At A Glance
"Walpurgisnacht" ("vall-pur-gis-nackt") is a low-budget horror film about a young Savannah artist who moves into a decaying plantation in the rural south to be an apprentice to a dying master painter.
She soon suspects that the artist may be hundreds of years old and that his coterie of apprentices is a witches coven who are drugging her for some diabolical ends...
The film is being produced by Jeff Thelen, Joshua Berwald, and Anthony Abbott for Quixotic Arts in Atlanta, Georgia.
Title: "Walpurgisnacht" (AKA "Hurricane Grove")
Genre: Satanic Thriller
Rating: R (projected) for graphic violence, brief nudity, and terrifying sequences
Length: 90 minutes
Estimated Budget: 150k
Targeted Schedule: 25 days. Fall-Winter 2017
Shooting Locations: Savannah, Georgia and metro Atlanta area
Production Company: Quixotic Arts, LLC. Atlanta, Georgia
Producers: Jeff Thelen, Joshua Berwald, Anthony Abbott
Writer/Director: Jeff Thelen
Contact: Jeff Thelen
The Story In Brief
An Artist and Her Discontents
"Walpurgisnacht" tells the story of Ellie Burkhalter, a young artist who takes care of her blind grandmother in Savannah. Her story begins with a gallery showing of her artwork. It is a disastrous flop. During the gallery showing, however, a strange event occurs: someone steals her nude self-portrait off the wall.
The gallery showing leaves Ellie hounded by self-doubt about her artistic talents. So when she is contacted to be an apprentice to a mysterious reclusive master painter, Balthazar Haagard, Ellie is thrilled. Unfortunately, the apprenticeship requires that she move to the remote plantation where Balthazar lives. Ellie cannot leave her blind grandmother alone and so she turns down the opportunity.
Angry and bitter at the lost opportunity, Ellie burns her artwork. She has a violent fight with her boyfriend, Peter, who cannot understand her self-destructive artistic nature.
That night, Ellie finds one of Balthazar's strange paintings in her house: it portrays a witches sabbath, "Walpurgisnacht." When she goes to bed, Ellie has a dream of her grandmother falling down the stairs of their house and breaking her neck. She awakes to find it was no dream.
Free to pursue her artistic ambitions, Ellie arrives at the plantation. Her car strangely dies just as she is entering the long drive.
The plantaion is a decaying old manor surrounded by swamp-land. It is known as "Hurricane Grove" because of the eerie winds that constantly pummel it. On every wall within the house are hundreds of paintings--Balthazar's dark masterpieces of magic and the diabolical.
Ellie meets three women who serve as the artist's help-mates, models, and apprentices: Muriel (35), Sasha (30), and Katie (18). Only Katie is friendly--a little too friendly; Muriel is cold and tyrannical; Sasha is silent and hostile. Ellie also meets the old black caretaker, Jefferson Washington (70), an outsider who lives in a shack on the plantation grounds. The one person Ellie does not meet is Balthazar, who is sick in bed.
Her first night at the plantation, Ellie collapses at dinner after drinking some of Sasha's home-made wine. She has terrible nightmares and awakes in the middle of the night, sick to her stomach.
The following day, Ellie tours the old place with Katie, who regards the plantation as her home, and can barely seem to remember her own family. When Ellie and Katie have a mid-day swim in a stream, Ellie is shocked to see a terrible scar on Katie's abdomen. Katie claims she cannot recall what happened.
Returning home, the young women come upon an old burnt chapel in the woods, which seems to terrify Katie.
The Master Painter
Days go by and Ellie grows sicker and sicker. She has yet to meet Balthazar, who, Katie tells her, is "dying again." Nightmares haunt Ellie. She finds she cannot focus her thoughts. She is unsure what day it is or how long she has been at the plantation. She tries to write a letter to Peter (there is no phone and certainly no internet at the old house), but her hand shakes terribly.
