Pitter Patter Goes Her Heart is a story about the bond between a girl with a heart condition and her canine companion. The live-action of this short independent film comes to life with rich animation.

This dual-purpose campaign is raising money for the Heart & Stroke Foundation, as well as funding to help finish post production on this not-for-profit film. 

Our goals:

60% of the final funds raised by this campaign will go directly to the Heart & Stroke Foundation through Writer/Director Michael Ciuffini’s personal donation campaign.

40% of the final funds raised will go towards offsetting completion costs for the film, including video and sound editing labour, final sound foley and mix, music composition and studio rentals.

Every dollar counts - Every $1 donation will go directly to the Heart & Stroke foundation. Like every application, CauseVox takes a portion of the amount of the money raised from this campaign. Our promise is that every $1 donation beyond this subtraction will still be accounted for exactly and donated straight to the cause.

100% of any profits of Pitter Patter Goes Her Heart will go directly to the Heart & Stroke Foundation.

Message from Michael Ciuffini - Writer/Director

February is Heart Month for the Heart & Stroke Foundation and I am canvassing online for the first time.

Heart disease and strokes are the biggest causes of death in my family and after another heart disease-related death in my family this past holiday season I wanted to give back.

Principal photography of the film Pitter Patter Goes Her Heart ended in October of 2014. The film was shot on a very low budget, but myself and Producer Christina Steele-Nash insisted on using money we raised to pay the cast and crew. Post production began and we are close to locking our edit, but our funds are running out. A lot more work needs to be done to bring this film to life. All artists working on this film deserve to be paid for their work.

We began brainstorming ways to raise the money we need and a crowdfunding campaign is an obvious choice. But asking for money is always hard to do. The idea for this campaign formed and we thought to ourselves, “We can support the artists on this film AND give back to a disease the film touches upon: heart disease.”

In the film, Melody lives with a heart condition and it is this same diseased heart that fails her. Her closest companion is her dog Alto. He seeks help from a Good Samaritan to rescue his best friend and her failing heart. This story of losing and restoring hope through an inseparable bond and unconditional love comes to life through rich animation seen through Alto’s point of view. Alto sees the world in wonderful colour and elements in his vision come to life through flash animation. This contrasts the bleak world Melody lives in.

My hope is that donators to our campaign wish to support the artists bringing their incredible creativity and talents to the Newfoundland & Labrador film industry and to support the research, treatments and resources the Heart & Stroke Foundation provides. Together we can create more survivors and support artists!

Any profits we make from this film will go directly to the Heart & Stroke Foundation. Profits can come from raising more money than needed to complete the film, winning awards from various film festivals or selling the film’s rights to broadcast or stream online.

Learn more about my work by visiting my portfolio site – www.ciuffini.ca

Heart & Stroke Foundation – More Info

The Heart and Stroke Foundation is dedicated to creating more survivors.

Over the last 60 years, they have helped reduce the rate of death from cardiovascular disease by 75%. There is still work to be done. Heart disease and stroke remain leading causes of death and hospitalization in Canada.

Here are the facts:

  • More than 1.6 million Canadians live with the effects of heart disease and stroke.
  • 9 in 10 Canadians have at least one risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
  • Each year, there are more than 60,000 visits to the emergency department for stroke, many of which are preventable with a healthy lifestyle.

Where do fundraising dollars go?

The Heart and Stroke Foundation:

  • Invested $38 million in life-saving heart disease and stroke research in 2013, supporting nearly 1,500 researchers across Canada.
  • Placed 6,500 life-saving automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in communities across Canada to increase someone’s chance of surviving cardiac arrest.
  • Funded the development of life-saving treatments that created 165,000 survivors last year.

The Film


MELODY – Played by Erin Mick

Erin Mick is an aspiring actress and student in her final year of history studies at Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador. She hails from Picture Butte, Alberta. Erin plans to pursue a career in filmmaking while pursuing a doctorate in history. Notably, she played the role of Cassidy in the short film Infanticide! (The Hunting Party, 2013), which won Best Short at the Atlantic Film Festival. Pitter Patter Goes Her Heart is her first lead role.

