A Texas Mermaid Movie

Austin, Texas | Film Short

Adventure, Family

John David DeVirgiliis

1 Campaigns | Texas, United States

Green Light

This campaign raised $8,163 for production phase 2. Follow the filmmaker to receive future updates on this project.

68 supporters | followers

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Katie is searching for her new ordinary—a universal pursuit today. Her fog of grief and confusion are filtered by the magic she finds in her new surroundings when Katie leans into her loss. Help us bring the sublime possibilities of nature and the light that can be found within to the big screen.

About The Project

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

Mission Statement

A Texas Mermaid Movie is a story of survival set in the clearest Texas waters. Environmental conservation is at our core. We value an inclusive range of voices, from land and water humans. We’re proud to have a majority female above-the-line crew and representation across racial and queer spectrums.

The Story

A Texas Mermaid Movie, like many mermaid stories, is about being caught between worlds.

11-year-old Katie has not lived with her dad Paul since she was a baby. With the help of a mermaid performer at the annual Mermaid SPLASH Festival in San Marcos, TX, Katie and Paul will search for a new ordinary and find a little magic along the way.



These characters will be portrayed by newcomer 11-year-old Cassidy Butler, Dallas-based mermaid performer, actor, and model Lenisa Careaga, and Grammy nominated musician Tony Kamel of Wood & Wire.

The film will be released locally in San Marcos and Austin in the Summer of 2021 and at film festivals across Texas and beyond.


Adventure is at the core of this film.  We started developing the story several years ago while exploring scuba diving in the springs of the Texas Hill Country.  The Meadows Center for Water & the Environment, located at Spring Lake in San Marcos, is the best place to scuba dive in Texas.  The experienced volunteer divers at Spring Lake receive a day-long Dive Authorization Course to train for responsible interactions with the delicate Spring Lake ecosystem.  These volunteer divers are committed to removing invasive plant species and cultivating a healthy ecology at Spring Lake.  

A Texas Mermaid Movie director John David DeVirgiliis first arrived in San Marcos to learn about water in Texas.  He took the Dive Authorization Course in 2018 and has since assembled a team of other Spring Lake certified divers to bring the Texas Mermaid Story to Spring Lake.  

And as it turns out, San Marcos has a beloved mermaid history!  Spring Lake was historically operated as Aquarena Springs, an underwater theater that featured mermaid performances and other underwater acrobats and entertainers.  Today, the mermaid history and living mermaid culture is celebrated by the Mermaid Society of Texas.  Our film received their generous support to film at their 2019 Mermaid SPLASH Festival.


A Texas Mermaid Movie celebrates our most valued Texas resource: WATER.  We wish to bring our audience to share in the magic of the Edward’s Aquifer, the source of all water in the Texas Hill Country.



We are partnered with the Texas State Meadows Center for Water and the Environment. Their support will allow us the rare opportunity to record the waters of Spring Lake. Spring Lake has a long mermaid history, its water is the clearest in Texas, and the region has been inhabited continuously by humans for 12,000 years. 

Our story wouldn’t exist without the conservation efforts of those who have come before us, and we’re so grateful to have the opportunity to bring this beautiful and lesser-known part of the world to the screen. 

We share the mission of both the Mermaid Society of Texas and the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment to be stewards of the river and to protect these vital natural resources for generations to come!


In the classic story of The Little Mermaid, Arielle lives with her father, and her mother is conspicuously absent from her life. This single parent experience mirrors my own. I identify with the mermaid’s willful independence and self-reliance, alongside her human need for personal attachments.

A mermaid is perpetually caught between two very different worlds. She’s an escapist, a wanderer, and a dreamer. She wishes to return to something that may no longer exist but is also somehow eternal.  And she can transcend her loss through the empowerment of choice.



With A Texas Mermaid Movie, my goal is to tell a universal story about accepting loss and committing to action. 

Whether you walk on land or swim in the sea, I believe these truths are the only way to overcome unimaginable adversity and prevail.



In our story, 11-year-old Katie is searching for her new ordinary—a universal pursuit in 2020. Our production began in 2019. One year later, we are planning for two additional filming days. To do this safely, we are taking every precaution, by limiting our set to 10 people and following the comprehensive COVID safety protocols of both the University of Texas at Austin and the Texas State Meadows Center.

In addition to supporting our final filming days, funds from this Seed & Spark campaign will support our local post-production team, working safely and remotely to finish the film.

Regardless of whether we premiere in-person or online, we are committed to sharing A Texas Mermaid Movie with you, our audience!


Funds will be used towards phase two of production (pickups), supporting cast & crew, the rental of professional underwater camera equipment, and in support of Spring Lake’s staff and unique location.

Funds will also help us bring this film across the finish line, supplementing the post-production grants we are seeking for original music, sound design, and color timing, followed by a grassroots distribution model and film festival submissions.

