Well, here it is folks – what we’ve all been waiting for— A feature length independent film of the Borden story with a terrific script, acted by age-appropriate actors, directed by a talented director with a passion for the case, and, for the very first time – wait for it —— filmed inside the actual house where the murders took place.
The “Defending Lizzie” official website with full history, can be found HERE.
“Defending Lizzie” is based on the screenplay co-written by author Karen Poulsen and Jerry Orzel, and adapted from Ms. Poulsen’s play of the same name. Ms. Poulsen’s play is one of the most authentic I have ever read and yet has at its foundation a most believable Lizzie under pre-murder circumstances. The play is a compelling read and quite thrilling. All characters are carefully crafted from her significant research and the screenplay has maintained authenticity of character, dialog, and plot trajectories. Further, unlike other productions, the story takes on factual occurrences often ignored or portrayed with gross inaccuracies.
This project has recently gained the partnership of the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum and we are all grateful to Lee-ann Wilber, General Manager, and Donald Woods, owner, for recognizing and giving support to this exciting endeavor. The “Wonderful World of Lizzie” and all its orbiting satellites will benefit with the production of this film. (I’m encouraging the new owner of Maplecroft, my friend, Kristee Bates, to allow some special filming of the interior which would be – you got it – another new FIRST!).
Because this is an independent film with limited financial resources, a fundraising campaign is being launched on August 4th. Primary funding will be used for transportation, housing and feeding of cast and crew to film on location. The film is scheduled to be released in summer 2016. You can help make this project achieve its destiny by contributing and I will post the link above under “Important Links” when it goes live.
Below is my interview with Jerry Orzel, the Director and co-writer.
Tell us briefly about your background as a filmmaker.
My first endeavor into film was “Revelation 22:22” which was a full feature
zombie film that I made fresh out of college. I wrote and directed a commercial
for a Holiday Inn Express contest that won the People’s Choice award.
I’ve been a freelance videographer / editor for the passed 15 years, and I’m
currently a media producer with the Volusia County School District.
What drew you to Lizzie and why Karen Poulsen’s play?
Karen’s play was well received by the audience and theatre
community. It was designed for minimal scenery, although it took place
in several locations. The characters were compelling and complex. She told the
story in a unique way that I instantly knew it had the perfect foundation for a
movie. The amount of research Karen has done over the past 30 plus years,
shows in the details of the script.
What will be your biggest challenges in filming “Defending Lizzie”?
Locations and wardrobe will be the most challenging, we don’t have the backing
of a large studio and we don’t have all the resources of a big budget production
has, but what I do have is a clever and resourceful wardrobe team lead by Ida
Bailey. She, along with Tosha Williams, made dresses by hand, altered items, and
used their connections with community theaters, assisted in wardrobe for the
trailer. Locations on the other hand have been challenging and fun. I had the
pleasure of getting into some really great places and talking to the owners. Our goal
is to shoot on location in the Lizzie Borden B&B, and use Fall River itself as a
backdrop for Defending Lizzie. Using the B&B along with other locations in Fall
River would add the production value that other movies lack. We would be the
first movie about Lizzie Borden to use the actual house. To me that in itself
would be a huge accomplishment as a filmmaker.
It’s been said the film is 80% factual an 20% artistic license or conjecture. Can you
describe what that 20% is?
Not every detail from Lizzie’s life is documented. To get from one historical fact
to the next we used a little artist license, even within the 20% we took has some
facts. One or two characters were combined into one. In doing this we are able
to keep production cost low, and still keep historic elements in the movie. We
created scenes between characters that may not have actually happened but
what they discuss is important to the story and it’s characters.
Which film festivals are you planning to submit Defending Lizzie?
Right now I’m currently just focused on getting the funding needed to get the
movie shot. I’ll submit Defending Lizzie to as many film festivals as I can, and
attend as many of those as I can. It’s fun to watch the audience watch the
movie, you get to see how they react to it, and as a film maker I get see what
works and what didn’t.
Will you be showcasing the film to special groups?
When we get Defending Lizzie done, I would like to hold 2 screenings prior to
hitting the film festivals. One in central Florida around where the cast and crew,
are located, and one in Fall River. I feel it is important to give the community a
chance to see how much of an impact they had in helping make Defending
Will your film be available on DVD for purchase and if so, when?
It depends if it gets picked up by a distributor, There is the possibility of it being
available thought VOD (Video On Demand) I know Netflix has an independent
division; Redbox, or we’ll self-distribute it ourselves thought Amazon, eBay and
the movie website. Somehow, some way it will be made available.
Can you elaborate on how your fund raising campaign will support this project?
Our Indiegogo campaign launches on August 4th on the 123rd anniversary of the
Borden murders. All funds will go directly into producing Defending Lizzie. We
have a “bare bones” budget, that will able us to shoot 90% of the movie in
Florida, and just get exterior shots of a few locations in Fall River. If we are lucky
enough to get the full amount needed, we would spend about 16 days of
production in Fall River. The budget is as big as it is because that’s what is costs
to make this type of movie. The fact that we are paying our cast and crew,
separates us from other independent films. I strongly believe in compensating
everyone that is working on this production. They have a talent whether it’s in
front of the camera or behind, and without them we have no movie.
Aside from Lizzie, who do you consider the most compelling character in the Borden case?
Andrew Borden. It is interesting to me that a man would build himself up from
basically nothing, and become a successful business man then live as frugal as
he did. I can understand not wanting a flashy lifestyle, but not to even have
indoor plumbing is really penny-pinching.
What would you like to say about the film or the Borden case given this
Defending Lizzie will be in a class all of its own when it comes to telling the
Lizzie Borden story. At its heart, it’s a murder mystery and the Borden case
could not be a better story to tell. Defending Lizzie will be what movies used to
be like, a story is driven by characters, an interesting plot, and of course –
Do you think Lizzie was guilty?
Not sure, I’m on the fence with that. I know that as the director, I want to show
Lizzie had another side. She has always been portrayed as a heartless, selfish, little brat. There is another side of Lizzie, a side of her that other movies
haven’t shown, a side that will make you feel sorry for her if she truly is
innocent of the murders. Lizzie, in this story, is walking a fine line between being
innocent and guilty
Defending Lizzie – Finally, a feature length, theatrical movie – – – filmed in the right place.