Writer/director Jack Dignan had just finished a COVID-impacted shoot on his microbudget horror After She Died last year when he received an unexpected email.
Having already been turned down for financial backing both domestically and internationally, the then 21-year-old was still unsure if his project would be able to find an audience.
It was therefore somewhat of a surprise when Ohio-based independent studio Good Deed Entertainment reached out to say they were interested in releasing the film in the US.
“We’re in post-production and then we got an email from the folks that Good Deed wanting to hear about the movie they saw on IMDB,” he said.
“They were quite interested in the plot synopsis that I had up there, so I sent them a cut of the film as a work in progress, but at the time, we hadn’t finished it yet.
“They loved it and we ended up staying in contact as we finished it up and sold it before it was even 100 per cent done.”
Filmed across 18 days in Sydney, After She Died follows Jen (Liliana Ritchie), a young woman with a dead mother and a fractured relationship with her father John (Paul Talbot).
Her friends, all recent high school graduates, are moving on with their lives and leaving behind the small town they once called home. Jen is, in every sense of the word, alone. That is until John introduces Jen to his new girlfriend, Florence (Vanessa Madrid), a woman who looks and sounds identical to Jen’s dead mother.
Dignan co-produced the project with Rhys William Nicolson (Wyrmwood: Apocalypse), who also served as the cinematographer in a creative team that included editor Alex Guterres and composer Andrew Back.
Working on a budget of about $100,000, Dignan said he “called in every favour” he could to get the project made.
“It was an interesting process,” he said.
“I have a small team of people that I’ve worked with for many years from when I was working in a cinema with them and we would always make short films and stuff on the weekends.
“They were my core creative team that when we couldn’t get proper funding for it and in 2020 during the pandemic, they said, ‘What if we just start prepping for it and make a start with whatever we have in our pockets?’, which we did.
“We started a lot of pre-production and then from there I just gathered together as many funds as I could from people in the form of IOUs and money.”
Aside from the US release of the film on September 30, Dignan is also planning a series of event screenings in various locations, including Sydney.
The filmmaker remains hopeful of securing an Australian distributor, although he did note a different appetite for horror here.
“The interesting thing that I’ve found, at least in my experiences so far, is that the Australian market is a little bit hesitant towards horror,” he said.
“It’s not quite as big of a hit, which is a shame because we do make a lot of really awesome horror movies like The Babadook and Wolf Creek, which go gangbusters overseas.
“But the US market is very interested in Australian horror movies and very interested in our film, which is why we sold it there first.
“We’re still in talks at the moment to try and lock in [an Australian distributor] but it was interesting to see how much more excited the US seemed to be at the prospect of an indie horror movie compared to Australia.”