Indie Filmmaker in Focus: Dayna Noffke
Updated: Apr 14
A self-described “Wednesday Addams meets Mrs. Maisel,” Dayna Noffke is an eclectic mix of kitsch and macabre, an aesthetic that suits both her personality and her filmmaking vision. If you were to meet her, she’d likely regale you with stories from her interesting and varied life experiences, be it her love for roller derby, her trips to Japan, or her nurturing skills in bottle-feeding foster kittens. But what she really loves talking about is film, and her passion for directing. A quick check on IMDb reveals dozens of credits - directing, writing, producing - all for short horror, thriller, and dark comedies over the years.
“I’m really overdue for a feature,” Noffke says.
Enter Eidolon, Noffke’s newest project currently in pre-production. Billed as a “modern reimagining” of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story The Yellow Wallpaper, Noffke’s first feature will explore and build upon the world created by Gilman, one many recall being taught as a staple of high school and college literature classes.
For those who have read the story, Noffke indicates that Eidolon will be a loose interpretation. “The Yellow Wallpaper is about identity and motherhood and mental illness and isolation, universal themes you can carry through,” she says. Eidolon focuses on “a supernatural manifestation of this storm of chaos that surrounds the protagonist.” In the original story, the lead character is isolated by her controlling husband and seemingly driven mad by patterns presenting themselves behind the hideous wallpaper that covers the odd room in which she’s sequestered. As a reader, one can’t tell the fact from fiction; was she insane or was she driven insane or could it even be real? Much like the protagonist, we begin to question everything. This is exactly where Noffke plans to take the audience. “There’s a very interesting overlap between the supernatural and mental illness, what’s real and what’s not,” she explains. “Because if you’re seeing something or experiencing something, is it real? It’s real to you. But the line between what’s inside your mind and what’s physically outside of you is a fascinating place to live.”
The creation of Eidolon has been an epic journey unto itself. Noffke originally wrote the script about a decade ago with her best friend Mark Schemanske, who passed away just as the first draft was wrapping up. “I was emotionally attached to the script in a strange way. I didn’t know what to do with it. I didn’t have the objectivity to do a re-write,” she says. After a couple years, however, she decided to push it forward, realizing her friend would have wanted to see the film made. Noffke had novelist Can Wiggins come in to assist with a re-write of the script with fresh eyes.
With a completed script and the motivation to move forward, Noffke was ready to look at resources and funding and quickly encountered the same challenge so many indie features face. “With a micro-budget you’re too little for people to want to invest in you to make money, but you’re too big to just have that kind of money in the bank.” Funding kept the production on hold as Noffke worked to raise money. For the next 6-7 years there continued to be setbacks. “I kept getting close to getting production companies on board,” she says, but eventually came to the realization that “this is not getting made unless I make it. The only path forward was to use my own money and then crowdfund.” Written as a contained project and always meant to be shot at the micro-budget level, Noffke has decided to take the plunge and get her first feature shot this summer.
The timing is not entirely coincidental. As she’s launching her crowdfunding campaign and putting out teaser images of the film, she’s also prepping to go back to school, having been accepted to Georgia State University’s Filmmaking MFA program. With that, she’s aiming to get Eidolon made with minimal overlap. She’s looking forward to the challenge of a more formal and structured education, and is most excited about taking cinematography and other more technical classes to help her fill some gaps. “I’ve lit stuff using lanterns and used wheelchairs as dollies. There’s nothing wrong with being a self-taught filmmaker; that’s what I have been until two days ago when I got accepted to the program,” she says. “But if you’re not a naturally technologically astute person, it’s a real struggle to learn the technical stuff on your own.”
While Noffke did learn a lot on her own, she also credits collaborators as being critical to helping her hone her skills and create her own projects along the way. “There’s a filmmaking collective in Athens, GA, called Gonzoriffic. It’s low-fi, DIY, underground, really cool stuff. Everyone takes turns, they turn out content year after year and helped me make my first few films.” Around that time, Noffke started working in the industry doing set decoration buying. As she met more crew, her network of collaborators grew. “I don’t know that I could do this anywhere else, honestly,” she says. “Atlanta has a great indie filmmaking community and we have so many people who are so talented and a lot of them have their own passion projects. So we’re constantly circling around and working on each other’s projects.”
Noffke’s also a member of the WGA, and when she’s not actively making movies, she is busy hammering out scripts, something she says she will continue to work on while going back to school, even though she recognizes she’ll have to put some projects on hold while pursuing her MFA. “I can’t imagine I’ll be able to stop,” she says. “I’m in the middle of three scripts I really like.” And while she says she’d be thrilled to write and sell her scripts, she’s very clear about her goals. “I love directing. I like writing a lot but directing is my first love.”
Those interested in learning more and following the development of Eidolon can visit Noffke’s website (https://www.daynanoffke.com).
Photos courtesy of the subject.