Director Sean Mitchell's short film "Witness 11" is set during the red scare in 1947 when the House Un-American Activities Committee was looking for communists in the movie business. There were the Hollywood 10, but playwright Bertolt Brecht was the 11th witness. "He answered their questions without answering their questions. He didn't disgrace himself, didn't dishonor himself, didn't do an Elia Kazan, for example, yet he didn't go to jail like the rest of the Hollywood 10 did," Mitchell said.
Mitchell, who is an instructor at the Berkeley Digital Film Institute says the red scare fear of the 40s has parallels today. "A lot of what we hear in the script, in terms of what's here in the hearing room, is taken from court transcripts," he said. The film reeks of authenticity. They're shooting in the historic Berkeley City Club Hotel, using period clothing, accessories, and microphones, and using old speed graphic cameras, although they're shooting the film with the new digital red cameras.
It takes time and money to make a film like this, so Mitchell is looking to finance the film in a unique way, at a website called Kickstarter.com. "Short films are almost impossible to get anybody to finance, so usually they're self-financed. Kickstarter is a way I think to get projects like that off the ground," he said. You go to the Kickstarter website, pick Witness 11 and make a pledge in any amount. It's called crowd-funding, a way of getting financial support from movie fans, history buffs, or anyone interested in making a movie.
Mitchell has a month to raise the money on Kickstarter. He hopes to finish the film by fall and then screen it in film festivals and then, who knows?