Then one night, hearing voices, Ellie creeps down to the art studio and meets Balthazar at last. He appears to be middle-aged, but is afflicted with numerous illnesses and complaints. He has an irresistable presence and sexual magnetism that has a hold over Ellie. Balthazar is surprised to learn of Ellie's apprenticeship. His mind wanders, in part due to the strange herbs he smokes, but also because of his age--he claims he can no longer even recall his own mother and father. How old is he?
His paintings are piled up by the dozens in corners. They cover every square inch of wall-space. Hundreds of nightmare masterpieces. One painting in particular impresses Ellie. It seems to be a portrait over a hundred years old. Balthazar tells her it is of Beelzebub, who posed for him in Paris, and that the canvas is made of human skin. Muriel calls Balthazar a liar and he confesses he is an incorrigible liar.
Ellie assists Balthazar as he resumes work on his masterpiece, "Four Witches"--featuring Katie, Sasha, and Muriel. When Sasha enters and poses nude for him, Ellie is shocked to see Sasha has the same awful scar extending from her groin up to her navel as Katie. Balthazar suddenly collapses in a coughing fit. Muriel gives him an injection and Ellie returns to bed.
The Sickness Unto Death
Ellie continues to sicken. She is vomiting nightly. She is weak and trembles. She is growing paranoid. She begins to suspect she is being poisoned. She tries to resist Sasha's teas and meals stuffed with bitter herbs and berries. She feels trapped and manipulated. But to what end?
Ellie tries to assist Balthazar again, but she is too weak to even stand. Jefferson takes pity on Ellie and substitutes coffee for Sasha's usual herbal tea. Seeing the old black man in his studio, Balthazar erupts in fury and throws a jar of paint at him. Muriel is also outraged at Jefferson and sets her sights on him.
That night, Ellie has a twisted erotic dream about Balthazar. She attempts to kiss him, to give in to his sexual gravity, but the man resists her, telling her the time is not right: "Soon, very soon."
The next morning, Ellie awakes alone in the art studio. She takes the opportunity to inspect the portrait of Beelzebub and finds that it may indeed have been painted on human skin. While Muriel is down in the cellar (where she spends a lot of time), Ellie sneaks into the kitchen to search the trash. She suspects the others of hiding Peter's letters to her. She finds nothing, however; but then spies a scrap of paper under the stove: a burnt fragment of her letter to Peter, which Muriel was to have mailed.
Ellie tries to escape. Katie pursues her up the drive, pleading for her not to leave. Ellie accuses Katie and the others of poisoning her, of plotting against her for some unknown evil reason. When she arrives where she left her car in the drive, she is surprised to find the tires flat and the windshield covered with leaves. How long has she been at the plantation? What day is it? She knows she arrived in August, but the trees are now in bloom.
Hysterical, Ellie bolts through the woods toward a highway just beyond. Before she can reach safety, however, a wild boar attacks her and takes her down. Jefferson appears at the last moment with a shotgun and kills the beast.
Wounded, Ellie is carried to her bed. Muriel sedates her while the others tend to her wound. Jefferson refuses to assist, thus pouring fuel on Muriel's suspicion of his devotion to the "family."
Sedated, Ellie has dark dreams that underscore the diabolical nature of the plantation and its occupants.
While she is sedated, Peter arrives at the plantation. Muriel orders him to leave, claiming Ellie doesn't want to speak to him, but the man refuses. He has written Ellie many times and hasn't heard a word from her in over six months, and he won't leave without seeing her. At that moment, Sasha storms in and sticks the young man with a knife in the neck. Peter struggles to get a hold of the knife, but the blade turns white-hot and he drops it. Suddenly, Peter is aware of Balthazar, looming in the dark nearby...
A Severed Head
Ellie wakes to the sound of a man moaning in agony. Barely able to stand, she follows the voice down into the cellar, where Muriel has left the door unlocked. In the cellar, Ellie is shocked to find her stolen self-portrait. Festooned by magical symbols, her portrait has been altered so that her belly is very pregnant; blood drips from her swollen nipples. Staggering back in horror, she knocks over a basket holding Peter's severed head, still sobbing and moaning pathetically.
