The Circus

Middletown, Connecticut | Film Short

Satire, Thriller

Ethan Havens

1 Campaigns | Connecticut, United States

Green Light

This campaign raised $9,085 for production. Follow the filmmaker to receive future updates on this project.

44 supporters | followers

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This project is an exploration of how social interactions have recently shifted to digital entertainment platforms, focusing particularly on the hostility and objectification these sites encourage. What does it mean nowadays to be considered a human being by our peers, and to be treated as such?

About The Project

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

Mission Statement

We want to tell a story placing people in an environment that is excessively inhumane. The pandemic has seen us all experience unprecedented levels of isolation and disconnect. This film aims to engage with these emotions, and encourages us to preserve our empathy and compassion for one another.

The Story

Why We Need Your Help

Production was an intense and compressed process, giving us little opportunity to fundraise in advance of shooting. That being said, the subject matter was extremely important to the entire team, and so we all chipped in to make this world feel as cinematically real as possible. We couldn't be happier with the result of our efforts. The reality has set in, however, that we are a group of broke college students. We put every dime and penny we had into this production, but the majority of our spending still awaits as we now have a variety of post production costs to cover.

If we are able to meet our campaign goal, we can achieve a superior visual product in addition to developing a rich soundscape with an original score, both crucial elements of the vision for this film. Furthermore, your pledges will enable us to release our film on the festival circuit. Any contribution is vastly appreciated, and we can't wait to show you the film! If you would like to know more about the project, continue reading below.



In Mr. Margatsni's Seismic Circus, there are no flame jugglers, nor strongmen, nor trapeze artists. There is only one main act, repeated over and over: a man in chains has a bucket of ice water dumped over his head, to the applause and delight of a twisted audience. 

In this underground dystopian society, circuses have a brutal judiciary function. People who are caught attempting to escape from this world are captured, publicly tortured, and ultimately killed.

Naomi is a stage assistant in Mr. Margatsni's Seismic Circus, whereas her older sister, June, dances in a side act. At a young age, Naomi's parents were caught planning to run away into "the woods" (the uncivilized wild outside this society) and were subsequently tortured and killed by the ruthless circus ringmaster, Mr. Margatsni. June and Naomi were raised in the circus working under Margatsni and his henchman, Mr. Kotkit.




Sal, "the man who forgot how to be human," is the main attraction of the circus, with ice water being poured over him in the climax of every act. He was once a member of this society who attempted to escape into the woods, before he was captured. The circus aims to completely dehumanize Sal by driving him to a point of total madness, thus proving that, in running away to the woods, he is more of a wild animal than a person.


Naomi is the protagonist of this film. Her duties in the circus are to assist with the stage performance and to feed Sal after the show. This film places Naomi at a crucial moment in her life, where she is asked to take a more involved hand in Sal's torment. Although her conscience pushes her to free Sal and run away from this horrid world, she is traumatized by the death of her parents and is terrified at the repercussions of escaping. If she decides to take this step, she will be promoted within the ranks of the circus and given a life of luxury.


June's key characteristic is that she is a survivor, and she believes that everything she has done is crucial to protecting herself and her sister. Throughout the time June has worked to gain Margatsni's favor, however, she has begun to suffer from Stockholm Syndrome. Her worldview is now so warped that she views her captors as saviors, and is so eager to please them that she is even willing to betray her own sister.


Kotkit is Margatsni's right hand man, and a twisted human being. Allowing Margatsni to be more subtle with his threats, Kotkit is an enigma of psychopathic brute force who loves nothing more than terrorizing those less powerful than him. His sadistic behaviors create motivation for Naomi to secure her promotion, thus allowing her to permanently escape his influence.


The Ringmaster himself, Mr. Margatsni is the charismatic leader of this circus. Margastni revels in abusing his power. Using his golden tongue and hierarchal status, Margatsni maintains the complete devotion of his underlings and has no qualms over taking whatever he wants from them. While Kotkit imposes more of a physical threat throughout the film, he is effectively an instrument of The Ringmaster's cruel desires. Margatsni uses Kotkit to drive Naomi closer towards him and the comforts he can provide. Will she take the bait?


