A US filmmaker has turned to Kickstarter to fund her feature film “Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine,” a documentary to commemorate the passing of the young man Matthew Shepard who was murdered in a gay hate crime in 1998.

Independent filmmaker Michele Josue announced the launch of a 25-day Kickstarter fundraising campaign to market and independently distribute the documentary.

The upcoming feature tells the story of Matthew Shepard, who was brutally murdered in an anti-gay crime in October 1998, through the personal perspectives of his family and close friends.

Mr Shepherd was a gay teenager who, in the town of Laramie in Wyoming, died after being tied to a fence and savagely beaten.

This October marks the 15th anniversary of Shepard’s death and, according to Ms Josue, “we would like to commemorate Matt’s life and legacy by showing this film to the widest audiences possible.”

Ms Josue is planning several screening events throughout the US this autumn.

Funds raised by this campaign will go towards outreach, marketing and publicity, and classroom versions of the film.

Anyone can sponsor the project with a donation of $20 (£13) or more, and supporters will receive a digital download of the film. Josue and her team hope to reach the $25,000 (£16,100) they need by August 23, 2013.

“Passionate people make all the difference with something like this”, Ms Josue said.

She added: “We decided to use Kickstarter because we loved the idea that our campaign, like our film, will be a collaborative effort by people who truly care about this project.”

Ms Josue’s film “Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine” includes extensive interviews individuals who were intimately affected by the tragedy.

Among them are Shepard’s mother, Judy Shepard, a prominent gay rights activist, and his father, Dennis Shepard.

Other interviewees include law enforcement and health care professionals who played essential roles in his case.

The film tells the story of Mr Shepard as he was behind the headlines.

Ms Josue said: “While we’ve come a long way in the last fifteen years since Matt’s murder, ignorance and hate are unfortunately still very much a part of today’s society.

“Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine tells a universal story that highlights the responsibility we all have to make sure young people around the world are not at risk of falling victim to the same story-ending Matt was.”

This documentary marks her feature film directorial debut.

Last year, in the first set of indictments that followed from a federal hate crime law which protects against attacks motivated by sexual orientation, two women from Kentucky pleaded guilty to helping in the kidnap and assault of a gay man.

The case marked the first use of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act of 2009.