By David Armstrong
When I was cordially invited to attend Fatal Funnel Films’ private film screening of their first short-length thriller Cellar Door, I knew right away that my experience there would be grandiose. My lovely date and I arrived at the River East AMC, and immediately observed a sharp crowd entering as well. Emerging onto the third floor, we were instantly impressed with a large and enthusiastic turnout.
Director Philip Plowden and Writer/Executive Producer Deven Colwell, as well as the rest of production’s marvelous team, were mid-photo shoot, so there was not much opportunity to speak to them before the film began. Thankfully we had made it just in time for the cocktail hour, so we had time to mingle and socialize. I spotted the lead actor Danny Goldring in the crowd and had a pleasant exchange of words with him. As the night grew, I learned more and more about Fatal Funnel Films and its ambitions.
Cellar Door is a thirty-minute prequel for the yet-to-be-released Raven’s Point, which is supposed to take place ten years post-Cellar Door. When asked of the significance of the cellar door, Colwell explained that the idea partly derived from Edgar Allen Poe’s famous “Nevermore” from The Raven—how one word can allude to multiple, intertwining concepts—and so the cellar door was meant to be a dark metaphor for justice, as well as the latch where a kidnapped girl is held captive. The writing done for these films have clearly been intricately thought out, and it was pleasing to see the cleverness behind the work come full circle.
Although Plowden and Colwell founded Fatal Funnel Films in 2014, Plowden had actually written the idea for the story back when he was studying at Columbia College. The rock band Smashing Pumpkins’ lyric “the killer in me is the killer in you” served as one of the many inspiration for his interest in the horror/thriller genre. When Colwell, a former United States Marine, finally joined forces with Plowden, these ideas finally began to be realized. The two have been working together ever since. The chemistry between the two artists was happily expressed during the Q&A session following the screening.
An interesting question asked at the Q&A led Plowden to share some difficulties that him and his team had to overcome. One of the greatest inconveniences—in addition the relentless heat while shooting the film on-location in Joliet–was the demanding schedule for the crew. What helped the crew tremendously, Plowden added, was the positive enthusiasm and helpfulness of the local townspeople. Another challenge that Plowden and his team faced was working on a tight budget. Thin finances were a huge factor impeding the release of the film—a struggle of many independent filmmakers—but that certainly did not stop them. Some of the props and apparel for the film were “thrifted,” which I found to be frugally unique.
Fatal Funnel Films is composed of many talented, passionate, and hardworking individuals who not only devoted their efforts to the production of Cellar Door, but juggled their current involvements with their other work, including the hit television series Chicago PD. With so many rich stories on queue to be produced, Fatal Funnel Films is an up-and-coming name that is not to be overlooked.
David Armstrong is a University of Illinois at Chicago intern for Classic Chicago, a photographer and filmmaker in training.