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Student Work Wednesdays – Foam Sword

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What is the premise of your film?

Foster Mellott (Director): An insecure LARPer pretends to be a tough Barbarian in the woods. The lines between fantasy and reality become blurred after he finds a sigil in these woods. 

Sam Wilson (Producer): A LARPer with toxic friends must combat a projection of his masculine ideals: his barbarian class character.

What was the Pre-production process like entirely online?

Foster: Lots of zoom meetings. It reminds me of the Brady Bunch intro.

Lady Harriman (Director): Easier for me to lay everything out without stressing about getting to the Depot. I can just hop on zoom and talk things out with the crew easily.

Sam: Our pre-production process got the benefit of time that (I assume) other VCUcinema shorts don’t get relative to their scale. We were able to settle on a story and develop it over the course of several months and plan out everything we wanted to do pretty extensively. We had a lot of time to lay down the track and know where we were going.

Foam Sword Cast and Crew

How many crew members did you have on your film? How many were on set?

Foster: Seven crew members. Five on set. 

Sam: We had/have a total of seven crew members but only five crew members decided to be on set.

What was it like working with a small crew?

Foster: A lot of fun! Everyone had to be fully engaged the whole time and everyone was able to let their voice be heard.

Lady: Refreshing. It’s more effective working with a smaller group of people though it was still an obstacle in some ways.

Sam: In the future, I will make a point to not take myself off of on-set crew like I opted to do this semester. While I believe I was able to do my main job as producer adequately, I personally feel like my crew could have benefited from having an extra hand on set. It may have eased the flow of things during production. That said, my co-directors have reported to me that things generally went well on set and that the process was enjoyable and informative.

Foam Sword Cast and Crew

How do you think this experience has helped prepare you for the professional world?

Foster: This experience taught me just how many elements go into a film. No film can come from just one person’s mind. It has to be a collaborative effort.

Lady: This film gave me the opportunity to make hard decisions and ultimately prepared me for future leadership roles.

Sam: I think this experience has helped me get a very good sense of what a small-scale production can look like. I also have a better sense of how to assemble the right team for a job and I would like the opportunity to iterate upon this in the future.

Which part of the process was your favorite? Why? (Pre-pro, Production, Post-pro, Modules)

Foster: Story dev. I love watching an abstract idea morph into an actual story.

Lady: Pre-production was my favorite. We started talking as early as December and had our first meeting early January. Planning ahead of time … way ahead of time, helped us so much in the end. I’m a very visual person and it was exciting visualizing how it could all edit together.

Sam: I think post-production is turning into my preferred part of the process simply because of the modules I’m taking and the other roles I’m fulfilling on this film that allow me to have more creative input. It will be a challenge but I think it will be a satisfying challenge.

Foam Sword Cast and Crew

Which part of the process was the most difficult? Why?

Foster: Shooting the film. We had a ton of roadblocks like rain and dense woods but we pulled together and made a cool film.

Lady: Post-production was most difficult because we had to work with our editor remotely.

Sam: There were a lot of challenges concentrated around our last week of pre-production that proved to be very stressful for me. I had to resolve some conflicts, accept some responsibility for some errors I made as a logistical head at the beginning of pre-production, and I had to deal with a lot of last-minute changes. It’s difficult for me to personally accept that all productions have their problems that have to be managed, but navigating these challenges was an experience that I know helped me grow and will prepare me for other challenges ahead.

What was the most rewarding part of this experience?

Foster: Post-production. Watching the footage turn into a film is just magic.

Lady: Being able to see the dailies for the first time.

Sam: Right now the most rewarding part of this process is seeing how the film is coming together. I just saw our first rough cut and I really enjoyed it, and I think whatever this film ends up being will be something authentic to who we are right now.

What advice would you give to students who take this course after you?

Foster: Over Prepare. Let other people collaborate. Don’t be afraid to improvise a bit.

Lady: Communication is key and refer back to tops/ frequently update it as well as discuss personal boundaries and group expectations.

Sam: First, learn to work with your peers; listen to them and respect them as artists and people. Second, acknowledge your experience level and be honest with yourself. Third, try and make the process fun wherever you can for the good of yourself and your team.

Short Clip from Foam Sword (2020)