This is a University of Texas - Austin M.F.A. student thesis film, partially supported by a grant from The Moody Foundation. This project is entirely non-profit seeking.  It is a graduate thesis film for the purpose of satisfying the degree requirements of the M.F.A. degree from Moody College, Radio-Television-Film department.  Our production is operating under a 501(C)(3).

If you'd like to stay informed or connect about getting involved, please check out our social media @texasmermaidmovie or send us an email at [email protected].  

Thank you for your contribution!  


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

Cash Pledge

Costs $0

Location Fees for Pick Up Photography

Costs $1,000

To complete filming pickups in the waters of Spring Lake, the clearest water in Texas.

Cast, Crew & Equipment for pickups

Costs $4,950

To compensate our incredible cast & crew, and to rent professional underwater camera housing.


Costs $1,400

Help us secure original music rights and compositions!


Costs $1,150

Help us submit to festivals and create promotional material to market the film to distributors!

About This Team

John David DeVirgiliis



John David DeVirgiliis is a filmmaker born of Argentine parents and raised in the mountains of North Carolina. He cut his teeth as an I.A.T.S.E. motion picture cameraman on films Mud, Mediterranea, and Loving, which eventually brought him to pursue an M.F.A. in filmmaking from the University of Texas at Austin. As a Pisces and creative mysticist, John David is drawn to stories that investigate the space between worlds.  A Texas Mermaid Movie is born of the desire to celebrate these in between spaces and to celebrate those who serve the majestic waters of Texas.



Emily Grooms



Growing up in Austin, Emily found herself in the perfect environment to nurture her lifelong love of the water.  In particular, her passion surrounding the waterways of Central Texas drove her to focus on freshwater policy in college before serving as a crew leader with the Texas Conservation Corps.  As a filmmaker living and working in her hometown, Emily is continually inspired by the rivers and springs of Central Texas celebrated in A Texas Mermaid Movie.



Mary Falls



Mary Falls is a Writer/Producer/Director and Media Consultant based in Maryland. She has worked extensively in all genres of Film and TV Production, ranging from documentary programming for the Discovery Network, and arthouse passion projects, to big budget motion pictures for clients like New Line Cinema, and HBO.  Her viral comedy writing on The Little Mermaid made her name a trending hashtag on twitter, warranting a response from Disney, and allowing her to claim the honorary title Mermaid Expert. As a storyteller, she has a particular interest in the excavation of deeply intense real world emotional experiences via the usage of mystical, surrealist themes. She is a lifelong water creature, and part time land inhabitant, hoping to champion environmental stewardship through the curation of meaningful, captivating imagery that showcases the beauty of the natural world. 



Davey Morrison



Davey Morrison is a writer, filmmaker, and actor based in Austin, Texas. A graduate of the UT screenwriting MFA, Davey's work has been recognized by SXSW, the Austin Film Festival, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Davey is drawn to stories that blur the lines between the familiar and the fantastical and hopes this story of a mermaid in the waters of Texas will remind us all to search for more magic -- it's out there, and you never have to look very far.  You can find out more about Davey and his work at his website, www.daveymorrison.com



Maggie Bailey



Maggie Bailey is a filmmaker, photographer, and dancer with a strong interest in cross-disciplinary projects. As an artist, Maggie is interested in making work that explores movement, sex positivity, and nostalgia. As a documentarian, she has a curiosity about subcultures and unveiling their common misrepresentations. She is currently based in Austin, TX.



Joshua Daughtry



Joshua Daughtry is a fifth generation Texan, born and raised in San Antonio. Surrounded by the wide open Texas skies, he has always been fascinated by the natural world.  He studied film at the University of Texas at Austin.  His thesis film, Springs Eternal, combines Josh’s love for scuba and film.  This experimental nature documentary is a tribute to the natural beauty of the Texas Hill Country, highlighting the unique landscape while focusing on the secret world within its waters. More recently, Josh has taken his underwater camera chops into the narrative realm as the one and only mercam man on A Texas Mermaid Movie.



Perry Barndt



Perry Barndt is a top Hollywood stuntman, senior producer, and highly sought after risk management specialist.  Perry began his career under the guidance of Jim Burk, legendary stunt double to John Wayne. Under Burk’s mentorship, Barndt grew into the ultimate master of disaster by way of trial by fire, literally - being set ablaze, crashing cars, racing motorcycles, falling from high-rise buildings, taking bullets - there’s no stunt he can’t coordinate, execute, and manage safely, with unbelievable grace. His credits include Tombstone, Air Force One, The Devil’s Advocate, Waterworld, Hook, and The Umbrella Academy - just to name a few.  On A Texas Mermaid Movie, he is many things, including the man that makes sure our mermaids can breathe underwater!



Mary-Elizabeth Esquibel


Mary-Elizabeth Esquibel is a Texas native documentarian and editor. Her most recent documentary Soil Talks, currently in post-production, deals with identity, familial foundations, and loss. The documentary explores a Houston, TX family drifting apart following the loss of a family home to a fire. She hopes to always connect with local activists, artists, and community leaders to highlight the amazing work they do in her filmmaking.

Current Team