The World

Originally drafted as a comedy, The Circus underwent numerous changes to finally land as a satirical thriller. Ultimately, the film's goal is to engage with the way people are willing to treat each other through the veil of a screen. When people are reduced to written texts, photos, and video bites, it becomes easy to consider them as inhuman products curated for our own entertainment. The loss of personal touch in social interactions greatly reduces our capacity for sympathy and empathy (a perspective that is informed by multiple studies and articles, several of which we will site at the end of this section).

The purpose of this world is not to allegorize this conversation, but rather to create a version of the future where this egocentric compulsion to subvert other people's humanity has become an integral factor in the design of civilization. Hinting at some apocalyptic event which has driven people underground (with the outdoors perceived as an untamed wild), the film looks to actively avoid any direct portrayal of technology and instead focuses on how it enables us to treat one another. 

There are many easter eggs scattered throughout the film which point towards this subliminal message. Margatsni's room, for instance, is painted in the colors of the instagram logo. Margatsni's name spelled backwards is "Instagram," whereas Kotkit's is "Tiktok" (even Naomi's is "Imoan," playing off of "iphone"). Sal's repeated punishment of having ice water dumped over his head was inspired in part by the infamously gratuitous Ice Bucket Challenge (which quickly lost any of its original ties to charity), and aligning it with Chinese Water Torture. These types of hints are meant to inspire an eerily familiar feeling within this overtly grotesque world.


Final Thoughts

Look, we are not trying to change the world here. With all these subjects we find it important to address, we also acknowledge that social media is not going anywhere and has become a crucial and important part of our society. The irony is not lost on us that this page has links to our social media sites, which are fundamental to our fundraising campaign. This is why we want to stress that the goal of this film is not to paint social media as an inherently negative thing, but rather to criticize the ways in which we respond to it.

If we are complacent and allow social media to gain too much influence over how we perceive one another, then we risk jeapordizing our very capacity for empathy, one of the most fundamental characteristics which make us human. Ultimately, the message we would like to impart with this film is, even through the extensive personal disconnect brought by this pandemic, that we mustn't allow ourselves to view people as anything other than people. We must hold on to our empathy.

Thank you for reading, please check out the film's trailer under the "Media" section of this page, and take care!


Related Links


Contact Me

Please feel free to reach out with any questions regarding the project!

Phone Number: 347-899-0570

Email: [email protected]


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

Picture Mastering

Costs $1,000

Picture mastering will allow us to enter the film into festivals.

Sound Mixing

Costs $2,000

Sound mixing will give us a clean product that we can enter into festivals.

Special Effects

Costs $500

In order to enhance our images we will need to pay multiple post production software subscriptions.

Marketing and Festival Submissions

Costs $3,000

We plan to submit our final product to several festivals.


Costs $2,000

Music is central to our plans for the end product, so we want to invest in a professional score.

Short Term Investments

Costs $570

This will help us pay back our generous student contributors who loaned us funds for production.

Cash Pledge

Costs $0

About This Team

We are a group of hardworking, driven, and passionate students from Wesleyan University! 



Director - Ethan Havens 

Producers - Noah Kalischer-Coggins, Tenley Abbott, Annabelle Lesser, Sam Dixon

Director of Photography - Shuyuan Liu

Assistant Cinematographer 1 - Isabel Hoffman

Assistant Cinematographer 2 - Natalie Williams

Assistant Director 1 - Sam Dixon 

Assistant Director 2 - Sulan Bailey 

Gaffer - Joseph Godslaw 

Key Grip - Olivia Ramseur 

Head of Production Design - Robie Scola 

Production Design Assistant - Clara Burger 

Prop Master - Olivia Andrews 

Script Supervisor - Gavin Zahn 

Sound Mixer 1 - Jacob Silberman-Baron

Sound Mixer 2 - Nikhil Sekeran



Naomi - Katya Smith

Mr. Margatsni - James LaVeck

June - Amanda Stamm

Mr. Kotkit - Will Matus

Sal - Ethan Havens

Current Team