IU South Bend alumna worked on Belle Gunness trailer

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By: Kate Luce


Coral Lee Dorsch, BFA ‘20 Graphic Design, is stepping closer to her dreams of becoming a director. Recently, she worked as the production manager and art director on the concept trailer of The Farm.

She came into contact with Michael Bernacchi, the writer for the script, through her boyfriend’s father and one of his friends. After doing a beginning trailer at the La Porte County Historical Society, she was offered a full-time position with Michael Angelo Bernacchi Films.

The Farm is a trailer on the story of Belle Gunness, a female serial killer out of La Porte, Ind. who was active in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The story follows her foster daughter, Jenny, and a love interest, all while following the murders Gunness committed throughout her life.

Gunness killed two of her husbands and cashed in their life insurance checks, according to the La Porte County Historical Society. To this day, she is thought to have killed at least 14 people, most of them being men she had lured through romantic listings in newspapers. 

After a fire at her farm, three bodies were discovered. However, after DNA results, it was inconclusive if Belle was one of them. Many, including La Porte natives, believe she faked her death to move into a different state.

For Dorsch, working on this production meant finally telling a story that needed to be told.

“A prolific female serial killer: when do we actually hear about the history of a serial killer that is a woman? Never. If we are in the day and age of the woman, we might as well tell the story of the woman who has been murdering since the 1800s. It’s important for history to tell a really large part of the history of La Porte. Belle Gunness’s blood runs deep through this town. Her presence is never going to go away,” Dorsch said.

Although this isn’t her first time working on a set, things are much different than her BFA project Coral for Corals. With that documentary, she worked exclusively by herself, directing, editing and producing the video with minimal help.

“It’s amazing to only be able to rely on yourself for those things. This is a completely different situation in a fun way. You have one person who does that one job, and you rely on them for that one part to be executed properly. You just have to have trust in your coworkers and crew to get their stuff done that they need to get done,” Dorsch said.

During the production, the crew worked smoothly together, she said. 

Her time working on this project has pushed her passion in directing even further. With the industry coming back online as the pandemic ends, Dorsch is looking forward to future projects, wherever they might take her.

“I love production work. I am considering moving soon. With film you can always come back to town and do your thing. My job is pretty remote. Movie work or moving on to my own spiritually-led business is what I ultimately would like to end up,” Dorsch said.

Dorsch extended the offer to work on the trailer to IU South Bend students, which some fine arts students came out to get the experience during the shoots.

The film was written by Bernacchi, a La Porte native, who has deep familial ties to Gunness.

His grandfather, Angelo, would sell produce to Gunness. She would often invite him in, but he rejected her offer. Inspired by his stories, Bernacchi felt compelled to write a side-story on a fictional love affair between his grandfather and Jenny.

“As the years passed, I thought about the storyline and I saw people attempt to do the storyline. What I did is that I fabricated a love story between my grandfather and Belle Gunness’ foster daughter, Jenny Olson. I created a romantic subplot that drives this historical documentary forward,” Bernacchi said. 

To him, making this concept trailer will hopefully spark deals from movie studios or Netflix. In return, Bernacchi wants justice for this interesting, true crime story that every La Porte resident knows about. 

The director of this concept trailer, Tom Logan, believed this story is worth telling. Traveling all the way from Los Angeles, Logan believed it was in the film’s best interest to work directly in La Porte.

“So it’s different, in that we’re not shooting for 60 days, but the quality of the people on this crew and the quality of the infrastructure of mobile homes and the studio. I would put up with any studio, and I was at Universal for years. So quite impressive. And the town’s been great,” Logan said.

“I love true stories. Michael, and I’ve been talking about this project for I don’t know, 15 to 20 years. Now, we finally got serious,” Logan said.

The concept trailer wrapped up production in La Porte on April 29.

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