved in the online feminist comics community throughout high school. She has worked in theatrical and film costume design, including New York Theatre Ballet's Nutcracker and the award-winning action short film Rambler. She graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology with a degree in fashion design in 2014 and is currently a full time fashion designer.

Current Team