Featured / Mosaic / April 19, 2017

Students collaborate to produce short film

Senior Ben Heichman, junior Joe Connors, senior Martha Brown and Morgan Jellison ‘16 work on a scene where Jellison is soon to move in for a kiss from Brown. The filming and production is being done in student apartments at Knox. (Dan Perez/TKS)

Senior Evelyn Coffin will have the opportunity to have one of her scripts, originally written for an independent study, produced and screened as a short film by the members of Film Club. Remaining untitled for the time being, the film is centered around the wife of a married couple being struck with early onset Alzheimer’s, as well as pregnancy.

Coffin got the idea for the film’s premises after observing her own grandmother who has Alzheimer’s, but didn’t want to reflect her exact experiences.

“It was inspired in part by my grandma who has Alzheimer’s, and every time I see her I’m just so interested in how her mind works,” she said. “She has a really hard time with names of people, so she’ll confuse her husband for her brother who died in World War II.”

When Coffin originally wrote the script, she tried to follow a set of censorship rules called the Hays Code, which was enforced in the 1930s but has since been lifted. The code outlines a variety of rules and limitations, such as not being able to say the word “pregnant” or show a pregnant woman, not allowing an on screen kiss to go longer than three seconds and not showing a woman’s body at a camera angle lower than 45 degrees.

Coffin mentioned that, while writing a script, dealing with pregnancy was difficult with these parameters, so she found ways to use her illness to work around the obstacle.

“It was a little bit easy because the character does have Alzheimer’s and she doesn’t always remember that she’s pregnant,” Coffin said. “So that’s both really sad and really convenient for the film. A lot of it is implications and the actors’ faces showing that tragedy.”

Senior Tom Grizzle works from a script in directing the film. (Dan Perez/TKS)

Senior Ben Heichman and senior Tom Grizzle, co-presidents of Film Club, were intrigued by the parameters placed with Hays Code, but felt that following it too closely in the actual production of the film would lead to some uncertainty and confusion. Heichman noted that he was interested in the different ways Coffin used creativity to talk about certain topics while following the code.

“We didn’t follow it strictly, but I think when you see the final product you’ll be able to tell that it came from that,” Grizzle said.

Both Heichman and Grizzle felt that Coffin’s script depicted a sense of loss in a way they had never seen in film before. After receiving four or five submissions, they considered Coffin’s to be the most feasible in terms of filming as well as the most original script.

“There’s loss but at the same time they’re both there,” Heichman said. “It’s not like there’s death at the center of it, but given the condition that they have to deal with, it’s a lot about gripping the loss.”

Grizzle mentioned that pre-production took up a large amount of the time, and that the actual production process started very recently. He and Heichman spent the past few weeks finding a cast, forming a production crew, editing the script, and finding equipment and a location for filming.

Senior Ben Heichman and junior Joe Connors work behind the camera, trying to setup a scene. (Dan Perez/TKS)

Before filming, the actors met with each other to rehearse lines, while the production team met to create an outline of the filming process. The production team currently consists of Grizzle and Heichman as well as junior Joe Connors who is the cinematographer and director of photography.

Connors described the filming and shooting process as one that doesn’t always consist of conscious thought. He generally works with the mood of the script and tries to convey the same mood through camera angles and colors. He first looks through the script for each scene, comes up with an image in his head and creates a storyboard before going into the filming process.

“I think a lot of it is, you learn it and then it becomes kind of intuitive,” Connors said. “A lot of the questions that you’re asking just become sort of subconscious, figuring out what the mood of the scene is that you’re going for and how you can use the camera to achieve that.”

He mentioned that each scene takes about four hours to shoot, and then about two to three hours are spent editing. He uses that time to cut the scenes and put them together so that they are fluid, as well as working with colors to produce the image he pictures in his head.

“If you’re playing it back after recording it and it feels right, then it is right,” Connors said. “If something feels off, try to pick apart what is happening visually — what’s happening, why it’s happening and eventually something will jut out and you’ll know what to change.”

Heichman also noted the trial-and-error nature of producing a film, and feels that the end product could turn out to be completely different from anyone’s original vision.

“The saying is that you write a movie three times. Once when it’s written, once when you film it and then once when you edit it. So I don’t know how she feels about it. [Coffin] probably has an idea of it in her head and it’s not going to be that, it’s going to be more like our vision,” he said.

Grizzle feels that one of the biggest obstacles has been the amount of time required to produce the film, and considers the amount of work to be equivalent to taking another class. He also mentioned that he and Heichman worked on a film together during their freshman and sophomore years that didn’t turn out as they’d hoped. He hopes that this film provides just as much of a learning experience while also producing a product they can be proud of. Heichman feels that the motivation to create a film for no reason other than to create art is a large part of what makes it meaningful.

“I also think it’s cool that we’re not getting credit for it and nobody is getting paid for it,” Heichman said. “Nobody is getting anything out of it, but really this is just out of the love of the craft. That’s what makes me happy to do stuff like this is that it’s for the love of it.”

While there isn’t a set date or location for the screening of the film, Grizzle and Heichman hope to finish production with two weeks left in the term, and hold a screening after that.

 

Sam Jacobson, Co-Mosaic Editor

Tags:  Evelyn Coffin film club Knox College mosaic

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