Saskatchewan-based horror short film reaches Kickstarter funding goal in 30 hours

When Mitch Oliver and Jesse Sawitsky first talked about their idea for a short film, they never imagined it would take off like this.

A Kickstarter campaign for their horror short The Druid’s Hand reached its goal in just 30 hours.

“It’s insane, it’s something that we did not anticipate,” said Oliver, the film’s director and co-writer. 

“At first we were just planning on doing it basically on no budget,” said Sawitsky, the project’s producer and co-writer.

The Druid’s Hand features a cast and crew that is so far almost entirely based in Saskatchewan.

Filming is scheduled to begin in mid-August.

Producer and writer Jesse Sawitsky will also be drawing the concept art for the film in addition to storyboarding. (Jesse Sawitsky)

Sawitsky said that the more he and Oliver discussed the project with other people, the more they realized its potential.

“We had a lot of people who got excited about it,” Sawitsky said.

That excitement led them to create the Kickstarter. The project reached its initial funding goal of $9,000 in just 30 hours. 

“If anything it just proved how important the arts and the artistic community are in Saskatchewan,” Oliver said. 

He said the success of this fundraising effort might inspire other creatives in Saskatchewan to launch projects of their own. 

The Druid’s Hand is a supernatural short horror film that follows the story of an ostracized priest named Peter who believes that he has the ability to detect dark forces. (Jesse Sawitsky)

The Druid’s Hand 

The Druid’s Hand is a short horror film that follows the story of an ostracized priest named Peter, a man who believes that he can detect dark supernatural forces living within his small-town community. 

Peter enlists Cole, a man he raised, to help him destroy the remnants of a failed ritualistic sacrifice in order to prevent evil from emerging. 

The project is inspired by films such as Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Blue Ruin (2013) and The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016).

It will deal with themes of “theological fear, paranoia and conspiracy.”

We’re trying to make something that is going to scare people in 20 minutes or less.”– Mitch Oliver

Oliver is an aspiring filmmaker and screenwriter who hosts the horror movie podcast The Terror Table.  

Sawitsky is a teacher, artist and drummer for Saskatoon punk band Swayze.

The two met more than a decade ago “playing in various punk, metal and hardcore bands around Saskatoon.”

They bonded over their love of horror films and music. 

“We’ve always just wanted to create something that will be actually scary for Saskatchewan,” he said. “We’re not trying to make a goofy movie with our friends in our backyard, we’re trying to make something that is going to scare people in 20 minutes or less.”

The film is currently in its pre-production stage, with the creators scheduling a shot list, collecting funding and setting up hotels for cast and crew members. 

An old church will serve as one of the shooting locations for the film. (Jesse Sawitsky)

Since the project surpassed its initial funding goal of $9,000, a new “stretch goal” of $10,500 has been set. If this is reached, Oliver and Sawitsky plan on releasing 66 limited VHS copies of The Druid’s Hand in partnership with Saskatoon video releasing company Videonomicon. 

The limited run copies would match the ’80s horror movie esthetic that inspired the filmmakers. 

Cast and crew

  • Mitch Oliver – co-writer and director, member of the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival’s programming committee. 
  • Jesse Sawitsky – co-writer and producer, artist, teacher and drummer for Swayze. Will also storyboard and provide artwork for the film. 
  • Tara Oliver – producer and project manager. Oversees scheduling, pre-production and finances. 
  • Mitch Clarke – former UFC fighter, actor, teacher will play ‘Peter’ in the film. Saskatoon-born.
  • Dylan Hryciuk – cinematographer, owner and operator of Versa Films in Saskatoon. Won Music Video of the Year at the Saskatchewan Music Awards in 2019 and 2020. 
  • Sebas Theriault – graphic designer, will design official and promotional artwork for the film.
  • Skot Hamilton – film programmer, two time Juno Award nominee, will compose the film’s score.
  • Jason Hamill – from Moose Jaw, editor of the film, has directed and produced music videos for Swayze, works as an editor in the Vancouver film industry.

Production of the film will take place on Treaty 6 Territory.

The film is expected to premiere at the Broadway Theatre in Saskatoon.