Ellie rushes to the front door to escape, but she is taken down by the three witches. They put her in bed and sedate her. She awakes to find Balthazar at her bedside. The man tells her the story of an artist he knew who was struck down by a deadly illness. The artist embraced Satanism to defy God and mortality--"to pick God's greedy pocket of just one more hour." Through black magic, the artist learned to live forever. "And so he did, on this night, in the year 1366, Anno Domini."
This night, he explains, is Walpurgisnacht, the Eve of St Walpurga's Feast Day. "A night sacred to witches and sorcerers. When witches gather and hold revels with the devil. When chaos reigns and nature goes mad. It is the holiest day in the witches calendar, when nothing can be denied them."
Heavily drugged, Ellie is dressed by the three witches in a ritual frock. They paint one another's bodies with diabolical symbols. They prepare magical concoctions.
That night, Walpurgisnacht, Ellie is escorted to the burnt chapel in the woods, where she is nailed to the altar floor in the midst of a magical circle. Whereupon Balthazar is led in, an ancient man in ritual garb. The witches help Balthazar to mount the terrified woman. After a moment, he climaxes and his decaying body is scattered like dust by the wind...
We should stop here in our story for now.
If you are interested to know what happens to Ellie and Balthazar and the rest, drop us an email at Quixotic Arts and we will be delighted to send you the complete synopsis or the entire script, if you like.
Ellie Burkhalter (22). A young artist who lives with her blind grandmother in Savannah. Ellie is naive and virginal, having devoted all her life to a single goal at the expense of everything else: to become a great painter. When her first showing at an art gallery flops, she burns all her paintings and is recruited to be an apprentice to a mysterious master painter, Balthazar Haagard.
Peter (30). Ellie's "boyfriend." A well-to-do professional who doesn't understand Ellie's self-destructive artistic nature. Despite his desire to take care of her, Ellie resists anything deeper than friendship with Peter. Their relationship is thus entirely Platonic and when Ellie leaves town to join Balthazar, it goes smash.
Balthazar Haagard (45). A mysterious master artist who lives at Hurricane Grove, a remote plantation in the Low Country of South Carolina. Drug-addict, black magician, eccentric artist, a sick and dying man--Balthazar is a shadowy figure haunting the plantation at night like Nosferatu in his castle. Although he appears to Ellie as a middle-aged man with a powerful sexual presence, there are hints that Balthazar may be much much older--and that those diabolical ancient paintings hanging everywhere in the plantation may be his work.
Muriel (40). One of three women who live at the plantation with Balthazar as his "apprentices, models, and helpers." A cold and forbidding woman, she is the real authority at the plantation, controlling to some extent even Balthazar. A former Sister of Mercy, Muriel is later revealed to be the head of the witches coven and, like Balthazar, is much older than she appears.
Katie (18). One of the three women who live at Hurricane Grove, Katie is a student of Balthazar's--although she admits she hasn't painted anything in years. Katie is a sweet, bubbly child-like teen who longs to find a new friend in Ellie. Katie is Ellie's confidant during her stay at Hurricane Grove, but it's also clear that Katie is a simple-minded teen, confused about why she is still at the plantation. She seems to exist in perpetual puberty.
Sasha (25). The last of the three women living at the plantation, Sasha is a dark, silent woman who is the household cook. She is devoted to her herb garden, and serves to Ellie strange homemade wines and herbal teas. She is skilled with a knife and a sprig of belladonna. A former artist's model, Sasha still poses for Balthazar as he strives to finish his latest masterpiece "Four Witches."
Jefferson Washington (70). "Handyman, caretaker, gravedigger." Jefferson is an old black man who lives in a shack out back of the plantation, where he was born. An outsider, he is not part of the "family." There is bad blood between Jefferson and Balthazar, and the women do not trust him. It is eventually revealed that they suspect Jefferson had helped another witch, now dead, try to kill Balthazar. When Ellie arrives, he gradually wakes up and resolves to end the diabolical cycle.
