A group of students at the Fairlawn Cooperative Transition Program (FCTP) had a short film they made in class selected to the Progeny Film Festival at the Lyric Theatre in Blacksburg.
The students will showcase their work against 12 other films made in the area at the April 17 competition, which will be held at the Lyric Theater in Blacksburg beginning at 7 p.m. and lasting until about 11 p.m.
“This is a completely new idea,” said Joseph Caldwell, literature teacher at FCTP. “I had been living in Los Angeles for about seven years and moved out here to teach. I was hoping to teach both language arts and film making, which this program has allowed me to do. Really, I just wanted to do something to get the kids involved”
The film, entitled “No Way Out,” is about a student who falls asleep in school and finds himself trapped inside the confines of the school because the doors are locked. While inside, he encounters the ghost of Ichabod Crane, who has now taken on the role of the “Headless Horseman.”
The idea came about through some of the students after they read the story of “Sleepy Hollow.”
“One day, we were talking about different projects my class could work on and I guess with the season and the holiday, we started talking about what we could do with the story of Sleepy Hollow,” Caldwell said. “We were limited to the buildings and stayed on school grounds with the budget.”
While the budgeting of the project was difficult, Caldwell used several resources from outside of work to help him and his students in the process of making the film.
“I have a friend, who lives here in Fairlawn, who is a filmmaker and he has a lot of homemade rigs that we could move the cameras on,” Caldwell said. “So he came on board one day and came up to shoot the classroom scene. After that, for the next two months, we shot the student walking the hallways as if he were locked up. It was really cool because we shot it during the day, but went back and edited it to make it look like it was shot at night.”
So, beginning in October and lasting through November, the students began to shoot scenes for the movie and put them together. The project is mainly made up of two student actors – Tyler Weeks, who played the ghost of Ichabod Crane, and Damien Loflin, who played the student.
“I was excited to be playing the Headless Horseman in the film,” Weeks said. “It was something I hadn’t done before, but I wanted to do it.”
Helping the students’ effort was Caldwell’s wife, Angela, and music teacher Danny Lawson, who helped come up with a musical score for the film. The film features no dialogue and relies a lot on the music to tell the story. Loflin liked the “music video” set up for the film, rather than having speaking lines.
“It reminds me of an old horror movie,” Loflin said. “Everything is really quiet until something finally happens on screen.”
When the film was completed, the students sat down and had a viewing party for it to celebrate the accomplishment. Caldwell then was told by a friend about a film festival and eventually decided to submit his students’ work for consideration.
“Honestly, when we thought about making this, I wasn’t thinking about festivals,” Caldwell said. “I didn’t even know if we would be finished. I just used this as a gauge to see if we would do any more projects. Once we got done with the film and started working on the editing, a buddy told me to check out the Progeny Film Festival at Virginia Tech. He had submitted films to them before, so I looked into it. It made sense that we would get this done and be able to submit it.”
So, with $200 of his own money, Caldwell submitted the film and it was accepted into the film festival. Weeks was very appreciative of his teacher’s charitable decision to fund the fees to submit the film to the festival.
“I think Mr. Caldwell is an awesome teacher,” Weeks said. “The fact that he would submit the film for us is awesome. Most people wouldn’t throw their own money into anything like that. I am glad he did though.”
There are 11 different categories in which the festival will give out awards. Based on how the film places, the festival prizes range from video software, iPods, iLife and iWork software, books, and cash.
The group will find out in just under a week’s time how it will do against the other films. Loflin likes the film’s chances.
“I think we can do well,” Loflin said. “I hope we don’t end up last (in tenth place), but I want us to land somewhere solid in the top ten. Since we’ve gotten this far though, I think we could finish really high.”