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Kickstart Your Weekend: 'Bloody Work'

A 125-year-old cold case sees new light onscreen
Monica Riese, 2:30pm, Fri. Jun. 14, 2013

The long unsolved case of Jack the Ripper gripped the world in 1888 and in the century that followed: Five unsolved murders in and around London will certainly grab your attention. But what about the earlier cold case with more victims that hits way closer to home?

The Servant Girl Annihilator, as William Sydney Porter dubbed the killer, took eight victims between New Year's Eve 1884 and Christmas of 1885, predominantly black servants from well-to-do houses in Austin. Though multiple men were charged with the crimes, no one was ever convicted, and the cases remain unsolved to this day. Take the year of frustration, fear, and fury that followed the New Year's 2012 murder of Esme Barerra, multiply it by eight victims, and add in the lack of resolution facing the Yogurt Shop Murders, and you might get close to approximating the terror that rocked Austin during those bleak days. But why have so few people heard of the case?

The case was featured in an extensive article in Texas Monthly in 2000, in a 2010 book by J.R. Galloway, and in the Crime Library, but for the most part, it's a forgotten piece of Austin's early history. Its most noticeable, lasting effect? The moon towers that still illuminate the city to this day were installed in the years that followed in order to give citizens a greater sense of safety after dark.

Now, filmmaker Martin Wagner is bringing the story to the big screen in a "nonfiction film" called Bloody Work. His Kickstarter goal of $10,500 was reached in a quick 70 hours, but now he's set a new stretch goal, and he's taking a unique approach to it. Instead of shooting for the moon dollars-wise, Wagner is trying to get as many eyes on this feature as possible: "Whether you pledge $5, $50 or $500 at this point, I don't care. I just want you to see Bloody Work." Almost 200 people have already signed up; get in on the project in the next 11 days to join their ranks and be a part of bringing Austin's darkest cold case to modern eyes.


Kickstart Your Weekend is a series intended to showcase Texas film and tech projects that are crowdfunding their way to a goal, be it distribution, a prototype, or production costs. If you have a project that we should know about, email us at filmflam@austinchronicle.com.

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