Hurricane Grove (200). The decaying plantation where the story takes place. As in many High Gothic stories, the location is as much a character as any person, evoking an eerie and sometimes surreal atmosphere. The plantation is known as Hurricane Grove because of the strange winds that continually pummel it, blasting the trees and banging on the windows. The house and its furnishings have not been updated for a hundred years. Its wiring is precarious. The place is crowded with disturbing paintings that hint at Balthazar's black magic and ancient history.
Please note. This is not a legal document or intended to be a complete investor agreement. Our purpose here is to provide a general proposal for those interested in investing in "Walpurgisnacht." What follows should not be construed to contain the full details of a legal investment agreement.
What's It Going To Cost?
The average production cost of a studio feature film in 2017 is between 20 and 50 million dollars. That's average. Generally speaking, for films without expensive special effects or stunts, the lion's share of such high budgets go to the stars or name directors or the producers. The technical costs of a typical Hollywood film production ("below the line costs") are often much less than the "above the line" costs.
Low-budget films often rely on a strong story, interesting characters, and a unique vision to attract audiences. This is particularly true of horror films like "Walpurgisnacht," which traditionally need not attract stars to be successes at the box office. "The Blair Witch Project" (1999) is a classic benchmark case (60k budget, 250m gross).
Low-budget horror films are thus often made for a fraction of Hollywood studio films, often without sacrificing technical or acting quality. Professional actors will sometimes sign up to be in a low-budget film because the story or a particular role is more interesting or challenging than those in Hollywood productions. Or because they are offered a significant percentage of the net profits.
Similarly, the low-budget director and producer's main focus is usually in making a high quality unique film, filling a niche that Hollywood productions cannot or will not address, and they will often sacrifice upfront salaries for a percentage return on the backend.
In short, a low-budget film is often a labor of love.
This is the case with "Walpurgisnacht." Most of the costs in the budget are below the line (for crew, equipment, and post-production). We have estimated a minimal production budget of $150,000. The estimate is available upon request.
What's The Deal?
As a whole, investors in "Walpurgisnacht" will share 49% of all net profits derived from the commercial exploitation of the film, including rentals, sales, or any other income derived from the film's distribution.
"Shares" are offered in $15,000 blocks. 10 "shares" are available, totalling up to 150k. Thus, each 15k investment will receive 4.9% of all net profits.
As a further incentative, investors will receive the first dollars returned from any net profits; that is, investors receive net profits first before any other profit distributions are made. After the investors are paid back their initial investments in full, investors will share in the profit pool proportional to their "shares," in scheduled distributions with the production company.
Finally, anyone who purchases 3 or more investment blocks (i.e., invests a minimum of 45k) will receive the title of Executive Producer and be credited as such, if desired.
Naturally, investors will be welcome on the set during production to experience the excitement (and terror) of film-making.
The Fine Print
Investing in motion pictures is a high risk investment. Despite the best efforts of producers to make and market a film within budget, numerous variables in film production, marketing, distribution, and in audience tastes make investing in films inherently unpredictable. There can be no guarantees of any return on an investment or of recouping the initial investment; some or all of the investor's investment in this film or in any film may be lost. No one should ever invest in a motion picture who cannot afford the complete loss of the initial investment.
Quixotic Arts will retain ownership of the motion picture, with all the rights and responsibilities that entails. Although the producers welcome any input from investors, the producers reserve the right to make all creative and business decisions regarding the production, marketing, distribution, and/or sale of the film.
Note. No one can predict if a film will be profitable or not or to what extent. Profitability is especially unpredictable for a projected film in the early stages of development. Of course, producers and investors can gain a sense of a film's marketability by examining how other similar films have performed in the past, although it can only serve as a rough indicator of potential success or failure. The following films have been selected for comparison because they are similar in some way to "Walpurgisnacht"--similar in theme or content or genre or budget, etc. Budgets and Box Office grosses have been retrieved through Wikipedia.com and have not been independently verified; figures are unadjusted for inflation.
