On June 1st, Southland native David Cameli and a few colleagues gave themselves a month to raise $7,000 through a crowdfunding campaign to get them across the finish line of a short film project. Cameli had never raised money this way and said they had no idea what to expect.
They raised the $7,000+ needed for their project in just three days.
“It’s huge,” Cameli said. “Not only achieving the amount we set out to do, but getting there so quickly has been truly inspiring and made us feel truly loved and loved by our friends and family and the people who have supported us through this to be supported. It meant a lot.”
Cameli, 32, grew up in Tinley Park and Orland Park. He graduated from Sandburg High School in 2008, attended Indiana University and then pursued acting in plays and short films in Chicago.
“It felt like we were at a point in Chicago where we needed to take the next step of moving west,” Cameli said, so in 2019 he and his wife made the jump to Los Angeles.
Jeremy Schaye, a friend from Chicago’s acting scene, came to visit. The two began discussing collaboration ideas and workshops, and they realized they each had family members affected by multiple sclerosis.
That was the seed for their film, Back Home, which they began exploring “in and out,” Cameli said. Schaye eventually moved to Los Angeles as well, as did a third friend, Bailey Castle.
“We thought it would be so much fun working together again, the three of us,” Cameli said. “We had never done it in this form before.”
Last winter they started dedicating a lot of time to Back Home. The film tells the fictional story of two estranged siblings who have a chronically ill parent. When their other parent dies, the siblings are forced to come to terms with the situation. Cameli said having a personal connection with someone with a chronic illness made it a “scary” story, but he hopes his experience adds truth to his work and allows viewers to connect with “Back Home.”
The short film was self-financed and shot in April, but they needed money for post-production, said Cameli, who co-writes and co-stars with Schaye in the film. Castle is the director of the film.
“Even if it’s a short film, those things can add up — things like editing, sound, having music composed for the film,” he said. “Then there are festival submissions.”
Festivals are one of the main outlets for short films once they are completed, but they come with entrance fees and other costs. Cameli said many festivals only want films that haven’t premiered publicly yet, so the trio hope to exhaust those options before aiming for a wider release. The film is due to be finished by August and Cameli said they will continue to update supporters and social media followers on its progress and how to watch it later.
Though funding is complete, Cameli said people can keep donating until the campaign ends in early July. Any additional funding will help cover cost overruns and benefit a hopeful Los Angeles premiere.
To make a short film on a budget, the trio had to wear a series of hats to complete it. In Cameli’s case, that meant being an actor, producer and writer all in one. He graduated from Indiana’s Kelley School of Business with a degree in finance and said he had “a little bit of business acumen.”
Two times a week
News updates from the southern suburbs are delivered every Monday and Wednesday
“The manufacturing aspect definitely interests me from that angle,” said Cameli. “I consider myself primarily an actor. I’m a writer by necessity, at least for now. It came out of the situation where actors go where you look for work, maybe you don’t get it, so you choose to create your own work.”
Short films, which typically have smaller budgets, were also a medium of need for the trio. But it’s also one that Cameli loved exploring.
“Since that film, I’ve really come to appreciate it as a distinct art form in which I can see myself continuing short films even when other opportunities arise,” said Cameli. “It forces you to be brief because you don’t have much time to tell your story. You have to be very specific about what dialogue you write or what scenes you include. That can really help you grow as an artist, as an actor.”
While he hopes his future lies in film, Cameli said he might explore some live theater as well. The Los Angeles scene is “pretty lively” now that things are reopening, he said.
But for now, Cameli and his colleagues are looking forward to completing Back Home on their own terms.
“We’re really proud of this film,” said Cameli. “We worked really hard on it.”
Bill Jones is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.