Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania | Film Short


Gabrielle Pfeiffer

1 Campaigns | New York, United States

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This campaign raised $12,206 for production. Follow the filmmaker to receive future updates on this project.

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STIFF is a short dramatic film based on a true story and adapted from an essay by Ryszard Kapuscinski. Director, Gabrielle Pfeiffer, made a documentary on Kapuscinski and they remained friends until his death in 2007. This fiction film compliments her documentary and is a tribute to her old friend.

About The Project

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


STIFF – a short film by Gabrielle Pfeiffer

adapted for the screen from an essay by Ryszard Kapuscinski



Rural America, a hot summer day, 1970. A young factory worker is killed in an accident and six men must bring his body home to his family. When only five men agree to go, a seasoned journalist who is there to cover the story, joins the young workers on their sad journey. Along the way, the truck breaks down in an isolated forest. The men decide to carry the coffin for the last stretch and get lost while taking a shortcut. As the forest grows darker, the exhausted men become disoriented and are weighed down by fear and despair. The quiet journalist is forced out of his observer role and keeps the young men focused on pulling together to find a way out. A terrifying encounter turns to welcome relief that gives the men the strength and will to complete their journey. 


Some background about me

I am a filmmaker, originally from New York, now based in Berlin. I have been writing screenplays and making documentaries for 25 years for all the major broadcasters: ARD, Arte, BBC, Canal+, Channel 4, Discovery, National Geographic, PBS, ZDF, etc. And that’s how I met the late, great Polish war correspondent, Ryszard Kapuscinski.


I won a full National Endowment for the Humanities grant to make a documentary on Kapuscinski. A POET ON THE FRONTLINE: THE REPORTAGE OF RYSZARD KAPUSCINSKI has been broadcast and screened at film festivals around the world. We shot the film in five countries on three continents, and Ryszard and I remained friends until his death in 2007.


It’s not often that a filmmaker gets a lesson in filmmaking from the subject of a documentary. But that is exactly what happened.


When people ask me who my greatest influence is as a filmmaker, I say Kapuscinski. He is a writer but he taught me to see and to listen. He covered politics but taught me to walk away from the obvious drama and pursue the truth of smaller, deeper stories. I learned the value of an interview with a teacher, taxi driver or shopkeeper, over a power broker. Kapuscinski taught me to strive for humility, to be on a perpetual quest for irony, humor, and humanity in the most brutal corners of an uncaring world.


Most of all, he taught me storytelling - he is the master.


There are many brilliant filmmakers who definitely influence me and my work, but no one as much as Kapuscinski.




I want to make a short dramatic film as part of my effort to transition from directing documentaries to fiction feature films. And when searching for a story, of course, I turned to Kapuscinski.


I read STIFF many years ago and it has always stayed with me. It’s based on a true story, an accident in a coal mine in Poland that Kapuscinski wrote about in the 1970s. But it’s so timeless and essentially human, that it was effortless to adapt it to a factory in the USA.


This story touches me in so many ways. It is rich with drama and the incredible range of human experiences that we must all face in the course of our years: life and death, youth and aging, duty and honor, hope and despair, sacrifice and survival, the tremor of terror and the thrill of young love, and the lifelong quest to grasp the sense of it all.


STIFF takes us a great distance on a short journey, to discover a reaffirmation of life and joy in the most unlikely of places: a funeral procession. 



We need your help


So many people have already donated money, time and talent to this project.


An award-winning crew is working for free on our 5-day shoot:


Cinematographer, Producer, Production Manager, 1st Assistant Director, Steadicam Operator, Sound Mixer, Art Director, Casting Director, “Making of” Filmmaker…


All the actors are working for free.


All locations are offered for free.


Some of the equipment is donated as well.


Housing for out-of-town cast and crew is being arranged at greatly reduced prices.


These gifts have been offered out of sheer generosity and a passion for the project, and are valued at tens of thousands of dollars.


But we do need cash to get everyone to the locations, feed them, rent equipment and vehicles, buy wardrobe, story rights, permits and insurance.


Please consider supporting me and my wonderful cast and crew as we head on this amazing journey with six men and a coffin through a mystical forest.


Thank you.


Gabrielle Pfeiffer


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

Cash Pledge

Costs $0

HD - RED Epic

Costs $1,500

We wouldn't want anything but the best camera to capture our beautiful cast and spectacular location of Bryn Athyn, PA.

