Director Louis Doerge launches campaign for Iowa City-based horror film

Night of the Babysitter
Night of the Babysitter starring Dora Madison Burge as “the babysitter.” — photo courtesy of Louis Doerge

After seven years of working in the film industry in both Arizona and Texas, director Louis Doerge returns to his hometown of Iowa City to shoot his latest horror film, Night of the Babysitter, starring Dora Madison Burge of Friday Night Lights and Dexter fame.

Described by Doerge (director, writer) as a “crime thriller in the guise of a horror slasher,” Night of the Babysitter tells the story of a father and daughter who carry out the final acts of a year-long revenge plot. A highly stylized retribution tale where murky morals abound, the film touts Jeff Wedding (Measure of the Sin) as director of photography, along with music by Pitchfork-darling Future Death and hip-hop artist Nom.

Cast and crew will begin shooting in Iowa City in January, Doerge says. Shooting locations will involve older residential neighborhoods for the most part. “Instead of specific landmarks, [we’re] trying to capture that ‘tone’ that Iowa City offers,” the director said.

The crew has raised about half the funds needed to complete the film, and more recently, Doerge launched an Indiegogo fundraising campaign to help offset the cost of crew pay, film and travel expenses.

The fundraising campaign kicked off last week and currently has 37 days to reach its goal of $35,000. Doerge says he launched the campaign, in part, so that crew members can be paid up front rather than accepting deferred pay, the receipt of which hinges upon the the film’s actual release.

To give the movie a more “genuine” look, Doerge plans to forego the use digital cameras, opting instead to shoot Night of the Babysitter on Kodak Super 16mm film.

“I just always preferred the way that film looks. It’s just much better contrast, you get much better blacks out of the picture,” Doerge said. Although film can be more difficult to work with than digital, he says that the money saved on color correction alone balances out the higher cost of materials.

“In a world that is completely digital, film stands out,” he added.

Doerge’s return to Iowa comes after the completion of his first DVD release, Dropping Evil, as well as his first festival short, Lily and Lucille’s Hip Creature. Night of the Babysitter, meanwhile, will mark his feature film directorial debut.

Doerge, who grew up in Iowa City and studied film at the University of Iowa, says he chose to shoot in Iowa despite the state’s lack of tax breaks for filmmakers.

“Iowa is my home originally, and I’d love to see some kind of industry prevail here,” Doerge said. “Especially Iowa City — there are so many intelligent, creative and talented people who are unable to invest those talents into something bigger than what they have to work with. So it’d be really nice to see a larger industry come here, and I think one of the ways to do that is to make whatever you want to make, in spite of the advantages and disadvantages.”

Getting the rest of the cast and crew on board was easy enough, he says.

“People get excited about not filming in the same locations all the time,” he said. “So when they have a chance to go somewhere and do something different, and come to a town that isn’t as used to [feature filmmaking] as it should be — because I think a lot more movies should be shot in Iowa City and Iowa — people are really open to that.”

Doerge plans to host the world premiere of Night of the Babysitter in Iowa City upon its completion, though details are still in flux.

“That’ll be its own thing, kind of separate from a distribution or theatrical run,” he said.

The film’s producers include David Pike, director of the Arizona Underground Film Festival, and the aforementioned Burge. In addition to playing the lead role in Doerge’s Night of the Babysitter, Burge will also appear in an untitled Terrance Malick project alongside Ryan Gosling and Michael Fassbinder, as well as director Richard Linklater’s upcoming film That’s What I’m Talking About — a sequel to 1993’s Dazed and Confused.

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