Students get hands on experience making feature film

By Rick Palsgrove
Managing Editor

Photos courtesy of Nathan Weidner
Canal Winchester film students work on a scene from their feature film, “The Name of the Sun.”

This past summer, Nathan Weidner, the video production teacher at Canal Winchester High School, conducted an exercise to give current and former students of his the experience of shooting a feature film.

The students took what they learned in the classroom and created an ambitious and interesting feature film entitled, “The Name of the Sun.” The film was shot locally in Columbus, Canal Winchester, and Mansfield, and then in Whitefish, Montana at Glacier National Park. On Dec. 30 it was shown at the Lennox 24 movie theater.

The film is about a social media influencer who gets stranded in wilderness of Montana.

The students who created the film include:

•Adam Scott – class of 2021 – studying acting at Pace University – writer, producer, director, actor;

•Javier Vallejo – class of 2021 – studied audio engineering at Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences – writer, co-producer, audio mixer;

•Addison Parker – class of 2020 – studying filmmaking at University of Alabama – cinematographer;

•Stevyn Butts – class of 2022 – studying filmmaking at Capital University – audio recordist;

•Cade Edens – class of 2018 – graduated 2022 from Ohio University in filmmaking – editor;

•Keegan Gayagoy – current CWHS senior – production assistant; and

•Dominic Neu – current CWHS senior – production assistant.

Students set up a street scene for their feature film, “The Name of the Sun.”

“I came up with the idea of the project, but after writing the first 30 pages I needed help knowing what to do with the character once he got stranded in Montana, so I sat down with Javier and Adam, and the three of us came up with an outline for the rest of the film in three hours,” said Weidner.

Weidner said there are two things that influenced the writing of the film.

“The first was a list I made on my 40th birthday, entitled ‘10 things I learned in my 30s,’” said Weidner. “One of those was, ‘Cities are places where it is difficult to focus on God, because you are surrounded by things made by the hands of man.’ The second was when I viewed the Marilyn Monroe film, “The River of No Return,” and the opening shot of the mountains of Alberta took my breath away, as if nature itself was declaring the glory of God. I wondered if someone who has no thought of God were dropped in the middle of a place like that – would it change his mind?”

According to Weidner, college film students study feature films, but only get to work on shorts.

“This was an opportunity for them to create a feature film from start to finish while on their summer break,” said Weidner. “Also, there are very few media programs at the high school level that would ever engage students in production work of this magnitude. I have found that opening opportunities like this gives high school students real-life exposure and experience to feature filmmaking and helps them to determine whether or not this is a field they might want to enter. For the college students involved, it helps them to hone their skills and to pinpoint those aspects of production that they want to focus on in their career.”

Weidner said Adam Scott took on a lot by asking to help produce the film.

“We pulled meetings every Monday via video conference to establish shooting locations, locate actors, acquire props, and every other aspect of pre-production,” said Weidner. “Most of the students had been involved in some level of creating videos, but they had never pulled the lengthy days required to shoot feature films. Once we were in Montana, we were often up before 5 a.m. hiking through the woods and setting things up for the day. They were resilient, though, and they faced the challenge with vigor. I am so proud of what they accomplished.”

Getting to the Montana filming site required a 29 hour drive by car.

“Once we arrived we were housed by a wonderful couple, Bob and Pat Jepsen, who allowed us stay with them free of charge,” said Weidner. “Bob and Pat were very instrumental in helping us to locate where to shoot in Montana and they fed our crew every day. I cannot thank them enough for their generosity.”

According to Weidner, the film cost $17,000 to produce.

“We raised $10,000 of those funds through an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, and I paid the balance of what we didn’t raise,” said Weidner. “The students each received a scholarship for their participation in the project. Any money that the film makes will go back into a fund to help produce another student film. I do not take any money from these films.”

Currently the film is being shown at private screenings at local venues. Weidner said they are also submitting it to be put on Amazon Prime Direct. They plan to take the film to a number of student film festivals.

“I would like to shoot a student feature film every summer during my break,” said Weidner. “We are currently in discussions about what the next project would be.”

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