Donations roll in for ‘Snowland,’ a documentary about a former child bride |

Donations roll in for ‘Snowland,’ a documentary about a former child bride

New goals have been announced

Cora Lee Witt, left, and her granddaughter Saige Alloway examine fabric in a scene from Park City-based filmmaker Jill Orschel's documentary "Snowland." The film follows the life of Witt, who became a child bride at 14 in the Short Creek polygamous group. Witt created a fantasy world called "Snowland" to help cope with the the sect's lifestyle.
Courtesy of Jill Orschel

Things continue to roll along for the locally produced documentary “Snowland.”

Award-winning filmmaker, producer and Park City resident Jill Orschel has raised more than $30,000 in the past 45 days through a Seed and Spark crowdsourcing campaign that will help her take the next step in the filmmaking process.

“That step is to complete the ‘Snowland’ documentary rough cut, which will include animations and music, by the end of April,” Orschel said. “It’s going to take four good months of diving into the film with no interruptions to do what I want to do. So my New Year’s resolutions are to focus and stay on point.”

“Snowland” follows the story of Cora Lee Witt, a child bride who joined the Short Creek polygamous group when she was almost 12.

She became the second wife of polygamous family when she was 14, and the family broke up due to abuse allegations after Witt had mothered eight children, according to Orschel.

“Cora then got into another marriage as the third wife of another man and had four more children,” Orschel said. “To cope with that traumatic lifestyle, Cora, who is a self-taught painter, costume designer and author, used an alter ego to create a fantasyland called Snowland.”

The documentary is about how Snowland also helped Witt develop the courage to break away from the strict religious and patriarchal rules of the sect, according to Orschel.

“I think, with all that is happening in the world, people could use a story of hope, courage and resilience,” she said.

The filmmaker’s original crowdsourcing goal was to raise $17,640 that would be used to hire a professional editing team to complete the documentary’s rough cut, she said.

“I need an editor who would be able to connect with the film and work remotely,” she said. “I would love to get this rough cut done by November or December, if not earlier than that.”.

More than 210 donors secured $27,003 a few days after launching the initial campaign, and 12 donors, independent of the Seed and Spark campaign, gave Orschel $3,582, which brought the total to $30,585.

Donations came from across the country and even Italy, Orschel said.

“It was not only exciting to have support from my friends and family, but from also people I just met, acquaintances and people from the film industry,” she said. “This totally surpassed our expectations in a big way, and we’re just so thrilled and excited. We’re ready to get to work and put every dollar into the film.”

Encouraged by the response, Orschel and her team, which includes marketing director J.R. Hardman, a local filmmaker who has experience in crowdfunding, announced some stretch goals to help move the film along.

Stretch goals are new goals that are added when an initial goal is met, said Kathleen Stone, who is helping Orschel with marketing.

“The stretch goals are kind of confusing to explain, but essentially, they’re not an additional 20, 22, and 25 thousand dollars,” Stone said. “Those numbers refer to the total for the whole campaign.”

When the film met its first goal of about $17,000, Orschel and her team decided to stretch for an additional $3,000, to bring up the total campaign to $20,000.

“That additional $3,000 would help hire a digital effects animator,” Stone said. “Then, we stretched for another $2,000 — bringing the campaign up to $22,000 — to hire a collage artist.”

Orschel has her eye on animator Angela Rosales Challis, who teaches animation and dance at Brigham Young University, and has screened films at the Park City Filmmaker’s Showcase, which is curated by Orschel.

“She used to teach at the University of Utah, and I’m so glad we are able to get together,” Orschel said. “I want to work with someone local who has a great sense of movement, and I’m hoping Angela will be able to put some movement into Cora’s drawings and photos.”

The collage artist Orschel is looking at is local artist Stacy Phillips.

“She does beautiful collage work, and I’m hoping she will consult with us to put the layers of Cora’s photos, drawing and materials into a frame together in an aesthetic way that would tell how these things have healed Cora,” Orschel said.

As the final push, Orschel and her team stretched for an additional $6,000, to bring up the campaign to $28,000, according to Stone.

The $6,000 will go toward music and sound designers, Stone said.

“In the end, we surpassed all three stretch goals by raising a total of more than $30,000,” she said.

Once the rough cut is completed, Orschel will be able to see what the film needs to really be completed.

“We may only need to put some finishing touches on it in order to submit it to next year’s Sundance Film Festival in September, which would be such a dream,” she said.

Still, Orschel knows that quality work takes time.

“I don’t just want to release a film, just put one out,” she said. “I want the film to be the best film I can make.”

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