Craft Services Food

Costs $1,000

Almost everyone on the STIFF team is volunteering their time. Keeping them well fed for the shoot is the least we can do!

Hair, Makeup, Wardrobe

Costs $500

Were bringing it back to the 1970's and were gonna need to look the part!

Publicity and Festival Submissions

Costs $500

Making the movie is only step 1. The next challenge is getting it out in the world and seen!

Production Insurance

Costs $2,000

Better safe than sorry!

Cast and Crew Accommodations

Costs $2,500

We have people coming from all over the world, from Berlin to Montreal to LA. They'll need a roof over their head.

General Equipment

Costs $3,000

Equipment rentals including a set of anamorphic lenses, filters, jib, dolly, mounts, on-board monitors, batteries, and so on.

1970's Pickup Truck

Costs $200

An essential element in the story

Color Correction

Costs $800

The last step of editing - its how we'll make a five-day shoot seamlessly appear as a single hot afternoon.

About This Team


All of our dashing actors are currently completing their Masters in Fine Arts at the prestigious Actors Studio Drama School in New York City.

TITUS - Steven Kouts

ERIC - Billy Nugent

BILLY - Peter Ferraiolo

MAREK - Ricardo Montt

DUFF - Daniel Namazi


Writer/Director/Producer – Gabrielle Pfeiffer

Gabrielle Pfeiffer is an award-winning filmmaker and screenwriter from New York who has worked on over 50 fiction and documentary projects for film and television. She has seven feature film credits as a screenwriter and script supervisor, and some 35 director, writer, and producer credits for her work on ARD, Arte, BBC, Channel Four (UK), Discovery, National Geographic, PBS and ZDF programs. Her films have been broadcast all over Europe and North America, and shown at numerous international film festivals, including “Facing the Dead” (winner, Golden Gate Award, San Francisco International Film Festival), “Yo, Quixote” (winner, Certificate of Merit, Suffolk County Film and Video Festival), and “The Ark” (finalist European Pitch Point screenplay competition). Her feature project, “The Darkroom” is in development at Syrreal Entertainment. She lives in Berlin with a base in New York.


Production Manager – Leslie Shampaine

Leslie Shampaine has been working as a producer, production manager and associate producer for over 20 years on documentaries for A&E, Discovery Channel, National Geographic, PBS, and The Learning Channel. She won two Primetime Emmy Awards for her work on the Kennedy Center Honors. Her other award-winning programs took home a Telly, Cine Golden Eagle, and a Gold Remi (Houston WorldFest). Leslie currently leads the Production Management team at Al Jazeera International. Before working in television, she was a professional ballerina who danced for many years with ballet companies in Los Angeles, Germany, and Switzerland. She is based in Washington, D.C.


1st Assistant Director – Pip Gilmour

Pip Gilmour has been involved in documentaries, film, television and narrative multimedia for over 25 years as an Assistant Director, Writer, Producer and Director. She was trained in the Los Angeles DGA program and worked on numerous television shows including Freaks and Geeks, Time of Your Life, ER, Star Trek Voyager, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as well as independent shorts and features. Pip also writes, produces and directs non-fiction programming for Discovery Channel, History Channel, National Geographic, PBS and Smithsonian Channel, where she additionally directs dramatizations.  She has won awards from the New York Film Festival, Worldfest Houston Film Festival, the International Television and Video Association awards, Codie Award, Peer Award, Invision Awards, etc.  Pip is currently based in Washington DC. 


Director of Photography – Matan Radin

Matan Radin began his career in photography and camerawork during his mandatory service in the Israeli army, where he served as an editor and technical photography instructor. Later, he worked as a photographer for the popular Israeli newspaper, “Yedioth Aharonot”. He has been based in Berlin since 2010, where he is completing his cinematography studies at the prestigious “dffb ” - German Film and Television Academy Berlin. He is a working cinematographer and his body of work includes a feature film, “Prowl”, and a short film, “Hounds”, which won Best Comedy at the Aspen Film Shorts Fest 2016 and is submitted for Oscar consideration.


Supervising Editor – Suzanne Spangler

Suzanne Spangler has edited more than 25 feature films, working with major directors such as Jonathan Demme and Stephen Gyllenhaal, on films with top Hollywood talent including Mark Wahlberg, Tim Robbins and Jennifer Jason Leigh. She is based in Los Angeles.


