Sawyer Film 2018

Marshall Leming and producer Brendan Boyle are joined on a video call with screenwriter Shawn Khounphithack who currently lives in Chicago, IL. Photo by Jason Stilgebouer.

Sawyer, an environmental piece about a futuristic society where nuclear power is commonplace, enters its pre-production stage with a fundraising campaign and high hopes from the crew to create a ground-breaking film. To make the complex idea a reality, director Marshall Leming and producer Brendan Boyle have chosen to dedicate their senior year to the making of Sawyer, joined by screenwriter Shawn Khounphithack.

To start their fundraising, the team launched an Indiegogo campaign on Nov. 1, which will last until Dec. 1. In just more than a week, they have raised nearly half of the $5,000 goal. They are also seeking fiscal sponsors and grants to assist in the funding of the film. The film is scheduled to run 45-60 minutes and the team’s preliminary plan is to shoot over eight days in March 2018.

The film Sawyer is set in a futuristic society where the earth is heavily contaminated with nuclear radiation, people’s main power source. A young girl named Sawyer develops a generator to reverse the contamination, becoming a threat to the monopoly of the government.

Leming, who came up with the original idea, chose the name and title because the film takes place in Arkansas and, according to Leming’s research, people of Arkansas call themselves “Sawyers” (a term used to clarify the pronunciation of Arkansas).

“Sawyer can be both a girl’s name and also…a guy’s name. It can be both a name and it’s what people of Arkansas call themselves. They’re Sawyers. And so this story is about a revolution in Arkansas and individualization,” he says.

Boyle, who has produced a number of films previously, believes this film will be the closest they’ve ever come to a professional set on a student level. “I think we’ve got an amazing team on it and I really do think this film is going to go smoothly with the team that we have…we’re all going to break new grounds as for the scale of the things we can do on a small budget,” he says.   

For the set, Boyle has already secured 12 locations and many of the locations have been given at no cost to the crew. Boyle says the most difficult obstacle was finding resources. Now that locations have been secured, his focus will be on raising the rest of the funds for the film.

Khounphithack, who recently transferred from Santa Fe University of Art and Design to Chicago’s Tribeca Flashpoint, decided to work on the film from a distance by writing the script and serving as associate producer. “The reason as to why I wanted to write the script for Sawyer is because it was my last year of college and Marshall, Brendan and I never got to collaborate…to our full potential,” he says.

With the script written and few changes remaining, Khounphithack plans to focus on the production side of the film, securing fiscal sponsorships. Now that he is based in Chicago, he believes he will be able to help with production even more through the resources Chicago has to offer to Sawyer, which will be produced in Santa Fe. Khounphithack also plans to be on set  in March to help with sound.

Leming hopes that Sawyer, upon completion, will open a dialogue about the issues the film addresses, some of which include “government involvement in personal affairs” and “environmental changes.”

“Ultimately, Sawyer is to be enjoyed. Whether you agree with the message or not, I’m trying to make an enjoyable, palatable adventure film in essence and I don’t want its message to be riding front seat,” he says. “I want the narrative to ride front seat and I want the message to come with it.”

Though their crew is almost complete, Leming is still looking for actors and production designers. Leming believes the film will turn out to be “weird flavor,” though Leming, Boyle and Khounphithack all hope the film will be picked up and possibly turned into a TV series in the future.

To contact the film’s producers, visit their Facebook page or email them at