"Rosemary's Baby" (1968). Budget: 3m. Box Office: 33m. Similarities: the concept of a captive, paranoid, drugged woman caught up in a Satanic cult. Dissimilarities: it was a glossy Hollywood studio production, released with a full marketing campaign. Comment: the classic film of Satanism. 1968 was a very different world in terms of film-making and audience expectations.
"Skeleton Key" (2005). Budget: 43m. Box Office: 13m. Similarities: the setting of a spooky southern plantation and diabolical goings-on. Dissimilarities: name actors and a huge budget .
"Silent House" (2011). Budget: 2m. Box Office: 17m. Similarities: a low-budget horror/thriller. Dissimilarities: not a satanic horror film; Elizabeth Olsen was a name actress, if not a star. Comment: Another low-budget horror picture that appears to have made money.
"The Quiet Ones" (2014). Budget: 200k. Box Office: 17m. Similarities: a very low-budget supernatural horror. Dissimilarities: a ghost story, not a satanic story; a British production, produced by famous Hammer Films. Comment: I have not personally seen this film and chose it simply as a recent example of horror based on budget and context.
"The Witch" (2015). Budget: 3m. Box Office: 40m. Similarities: its extreme low-budget, no star-power, and the theme of witchcraft. Dissimilarities: its unique period setting. Comment: strong positive reviews propelled this quasi-art-house film to profitability.
"Demonic" (2015). Budget: 3m. Box Office: 4.6m. Similarities: it is a low-budget supernatural horror film with no star power. Dissimilarities: the producer was James Wan, a well-known horror director. Comment: I have not viewed this film and pulled it almost at random from a list of recent horror films.
"Neon Demon" (2016). Budget: 7m. Box Office: 3m. Similarities: the character of an ingénue entering into a dangerous coven of "witches." Dissimilarities: the director's strong artistic reputation; Elle Fanning's rising star. Comment: Not exactly a horror film, although there are vague supernatural elements. The picture lost money in its theatrical release.
Who We Are
Producer, Writer, Director
Award-winning oil painter, screenwriter, filmmaker. In 2016, with Joshua Berwald, Jeff wrote, directed, and produced "Panopticon," a feature-length sci-fi film made for the impossibly small sum of $5,000. The trailer can be seen at www.QuixoticArts.com. In order to see the film through to completion, Jeff had to play many roles in addition to producing and directing, including editing, doing the CGI special effects, and composing the score. Jeff plans to play all those roles again for "Walpurgisnacht."
Jeff lives in Dunwoody, Georgia, with his family. You can email him directly at jeff@QuixoticArts.com.
Actor, producer, writer, filmmaker. In 2016, Joshua starred in and helped produce the no-budget sci-fi film "Panopticon" with Jeff Thelen. Due to the non-existent budget, the film took over a year to photograph, on weekends and spare-change. It took tenacity and dedication to see the project through to completion. A producing partner at Quixotic Arts, Joshua will serve as full producer and casting director for "Walpurgisnacht."
Joshua lives in Atlanta. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Musician, artist, writer, filmmaker. In addition to making his own films and music videos, Anthony worked as writer and assistant director on the horror film Apollyon. Anthony also helped write the music for "Panopticon." On "Walpurgisnacht," he will play a key role as associate producer and creative partner.
Anthony lives in Sandy Springs, Georgia, with his wife and two boys. Email him at email@example.com.
This footage of Bulloch Hall plantation in Roswell, Georgia, was shot as a test.
But it turned out so well that I borrowed some music from the "Exorcist" and made it into a quasi-teaser. The eerie tone and texture of this is something we will strive for in "Walpurgisnacht." Photographed and edited by Jeff Thelen.