The Lights Above

Los Angeles, California | Film Short

History, Sci-Fi


1 Campaigns | California, United States

Green Light

This campaign raised $14,355 for production. Follow the filmmaker to receive future updates on this project.

85 supporters | followers

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Our story is fascinating and ambitious in the scope of its world and events, and emotionally compelling in the intimate journey of our characters. We hope this story, from a time 80 years past, finds relevance today as humanity struggles through chaos and the unknown to find hope and friendship.

About The Project

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

Mission Statement

While WWII America is often seen as nostalgic and idyllic, this USC MFA Thesis film reflects the paranoia that can grow from fear and pain, and how letting it take root drives otherwise good people to do bad things. But in the end, we can and must express our shared humanity.

The Story

April 1942: Months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, fear looms over coastal Californians, terrified of another attack, and the forced removal of Japanese Americans has begun. Following a string of unidentified aircraft sightings over Los Angeles, a determined and paranoid journalist investigating the occurrences reluctantly teams up with a Japanese American photographer in an attempt to capture photographic evidence to identify these aircraft.


On February 25, 1942 radar picked up unidentified aircraft approaching the Los Angeles airspace. The city was on blackout, air raid sirens awakened sleeping citizens, and searchlights swept the skies. After supposedly sighting an object, anti aircraft guns began to fire, ultimately firing around 1400 rounds of flak into the sky for an hour straight with shrapnel raining down on residents. After an hour, the aircraft mysteriously disappeared. Interpretations of this event have varied from nothing but mass hysteria, to military weather balloons, and in later decades - UFO's. For some, the event heightened the paranoia Angelenos had around being attacked or invaded by Japan, something that was reflected in the mass incarceration and relocation of Japanese Americans at the time. For others it revealed the fragile mental state of a country still recovering from the unexpected attack on Pearl Harbor. 

I have always been a fan of history; not as much as an academic study, but as a look into the intriguing lives of those who lived through it. There is a sense that I owe something to honor those of the past and to avoid the pitfalls they did or did not. When I first saw the images of the Battle of Los Angeles, I knew there was a compelling story behind this peculiar event. Los Angeles has been my home for over a decade, and being able to connect with Angelenos who lived through these events 80 years ago and transport a modern audience to their world is a true honor. This story is one of intrigue and mystery, while also revealing the unfortunate results of unchecked grief and fear. It is a film about unlikely friendship, and I hope it provides a semblance of peace to our world today.  - Luke


Already Raised: $10,000

Crowdfunding Goal: $12,000

Total Film Budget: $22,000



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The more followers we get, the more prizes we unlock for our film - products, services, and festival fee waivers, courtesy of Seed&Spark!



We have to collect 80% of our crowdfunding goal to keep our funds.

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No pledge is too small. Every dollar makes a difference in making our film possible.



Want an alternative to a monetary pledge?

Check out our Wishlist! We can offer credit and/or advertising. Feel free to make a loan request in our "Wishlist" tab or email us at [email protected] with "TLA WISHLIST" in the subject line.


The only way we will reach our crowdfunding goal is if we reach beyond our networks.

Please share our campaign via your social media, email, word-of-mouth, however you want! We can't do this without you!


Help filmmaker @lukejsalewski by supporting his historical fiction/sci-fi film "THE LIGHTS ABOVE" about the real UFO sightings that took place over LA during WW2.  Join them on @seedandspark:


I'm so excited to see the MFA thesis film THE LIGHTS ABOVE by USC students and director/writer @lukejsalewski! Support them on @seedandspark:


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

Aputure MC 4 Lights Kit

Costs $60

Help us create a *mood* by loaning us or pledging for a lighting kit rental!

Light - Aputure 1200d

Costs $400

This light sure is powerful, and we need it to create our look!

Light - Aputure 600d #1

Costs $250

Help us complete our lighting kit to set the perfect mood.

Light - Aputure 600d #2

Costs $250

Double trouble! Help us complete our lighting kit!

Aputure Nova P300c - #1

Costs $160

Help us complete our lighting kit!

Aputure Nova P300c - #2

Costs $160

Help us complete our lighting kit!

Cash Pledge

Costs $0

Location 1 - The Dark Room

Costs $500

Have access to a garage, small industrial space, etc? Needed for 1 prep day & 2 shoot days

Location 2 - Office

Costs $500

Location fees and permits add up, especially when your film takes place in the 1940s!

Small HD 7inch Monitor #1

Costs $25

Help us complete our camera kit!

Small HD 7inch Monitor #2

Costs $25

Help us complete our camera kit!

Cooke Anamorphic Lens

Costs $500

Vintage lenses will help capture the world of the film authentically.

1/8 Black Pro Mist Filter

Costs $25

Help us complete our camera package!

Tripod Head - OConnor Ultimate 2575D

Costs $30

Help us complete our camera kit!

Expendables - BLACK WRAP

Costs $20

Gaff Tape, Lens Cleaner, Black Wrap - these things add up!

Teradek Bolt 500

Costs $300

Help us complete our camera kit!

Expendables - GAFF TAPE

Costs $10

Gaff Tape, Lens Cleaner, Black Wrap - these things add up!

"Smith" Wardrobe

Costs $100

Dress our journalist on a mission "Smith" in fabulous 1940s garb!

"Ken" Character Wardrobe

Costs $100

Dress our leading man "Ken," the Japanese American photographer

"Extras" Wardrobe

Costs $220

Can't sell the 1940s without the right garb!