ALTO – Played by Timber

Timber is a beautiful Australian Cattle Dog mix. He loves playing fetch and sitting for treats. He has a tendency to not listen to authority, giving him that extra flare every on-screen dog actor needs. He has incredibly striking light blue eyes making him the perfect fit to play Alto.

MAN – Played by Bruce Brenton

Bruce Brenton is an actor and teacher who lives and works in and around St. John's, NL. He has appeared in numerous musicals, and Shakespearean productions - most recently at Perchance Theatre in Cupids, NL (Summer 2014). In recent years he has been pursuing roles in film, and was featured in The World is Burning (Oak and Arrow, 2013).

KEVIN (Melody’s step-father) - Played by Paul Wilson

Paul Wilson trained at the well-respected Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne, Australia. In Canada, Paul worked with director Chris McHargeon on the musical tribute show 1967 - Memories of the Summer of Love, performing the show right across Ontario, Quebec, and even Germany. Since moving to Newfoundland, he has appeared in numerous musicals, and Shakespearean productions - most recently at Perchance Theatre in Cupids, NL (Summer 2014). He was a cast in Tamara Segura's Before The War, which premiered at the closing night gala of the 2014 St. John's International Women's Film Festival.

PRODUCER - Christina Steele-Nash of Skeet Shoot Films

Christina has been an enthusiastic participant in Newfoundland & Labrador’s film industry for over 10 years, gaining insight and experience through her various roles in production, direction, planning and management.

Since 2012, she has filled numerous production and direction roles on the Gemini-nominated hit TV series, Republic of Doyle. Her company, Skeet Shoot Films, has produced over 10 short films in the past year including an Atlantic Film Festival selection “BAIT”. The production company is set to release a multi-platform documentary series on organic living and sustainability this summer.

Christina currently is in post production for a television show “Open Houses NL”, set to air this spring on NTV. She is a producer on that production.

Post production – Director’s Vision

Colour Correction - Melody has a heart condition and severe asthma. She is isolated and keeps to herself. After her abusive stepfather decides to takes her mother off life-support following a tragic accident, Melody is left alone in a world of hopelessness. The colours of her world are bleak and de-saturated. In contrast, through the eyes of her closest confidant, her dog Alto, the world is colourful and curious. Individual items come to life through flash animation, including Melody’s heart patch. Alto is able to witness the irregular heartbeat right off Melody’s chest. The audience sees his point of view thanks to a wide-angle action camera.

Concept Heart Patch art - By Annie DoulliardAnimation & Compositing – The animation of various elements that come to life in Alto’s point of view is critical to establishing this film as Alto’s story as much as Melody’s. He is her closest companion and when all hope is lost for Melody, it is the vision of Alto that keeps it alive. His innocence and unconditional love as a canine is complicated and celebrated by the curiosity his vision gives the audience. Timing for animation that is composited into live-action is critical and much thought went into the production of the Alto POV shots.  Concept Art by Annie Douillard and animation by Matthew Donahue.

Music - Original music for the film is being composed by St. John’s resident musician Jeremy Rice. The music takes a unique role in the film, bringing viewers on a melodic ride through the beats of Melody’s heart. It intensifies as Melody’s heart condition worsens, climaxing with her collapse in the open field. An integral part to any film, the music binds this short together through strings and hearts bringing to life many visual moments.

Sound Design – Good sound design for any film is absolutely critical, but for a film with little dialogue and using a dog’s reactions to highlight key thoughts, movements and feelings, it is crucial. My plans for sound design are layering sounds of various environments within two different worlds. Alto hears sound his own way. Things are hypersensitive and each movement of the animated objects bounce, beat and float in an inquisitive way. The mixing of the dialogue, music, heart beats and Alto’s sense of hearing is important to the overall sensibility of the film. 

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