"The Thief who steals 3 kopecks is hung, the one who steals 50 kopecks is praised." - Russian saying.
KARAGANDA is the story of Vladimir, a Jewish prisoner in a Soviet prison camp on a mission to find his wife who’s also imprisoned in the Karaganda region. In order to rescue her, he must somehow join the Vory V Zakonye, a criminal gang that controls the camps. The Vors succeed in finding her, but at a cost that will haunt Vladimir as he transforms into a powerful crime boss in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. There, as part of a Russian-American arms-smuggling gang, Vladimir will attempt to break free from his network of Vors in order to protect his wife and family.
A graduate of the American Film Institute's directing program, Max Weissberg co-produced and appeared in the feature documentary film, HOTEL GRAMERCY PARK, which included cameos by Ben Stiller, Winona Ryder, Karl Lagerfeld, and Kanye West. The film earned a jury citation at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival and screened on the Sundance Channel for several years. In 2012, Max appeared in HOTEL SECRETS on Sky Atlantic TV in the UK, hosted by actor Richard E. Grant. Max’s feature film, SUMMERTIME IN NEW YORK, screened at festivals including SXSW (as ROOM 4 RENT), and won best screenplay at First Time Fest The film is now available on over a dozen VOD outlets. Max's AFI thesis film, KARAGANDA, earned the AFI Fotokem grant and was jury-selected for the 2014 AFI DGA showcase. KARAGANDA has won 5 festival awards and has been invited to 26 film festivals in 13 countries. Max speaks fluent German & Russian, conversational Spanish, basic French. His recent credits include work on PBS, Sundance Channel, Discovery, VICE, MTV, VH1, CMT, and Comedy Central. Website: www.luftmenschfilms.com.
My great-grandfather, Max Weissberg, originally came from Chernovtsi, in present-day Ukraine. I've always had a fascination with Russian culture beginning with the films of Eisenstein and the music of Prokofiev. Later I studied in St. Petersburg, Russia at Herzen University and worked at LenFilm Studios as a translator. While on break from my first semester in Russia, my sister Nicole tragically disappeared in the 2004 tsunami in Thailand. At the time, I asked myself what I would do to get her back. It was a traumatic emotional experience. I soon returned to Russia to continue my studies where I dug deep into gulag history. The loss inspired me to create Vladimir, the main character of Karaganda who will do anything to get his wife back. Since then, I have worked on the script for KARAGANDA almost continuously.
It's my hope that KARAGANDA will cause Americans to embrace Russian culture like me. I think people will be fascinated by Russian music, superstitions, humor, and of course, the secretive world of the Vory v Zakone. KARAGANDA is actually the first part of a feature trilogy about a Russian-American crime family, and I hope to realize the other installments. Another AFI short exists based on Karaganda part 2: https://vimeo.com/40561488
WHAT IS YOUR MONEY GOING TOWARDS?
The money raised on Kickstarter will go to an escrow account and be used to make pay-or-pay offers to actors. We wish to make $20,000 to one American star, and $10,000 to another. This money is put up to attach an actor for a determined period (1.5 years). Should the film not be made, the actor will be able to keep the fee as a penalty. This pay-or-play allows us to book stars that will allow the film to be presold to foreign distributors and in a film market (such as AFM or Cannes). Without actors attached, raising money for the film is next to impossible. Pay-or-play offers are used in order to make a serious offer to an actor without pre-existing financing. We are in touch with several entities that can help finance the film with stars attached.
EDWIN MEJIA - During his six years in the finance industry at Lehman Brothers, Smith Barney, and Fidelity Investments, Edwin managed approximately $4 billion of commercial real estate holdings and a portfolio of over 700 private and institutional accounts. Over the past seven years, Edwin has been a partner and lead producer at the Vladar Company, responsible for developing the production slate and managing sales. Credits include the award-winning hit film, GENERATION IRON, (2013) narrated by Academy Award Nominee, Mickey Rourke. This film was one of the top five highest grossing documentaries in 2013, and Edwin handled all the domestic and foreign distribution sales. Other credits include the fashion film biopic, JEREMY SCOTT THE PEOPLE’S DESIGNER (2015) (featuring Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, A$AP Rocky, and Rita Ora), and THE HURT BUSINESS, narrated by Kevin Costner. Both are available on Netflix.
NINA GORTINSKI A graduate of the University of Southern California with a B.S in Business and Southwestern Law School for her Juris Doctorate, Nina’s eclectic background includes nearly a de- cade of advertising and marketing experience. More recently she has worked in the technology and entertainment sectors, including some years managing global partnerships at Yahoo and at a Silicon Valley gamification start-up. Her first love was naturally film, and alongside her corporate work she has produced several films in Europe and the U.S. Her produc- ing credits include: the award-winning feature BEAUTIFUL BLUE DANUBE (2008), BURY THE DOG (2012), TAROT (2013), LOVE OR LAUGHS (2015), THINGS THAT NO- BODY TOLD HIM (2016) and DATING IN REAL LIFE (2016).