Prop Camera

Costs $50

Japanese-American photographer Ken has a trusty camera that is a key prop in the story.

Prop Camera (Destroyed)

Costs $50

Someone...or something...destroys Ken's camera. Provide this prop at the film's most pivotal moment.

Location 3 - Desert Road

Costs $1,000

Smith and Ken's hunt for answers leads to the desert...will they solve the mystery of the sightings?

Location 4 - News Room

Costs $1,310

Location fees and permits add up, especially when your film takes place in a 1940s news room!


Costs $300

Yet another piece to the 1940s puzzle!

TRIPOD - O’Connor 1030DS

Costs $75

Help us complete our camera kit!

Hard Drive #1

Costs $120

We'll back up our footage in not one, not two, but THREE places (you can never be too careful)

Hard Drive #2

Costs $120

Help us protect our time, money, and efforts by making sure our footage is safe and secure!

Hard Drive #3

Costs $120

Help us protect our time, money, and efforts by making sure our footage is safe and secure!

Altas Anamorphic Lens

Costs $500

Vintage lenses will help us capture the world of the film more authentically.

Lighting Equipment

Costs $720

Good lighting is essential to getting that classic film look.

Arri Matte Box Kit

Costs $150

Help us complete our camera package!

Tilta Nucleus-M: Wireless Follow Focus

Costs $300

Help us complete our camera kit!

Other Camera Equipment

Costs $1,300

Top-of-the-line camera gear, including an Arri Alexa package.

Food for Cast & Crew

Costs $1,000

We've got to keep our cast & crew energized with healthy set meals. Don't forget the coffee!

Sound Equipment

Costs $500

No movie is complete without quality production sound.

Covid Safety Supplies

Costs $250

We are committed to keeping our team safe during production amidst the ongoing pandemic

Classic Car Rental

Costs $500

Our leads can't set off to solve the mystery without a set of vintage wheels!

About This Team

Luke J. Salewski


Born in Boise, ID and growing up making home videos at a young age, Luke J. Salewski has now worked as a filmmaker in LA for over a decade. He has a passion for stories that stand the test of time, that are imaginative and large in scope and yet focused on the intimate inspiring and redeeming aspects of humanity.
Luke's film career has crossed fiction narrative, commercial and non-fiction, and he has worked on projects for many major studios and TV networks including Warner Bros, Disney, Netflix, Animal Planet, NatGeo Wild, and SYFY amongst others. 
Luke is a 2023 MFA candidate at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts.


Avo John Kambourian


Avo John Kambourian is a filmmaker and editor from Los Angeles, who is currently earning his Master of Fine Arts in Film & TV Production, at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, where he is also a George Lucas and Mary Pickford Scholar. 
In his career, he has worked for companies such as Vice Media, Walt Disney Pictures, National Geographic, Hulu, and HitRecord. His most recent credits include the feature documentaries Bad Reputation and The Untitled Steve Martin Documentary, Directed by Academy Award Winner Morgan Neville. His thesis film Echoes of Kef Time was one of three documentary projects selected to be produced by USC in the Spring 2022 semester, during which he also was nominated for the American Cinema Editors (ACE) Anne V. Coates Student Editing Award. 

Alex Chang


Alex Chang is a rather unremarkable filmmaker from Tualatin, Oregon. Born in Key West, Florida to Korean immigrant parents, he served an undistinguished 8.5 years in the US Army, spending some uneventful time in Afghanistan and Iraq. He left the Army in August of 2017 to study creative writing at Columbia University in New York City, where he graduated in 2020 while dressed in pajamas in his parents’ living room. During his time in New York, Alex also studied at the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop as a lyricist, failing to win any awards or accolades.
After graduating, Alex moved to Los Angeles to attend the USC School of Cinematic Arts, where he is beginning his third and final year of the MFA Production program. He has continued his journey of mediocrity by applying for and being rejected from a distinguished lineup of USC scholarships and awards and thesis proposals, but amazingly enough he still hopes to make fun movies someday. And yes, Alex did write this.

Young Li


Young Li is a cinematographer from Guangzhou, China. He graduated from the Boston University film & tv program and is currently pursuing an MFA degree at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. He has been working as a cinematographer for 6 years.

Young started with landscape photography at an early age. After making numerous travel films, he decided to go into narrative filmmaking, attracted by the ability to tell stories with a camera. His cinematography experience ranges from numerous commercials, music videos, short films, and feature films. Now, he is excited to go on a new journey with his latest cinematography project, "The Lights Above".

Dasha Pimenov


Dasha Pimenov is a second-year MFA Film & TV Production student at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. She hails from Los Angeles, CA, though her wanderlust spirit must confess that she considers the entire world to be her home. Dasha is a first-generation college grad and the first in her family to pursue a master’s degree. Her studies at Middlebury College primarily focused on Cold War culture, European and Eurasian affairs, and the history of the ancient Mediterranean world. She re-discovered her passion for mass media and filmmaking while working on her recently published thesis on consumer culture and juvenile propaganda — “The Grade School Brigade.” From dramas to tragicomedies, this Trojan is now finding ways to externalize the inner world of her characters through caméra-stylo (shout- out to the Cahiers du Cinéma lovers). She plans to make more accurate, female-centered narratives for the big screen and bring her cultural heritage stories to life. 

Current Team