What They Found

Austin, Texas | Film Short

Comedy, Drama

Ryan Darbonne

1 Campaigns | Texas, United States

Green Light

This campaign raised $6,350 for post-production. Follow the filmmaker to receive future updates on this project.

98 supporters | followers

Enter the amount you would like to pledge


WHAT THEY FOUND is a narrative short exploring the perils of being black in America. The film is a raw portrayal of two men, forced into a "damned if they do, damned if they don't" scenario, whose shared trauma has led to two different perspectives on life, the universe, and everything.

About The Project

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

Mission Statement

As an artist, I've always been interested in exploring the complexities of the black experience through film and challenging stale Hollywood narratives. Our team is committed to BIPOC representation on screen and affirming that the black experience is the American experience.

The Story

“So we see that even when Fortuna spins us downward, the wheel sometimes halts for a moment and we find ourselves in a good, small cycle within the larger bad cycle."

― John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces



Set in 1984, WHAT THEY FOUND follows August and James: Two black men on a fishing trip who stumble across the body of a dead white man. As the reality of their situation sinks in both men come to two different conclusions on what to do. Told over the course of a heated conversation, the friends grapple with life, death, and their positions as outsiders in a mad, mad world. 

Director's Statement

Navigating the world as black people is a Herculean task. From the way that we move to the literal clothes that we wear every choice is not without consequence. Sometimes tragic.

That idea of "choice", or lack thereof, was the spark that inspired me to create WHAT THEY FOUND. I started to ask myself, what if I were thrust into a situation where the clear lines between right and wrong morphed into a literal question of life and death? Based solely on the color of my skin? That inescapable feeling of being trapped between a rock and a hard place terrified me. I wrote the film as means to explore that fear, anxiety, and depression through the lens of two flawed characters forever bound by their shared trauma. WHAT THEY FOUND is my attempt to illustrate that even in death, white supremacy is an ever-present threat.

- Ryan


Lance E. Nichols, "James": This veteran character actor is best remembered as dentist Larry Williams on the critically acclaimed HBO series Treme which chronicled the lives of post-Hurricane Katrina natives and their efforts in rebuilding their lives. His memorable performance as the "faith healing" preacher in The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button garnered praise from critics and the general public.

He recurs as The River King in the AMC television series Into The Badlands and recently started production on the new SyFy/USA series The Purge working under the direction of Emmy Winner Anthony Hemingway whom he collaborated for four seasons on Treme. Mr. Nichols and his wife Zardis co-produced their first television pilot Shepherd which won Best Drama at the prestigious ITVFest in 2017 and where he won Best Actor in a Drama. Their win garnered a development meeting with HBO.

Marc Pouhé, "August": An actor based out of Austin, Texas, Marc serves as the Board Vice President of Austin Shakespeare. He has played leading roles in the following productions: At Austin Shakespeare - Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing, Taming of the Shrew, Present Laughter, Macbeth, Othello, and Cyrano De Bergerac. At Austin Playhouse - The Mountaintop, Satchel Paige and the Kansas City Swing, and Death of A Salesman. At ZACH Theatre - A Christmas Carol. At Mary Moody Northen Theatre - Mr. Burns a Post-Electric Play, and Death and the King's Horseman.

Marc is a winner of multiple Austin Critics’ Table Awards and a recipient of the John Bustin Award for Conspicuous Versatility. He has been recognized by The Austin Chronicle as the Best of Austin “Best Classic Leading Man”. Marc holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Electronic Media and Theatre from Texas State University.

John Merriman, "The Body": John Merriman is an actor, filmmaker, and former film programmer. He has starred in the New York Times Critic's Pick YOU HURT MY FEELINGS, the LA Film Fest winning feature GRETCHEN, and the indie comedies MUSTANG ISLAND, PICTURES OF SUPERHEROES, and CINEMA SIX. He also acted in the acclaimed Sundance films SISTER AIMEE and PIT STOP as well as the SXSW award winner LOVES HER GUN. Together with Kerri Lendo, he wrote, directed, and acted in the short films MODERN MAN and SLEEP STUDY which won the Audience Award at the 2010 Austin Film Festival.


For The Love Of Money (And Film)

Spoiler alert: Movies are expensive! Filmmaking is a magical process but it still takes money (and time) to get a production off the ground and shorts are no exception. Even though WHAT THEY FOUND has already been shot, by a team of incredibly talented people, we still need YOUR help to reach the finishing line.

