Crowdfunding goal nearly reached for local indie film featuring actors with special needs

Actors Luke Davis, left, and Amber Nash will star in the Atlanta-lensed indie film “How to Ruin the Holidays.”

Kevin Gillese is going to make a movie in Atlanta. Not a short film – he’s already done that – but a feature-length, indie comedy crowdfunded by fans and believers in the project. In just 10 days, Gillese has raised more than $95,000 of a $100,000 goal. So, yes, this is happening.

The former artistic director of Dad’s Garage Theatre, which will be acting as the production company behind the film, Gillese pressed pause on the project for more than a year due to the pandemic. Now, “How to Ruin the Holidays” is moving toward pre-production.

The plot revolves around a character with a developmental disability (played by local actor Luke Davis, who is also disabled), and the complicated realities that his family has to grapple with. Along with David, the film will feature Colin Mochrie (“Whose Line Is It, Anyway?”) and Amber Nash (Pam Poovey on “Archer” and Gillese’s wife). Gillese said “How to Ruin the Holidays” will be festival-bound (think Toronto, Sundance, and SXSW) and, hopefully, picked up by a distributor for theatrical release.

“This is a million-dollar movie we are doing for $150,000 and that’s only possible due to all of our top-level creatives and producers working for free because they believe this work is important,” Gillese said.  “We are seeking $100,000 in crowdfunding, and the other $50,000 has been raised privately. Most of our production budget is going to hard costs like equipment rentals, catering, and paying crew members.”

Writer and producer Kevin Gillese, left, with his brother Mark, who inspired the storyline of “How to Ruin the Holidays.”

Since stepping down from Dad’s Garage, Gillese has focused his attention on producing a comedic film featuring adult actors with special needs. His younger brother has a developmental disability, and for years Gillese said he has been concerned about representation of this group in media and entertainment.

“In movies and television, special needs characters are treated like children, even if they are full-grown adults. Through ‘How to Ruin the Holidays’ I want to give adults with special needs their own agency, and deal with the real-world issues that are part of their lives,” Gillese said. “The spine of the story has a dramatic arc, but along the way there is a lot of ridiculousness and hijinks.”

This film is a successor to the Dad’s Garage TV short “That Was Awesome,” which was done in collaboration with the JCC Spotlight program, which trains adults with special needs in the skills of acting and performance. “That Was Awesome” featured a large cast of special needs actors and Dad’s Garage improvisers, and the film has been featured at many film festivals. Luke Davis also starred in “That Was Awesome.”

Gillese said he’s excited to be making a small film in Atlanta, which has fully embraced the “Hollywood South” moniker with big budget movies and series filming daily around the city.

“The core cast in place, we’ve got our core production team, and filled every last role,” Gillese said. “We’re ready to go. With so many big projects coming in from outside the city to film, we’re excited to be filling a niche and showing that small films can be made here, too.”

If you want to put “How to Ruin the Holidays” over the top for its fundraising goal, visit this link.