“There’s a real gap between distributors and the audience,” says Deborah Kampmeier, whose debut feature, “Virgin,” is nominated for the John Cassavetes and actress (Elizabeth Moss) awards at the Spirits.
At screenings of the film, about a teenager who believes she has been impregnated by God, “it really shakes that target audience of 18- to 24-year-old women,” says the writer-director. “I see them sobbing.”
But distributors walk up to her and say they don’t know what to do with it. Kampmeier counters, “But I just showed you what to do with it.”
For a story that’s “heavy, dark, but ultimately hopeful,” Kampmeier admits the movie may be a tough sell for some distribs. She also blames an industrywide backlash against the gritty handheld digital cinematography that the film employs.
Shot for 21 days on a $65,000 budget supplied by friends and family, the film premiered at the L.A. Film Festival last year and took home screenwriting and acting honors from the Hamptons Film Festival.
It was at the Sarasota fest where Kampmeier, a New York theater vet and acting teacher, got her biggest boost. Thanks to a Sarasota businessman who is putting up the financing, she is undertaking a strategic self-distribution campaign across the country, screening the film first to college campuses and then opening in area theaters.
” ‘Virgin’ is really a project of passion,” says Kampmeier. “And for me, it’s an incredible honor to be nominated for the John Cassavetes award. For me, Cassavetes represents passion: passion for life and passion for art. And as independent filmmakers you have to be passionate. It’s the only way to get an indie film made.”