Co-Editor – Barbara Bernardi

Barbara Bernardi began her career working for many years as a director and editor on two music programs for Italian television, “Mono” and “Rapture”, in Milan. Her award-winning work as an independent filmmaker and video artist, has been screened and exhibited in galleries, film festivals and theaters across Europe. She earned degrees in Film Directing from the Film School of Milan, and a Master in Fine Arts Specializing in Video Art, from London’s Chelsea College of Art and Design. She lives in Berlin.


Co-Producer – Ben Koring

Ben Koring produced his first narrative feature film, Lovers Lost, in 2015, which went on to win at the Trinity International Film Festival in Detroit, Michigan. Since then he has worked as a writer and producer on various independent television and film projects in Canada and Australia.   He studied Philosophy and Marketing at McGill University, where he won multiple awards for his short films. He is from Washington, D.C.


Costume Designer - Lea Mansour

Lea Mansour has more than 15 years experience as a hands-on art director for print and web.  She has worked as a freelance art director at Red Lagushka Designs since 2003, serving high-level corporations, start-up companies and everything in between.  Her clients include Godiva, McGraw Hill and GradTrain.  She completed an MFA at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and lives in New York City.

Creative Consultant – Christian Alvart

Ever since Christian Alvart was named the "New Face of German Cinema 2005" at the AFI Fest 2005 in Los Angeles, and one of "Five Directors to Watch" at the Tribeca Film festival, he has gone on to become Germany’s most important genre feature film director.  He has worked as a writer, producer and director on 16 feature-length films and won numerous prizes at international film festivals.   His company, Syrreal Entertainment, is based in Berlin.


Creative Consultant – Sigi Kamml

Sigi Kamml manages Berlin-based Syrreal Entertainment together with Christian Alvart. Their recent science-fiction feature, “SUM1″, stars Iwan Rheon (Game of Thrones) and is currently in post-production. He began his career as a producer’s assistant at Ufa International Film Production and has gone on to produce more than 25 feature films, television movies and series for Nostro Film, Nova Film, Wiedemann und Berg, Teamworx, Producers at Work and Burkert/Barreis Development. He is Austrian and has a Masters’ degrees in communication and media science.


Casting Advisor – Lydia Horan

Lydia Horan has more than 30 years’ experience as a theatre director, actor and drama educator.  She has cast, directed and performed in over 100 theatre productions in New York, New Jersey and Virginia. She was a teaching artist at Lincoln Center (New York) and Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey.   She is a graduate of Drew University (Theatre) and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, and currently teaches drama and filmmaking at Tandem Friends School in Charlottesville.


Sound Mixer – Brenda Ray

Brenda Ray has been a sound mixer on some 40 films and television programs, and countless commercials. She works with major directors including Wes Anderson, Michael Apted and Scott Hicks. She is based in New York City.


Steadicam Operator - James Ball

James Ball is a freelance DP/camera operator with 15 years of experience as a Steadicam Operator on both the documentaries and scripted, fictional films.  Jimtravels the globe for his craft shooting for National Geographic, Discovery, Smithsonian, and PBS, and operates on dramatic series for HBO, Netflix, and FX, as well as on independent features and short films.  He excels at creating the right balance between graceful, precise camera movement and capturing great moments as they unfold.

'Making of' – Sashka Avanyan
Sashka is a young filmmaker, currently studying philosophy at the University of McGill. She has had her films screened at multiple small festivals in Montreal and works for the University of McGill as a videographer and editor in additional to doing freelance work. Sashka’s interest lies in using film to explore cross cultural dynamics. In 2015 she made a documentary called "Questions of Femininity" exploring the perception of femininity from the perspective of women in Canada and Armenia. Sashka was raised in Moscow, Russia until the age of 15, and has been in Canada ever since.


Craft Services – Sandra Ancelot

Sandra Ancelot is a working artist and designer, living in Paris. She has combined her skills as a fantastic chef with her experience as a professional bohemian to gain a well-deserved reputation among her many friends as someone who can prepare delicious meals on a ridiculously tight budget. Oh yes, and she is a graduate of the l’École des Beaux-Arts de Paris, and was an artist-in-residence at the Casa de Velasquez (Madrid), Hunter College (New York), Ifitry (Morocco), etc. Her work as a painter, conceptual artist and performance artist has been exhibited internationally. But of course, we are most intrigued by an artistic culinary performance she did in collaboration with chef Pierre Giannetti. She generously donates her time and skills to this production.


Current Team