I sat down recently with a group from University of Missouri, Joel Shettlesworth (producer), Andy Neizert (director), Emily Anderson (assistant director & student) and Ben Poland (assistant director & student), to chat about a new film called Vampyras. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. I got to see the trailer before it was actually finished and posted online! And now I can’t wait to see the film! Hey guys – am I invited to the premiere??
This production was different than a typical movie. It’s harder to do a University production due to numerous reasons, mainly you have to work the way the University works and follow their rules. It was created through the MU Film Studies and Engineering department at Mizzou. Engineering professor Jeffery Uhlmann wrote the script. The last three years have been Mexican wrestling movies (it’s okay to laugh, they told me so) and then he wrote this film about vampires, roller derby, car chases and guns.
Andy Neizert teaches the Film Studies 2520: Pre-Planning and Production where students “learn to cram a year’s worth of work into 2 months, and 6 months of work into 3 weeks.” He set the class up from scratch – this is the first time this class has been offered and there are no other schools with classes of this caliber.
Andy and Joel have been doing productions at low cost for a while and they agreed to do this movie on a $30,000 budget. Remember: We’re talking a lot of makeup and prosthetic work to make humans look like vampires. Then add in roller derby, wardrobes, car chases, and guns! But they made it all work, and they only went over budget by a little bit! They called in people that they had worked with before and other crew members who were referred to them. These people have super impressive resumes! They also made connections with the hired crew members who make movies and films for a living.
The students learned about every aspect of every job required to make a movie before settling on the job they thought they’d like to do for the feature film. The kids who showed the most commitment and interest in the process at the beginning of the semester ended up with the more important, prestigious roles on set. They earned their spot. A lot of the students found their niche during that process.
It’s awesome that these students had such an amazing hands-on opportunity. They could have sat in a desk all semester, read their text book, and filled in bubbles on a scantron. Instead they were on a set, learning every step there is to making a movie. They have something fantastic to put on their resume, which certainly will put them a step above some other students.
Emily – a communication major and film studies minor graduating this weekend, and Ben – a sophomore computer science major and a film studies minor, both acted as assistant directors for the film. Neither of them had anything bad to say about the class. They both raved about what a great experience it was for them and how exciting the process was. They didn’t even mind the 12-hour overnight shifts. Their jobs were very real. Emily had to make all the schedules for the 70 to 80 people that were on set every day, and had to make sure everyone was where they were supposed to be when they were supposed to be there while making sure everyone was happy. Ben completed production reports to make sure the everything was going right every day and also made sure that everyone had everything they needed (and were happy) and that things were running smoothly.
They both admit that they weren’t quite sure what they were getting into when they signed up for the class. Andy sent them an email in December letting them know it would be a time commitment, but they still didn’t expect 12-hour days (or nights). But – they are both extremely glad that they went through with it and gained the experience that they did. “The whole experience almost formed a new family for all of us. We worked the long hours and there were really tough times, and really fun times, all of us really bonded,” Ben noted. Emily already has a potential job lined up from a connection she made while working on the film. Ben hopes to work on both sides of production (pre and post) once he graduates.
They shot the entire feature film in 15 days. Fifteen days! Don’t balk. The production value is outstanding, better than you would expect from a ‘student’ film that was shot in 15 days. If you don’t believe me, watch the trailer. Then sit on the edge of your seat and wait until they show the movie in Columbia. Make sure you follow them on facebook to keep up with the status!