As I step out my front door each morning, bracing myself for the cold wind that rises with the sun, I am keenly aware of the winter that is swiftly approaching. I try to memorize the landscape: the sharp green grass, the leaves tie-dyed with the colors of fall. Winter’s blanket will soon obscure it all.
The end of the warm weather brings an annual end to several of my pursuits. Golf season already seems a figment of the past. Our Conference tournament was played over a weekend of glorious sunshine (unfortunately, the sun did not seem to inspire my golf game). But now those hours that our team spent practicing and competing have been left vacated.
And what to fill them with?
I have always felt the lure of the silver screen. Theater productions were a highlight of my high school days. My mother chooses the most embarrassing of times to bring up the fact that I hosted some small television spots on the Golf Channel, but I remember the joy that those moments brought me. So, when I spotted an announcement on a Wheaton bulletin board for Class Film auditions, my heart jumped a little.
While Class Films might not garner any notoriety in the outside world, here at Wheaton they are a pretty big deal. Every year, four films are written, directed, filmed, and edited. They are then presented at “Class Films Night” in late April, at the end of the school year. Edman Chapel is packed with students, eager to witness their friends on the big screen. The movies are roughly 40 minutes long and tend to cater towards Wheaton campus topics and humor. Last year, our class produced the first ever musical—complete with 7 original songs on the soundtrack. It was cute, fun, and the songs were incredibly catchy (think High School Musical). I danced in the background of a few of the musical numbers, but did not try out for any sort of real role in the movie.
I was acquainted with the director of this year’s film and emailed him about senior auditions. He promptly replied to my query and sent me an audition script to look over. The script was different, to say the least. The characters were throwing magical balls of light and discussing portals to distant worlds. My nerdy, sci-fi/fantasy side loved it. Needless to say, I tried out and (after nearly two weeks of intensive auditions) landed the part of Ariel, one of the lead roles in the film.
The intensity of the auditions might have tipped me off to the magnitude of this project. But, to be honest, it was not until I found myself in the gym day after day with a trainer being worked into shape for my role that I realized how serious this film truly was. The commitment of the cast and crew has rubbed off on me quickly; I have completely attached myself to the film. I spend hours in the gym during the week, lifting weights, boxing, practicing my sword skills (oh yes, did I mention I have to wield a sword?). Rehearsals are on Thursday nights with our cast director, Dan. Wednesday nights are production meetings, which I attend and record minutes during. The weekends are for shoots. We are racing the weather at this point, trying to get all the outdoor scenes filmed before the snow arrives.
This was the last weekend that we knew for sure we would have decent temperatures. So, we set aside all day Saturday and Sunday for our epic ending battle sequence. We recruited ‘extras’ to dress up in battle garb and hosted ‘combat training’ lessons for them to get comfortable with the weaponry.
Saturday morning, I arrived on set at 8 AM. The costuming had been a little behind schedule, so that morning was the first time I donned my full battle gear. I pinned the green garment to my shoulder and across my waist. My tribe’s insignia was painted in gold at the top of my arm. The leather headdress was just plain cool. Belt and boots completed the ensemble, but the best accessory was my sword. It was made of wood, but painted with a metallic sheen to look just like a silver blade. The pommel was green and gold, and the handle was wrapped with bronze. The Lord of the Rings soundtrack began playing in my head as I swung my weapon casually through the air.
While the thrill of the costumes and set never quite wore off, spending two days in full-time warrior mode was rather exhausting. We had choreographed all of the key duels, but there were numerous improvisational fights with extras that took all of my concentration. Unfortunately, my sword took on a life of its own. The crew began to jokingly call it “Lip-Splitter”, after I gave one girl a bloody mouth and then conked a guy on the side of the head. I apologized profusely and made sure that they were taken care of. By the end of the day, however, all of the cast, including extras, walked away with bruises and headaches.
There is some truth to the idea that physical involvement provides a stronger emotional bond, though. As the crew began to pack up for the day, I picked up the “behind-the-scenes” video camera and had fun interviewing the extras still mingling around the set, eating donuts that had been kindly contributed by Dunkin’.
“It was so fun!” the underclassmen gushed.
When asked what the highlight of the day was, the overwhelming majority declared, “Fighting!”
As the day dimmed, the cast and crew began to disperse, displaying their bruises like trophies and their cuts as glorious battle wounds.
470 “takes” in 48 hours. That was the official tally from the weekend. It was an accomplishment in itself, but there is still so much work to be done! And schoolwork to get back to…