‘Snowland’ documentary rolls forward with a work-in-progress fundraiser

Park City Film will host Thursday’s event

‘Snowland’ Work-in-Progress Fundraiser

  • When: 7 p.m., Thursday, March 16
  • Where: Park City Library’s Jim Santy Auditorium, 1255 Park Ave.
  • Cost: $15 for adults; free for Park City Film members and students ages 21 and younger
  • Web: and
Cora Lee Witt, a former member and child bride of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints cult, is the subject of Park City-based filmmaker Jill Orschel’s documentary “Snowland.” Park City Film will host a fundraiser and work-in-progress screening on Thursday at the Jim Santy Auditorium. Orschel plans to screen 10 short segments of the documentary and give supporters updates on where the film stands in terms of completion and distribution.
Photo by Jill Orschel

For the past nine years local photographer, producer and award-winning filmmaker Jill Orschel has been sculpting her new feature-length documentary “Snowland.”

To show the public how far the film, which is about Cora Lee Witt, a former member and child bride of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints cult, is coming along, Orschel and Park City Film will host a “Work-in-Progress” fundraising event on Thursday, March 16, at the Park City Library’s Jim Santy Auditorium, 1255 Park Ave.

The event will start at 7 p.m. and admission is $15 for adults. All students ages 21 and younger and Park City Film members will be admitted for free. Wine and beer will also be available for purchase.

The money from ticket sales will be donated to the Be Part of the Art campaign, which started last year, that will help Orschel finish the film. 

We’ll shed light on the creative choices we made throughout the filmmaking.” Jill Orschel, ‘Snowland’ filmmaker

“We’re going to give an update of how we’re doing on the campaign that will be on March 20,” she said. “We are rapidly approaching $20,000 in the campaign, and we’re hoping to raise $30,000.”

The program for the evening will include screening 10 scenes from the film, according to Orschel.

“We will not show the whole film as a rough cut, but people will get a taste of what the film will be,” she said. “I’m going to peel back the veil of the creative process as to what our editor is doing, and what our composer and animator are working on. And we’ll shed light on the creative choices we made throughout the filmmaking.”

Creativity is also at the heart of the film, Orschel said.

Orschel met Witt while the filmmaker was making her 2009 award-winning documentary short “Sister Wife.”

Witt is the aunt of DoriAnn, who as the subject of “Sister Wife” answered questions about what it was like being a wife in a polygamous family. Witt, who became the second wife of a polygamous family when she was 14, visited one of the shoots and had brought a notebook filled with drawings of fairies and castles that she called “Snowland.”

“Snowland,” which Witt drew under her alter ego, C. Raven, helped her find healing and power through creativity, according to Orschel.

“I’ve spent years getting to know Cora, and just love her,” she said. “We are collaborators on this film as I see it.”

“Snowland” differs from other documentaries about the polygamous lifestyle in how the subject is depicted, Orschel said.

“So many times we have seen people like Cora only as victims, but in this film we see her as a wise woman, someone we can learn from,” she said. “Cora is someone in whose story we can see ourselves, and I hope the transformation she makes in the film will be cathartic for viewers in their own lives.”

Park City-based filmmaker Jill Orschel’s documentary “Snowland” is about how Cora Lee Witt, a former child bride in a now defunct polygamous sect, created a fantasy land to help her cope with the strict religious and patriarchal rules she lived under.
Courtesy of Jill Orschel

Another goal of Thursday night’s event is for Orschel to reintroduce her editor, Susan Metzger, who is also currently working on a limited series for HBO; composer Connor Cook, a music teacher in Appalachia; and artist Jeremy Rourke, an Academy Award-nominated animator. For information about these artistss, visit

“We’re also looking for executive producers who will donate at sustaining levels, even monthly contributions until we’ve completed the film and released it into the world,” she said.

While the evening will not include a Q and A, Orschel will hand out cards to all of the attendees.

“People will be able to write down their questions, and I will reply personally to them at a later date,” she said. “And since we also want to focus on fundraising, on the card we will also have spaces for people to write in different contribution levels. And we want it to be clear that they can donate only if they want to. They don’t have to.”

If people want to donate at a later date, they can through Orschel’s website, or through Venmo, @Snowland-Doc-Film.

So far, contributions have come from supporters in Park City and Summit County, as well as California, Kentucky, New York, New Mexico, and even Ireland.

“Every contribution is like an individual snowflake, but all together they equal a blizzard or mountain of a powerful force,” she said. “We’re trying to make it easy for people to make a contribution, and we also want people to know that any support, even just showing up to the event, is good. There is no amount too small.”

From left, filmmaker Jill Orschel, Cora Lee Witt, and Witt’s daughter Rebecca Fischer, take a break during the filming of “Snowland.”
Photo by Julie Shipman

Orschel is grateful to Park City Film and executive director Katharine Wang for hosting the event through the Made in Utah Series program.

“I have had a long journey with Park City Film and it’s always been an outlet for me to be a part of a community,” said Orschel, who curates the nonprofit’s annual Filmmakers Showcase. “Park City Film’s beautiful mission is to build community through film. And that’s grounding, to have that at a grassroots level.”

Wang said hosting the work-in-progress fundraiser is something Park City Film can do to give back to the work Orschel has done for local filmmakers.

“Jill founded our Filmmakers Showcase, and she has been such a champion for filmmakers here and around the state, notably with the Film Fatales, a group of female filmmakers,” she said. “We try to support her works as they come along. So as ‘Snowland’ has come together, we feel it is a special treat to support this work. It’s a nice coming full circle to give back to her who has given back so much to the filmmaking community.”


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