We are looking to raise $4,000 for post-production in order to create the best possible film we can. Here's the breakdown:

Sound Mix ($3000): WHAT THEY FOUND is a conversation between two friends. As a result, good sound is crucial to the film. These funds will help us hire a professional mixer who will deliver the best quality sound possible.

Color Grade ($1000): Movies are, first and foremost, a visual medium. It's gotta look good! We want the audience to be immersed in the world and a good quality picture is tantamount to that.

Film production is a hugely collaborative effort and, as a result, we want to invite YOU to be a part of the experience.


Why YOU?

Because you love good stories with a diverse cast and want to nurture the ever-growing presence of filmmakers of color. Duh.

Representation matters. Over the past few years, there have been amazing developments in the rise of BIPOC writers and directors finally getting their due. However, our experience is multifaceted and Hollywood has A LONG way to go. Your support will not only help us finish making this best film possible but continue giving artists of color the freedom, and platform, to tell our stories.


Follow our campaign and stay up-to-date!

Contribute and Pledge

We have to raise 80% of our crowdfunding goal to receive funds. Your support can help us get there! No contribution is too small. Every dollar, every penny, is going directly into making this film the best that it can be.

Spread The Word!

We understand that not everyone can contribute to all the amazing projects out there. Even if you can't pledge right now, you can still support us by sharing our Seed&Spark campaign on social media, via email, and with friends/family. In order to hit our goal, we need to reach far beyond our social network and we can't do it without you!

Here are some examples of ways to help spread the good word. Feel free to copy and paste!


Help filmmaker Ryan Darbonne, and the wonderful cast/crew of WHAT THEY FOUND, reach

their goal!. Support them @seedandspark: https://tinyurl.com/2n8rztkt 


I'm excited to see the new short film, WHAT THEY FOUND! Help them reach their goal

and support diverse voices by joining them @seedandspark: https://tinyurl.com/2n8rztkt 

We are so grateful for all your support and can't wait to show you the finished film! 


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

Cash Pledge

Costs $0

Sound Mix

Costs $3,000

A professional sound mix is crucial to transporting the audience into the mindset of our characters.

Color Grade

Costs $1,000

A professional color grade will help the film look its best.

About This Team


Ryan Darbonne (Writer | Director)

Ryan Darbonne is an award-winning filmmaker, improviser, and rapper (Scout's honor) based out of Austin, TX. He has written/directed a number of projects that have been featured on Noisey, Ovrld, and other online publications. His award-winning short film, I AM TX, was a 2018 AFS grant recipient. In addition, he co-founded the community arts organization Cinema41 in 2011 (Austin Chronicle ‘Best Of’ 2012) and served as the Film Department Director at Austin Film Festival in 2013. He is currently in post-production on his new short film, WHAT THEY FOUND. 


Tamar Price (Producer)

Tamar Price is a creative producer with a background in film, events, and art. Her film work has garnered almost half a million views via Issa Rae’s Presents YouTube channel and has been screened at SXSW, Palm Springs Short Fest, Indy Shorts Fest, and more. She currently produces work with award-winning ad agency Material.


Zac Sprague (Director of Photography)

Zachary W. Sprague, DP, is a cinematographer and member of the International Cinematographers Guild Local 600 living and working in Austin, TX. Zac began his career as a ‘camera man’ in 2004 at a small local news affiliate. He earned his BA in Film from the University of North Texas where he met Ryan Darbonne and the two have worked together on several film projects since. He’s spent countless days on commercial and narrative film sets, contributed to multiple documentary films, lensed music videos for bands such as A Giant Dog, Bad Sports, and OBN III’s, and worked globally in Japan, Italy, the UK, and throughout the United States. Most recently he served as the B Camera Operator under DP, James Lee Phelan, for the PBS series No Passport Required and the A Camera Operator and Second Unit Cinematographer under Peter Simonite C.S.C. on the feature film, Fugitive Dreams.


Matt Stryker (1st Assistant Director)

Matt Stryker grew up in West Orange, NJ before attending the University of Texas, Austin where he got a Bachelor's degree in Radio, Television, and Film. He’s enjoyed success for his short film work, including premieres at SXSW for Beach Day (Director, Editor) and Joan on the Phone (Editor, 1st AD). His most recent projects were an independent Thanksgiving horror feature called Derelicts (Co-Producer, Editor, 1st AD) which is now available on VOD services, and Inbetween Girl (Producer, 1st AD) which premiered at SXSW '21 where it won the Visions Audience Award. He also is a key member of the community art project Austin Sunset Public Programming, a local film, music, and video art channel.

Current Team