November 24, 2020

Film graduates, current students create “Strange Louis”

PHOTO BRITTANY RUESS / The Journal Hannah Radcliff, a 2008 Webster graduate, oversee production of her short, tentatively titled “Fishbone,” at Vincent’s Market in Soulard Sunday night.

An on-camera monitor displayed the register at Vincent’s Market in Soulard as Hannah Radcliff, a 2008 Webster University film production graduate, examined the scene through her Cannon T2i. She stood in a tight space between a red Missouri Lottery machine and a metal candy rack Sunday night. Bobby Propes, senior video production major, held the slate in front of the two actresses as a boom mic hovered over his head.

“Scene 2-8, take 1,” Propes said.

“Mark it,” Radcliff said.

Propes slammed the slate.

“Action,” Radcliff said.

Emily Hatcher, a 2010 film production graduate, placed a check mark next to the scene’s number on the shot list.

Radcliff’s short began production on Sunday. The short, tentatively titled “Fishbone,” is one of six shorts in “Strange Louis,” a collection of shorts tied together by two characters, Lewis and Clark, to create a feature film.

About a dozen Webster alumni and a few current students are involved with the film. Several months into the planning process for “Strange Louis,” the group named themselves The Arch Film Collective (AFC).

The six shorts are weaved into the story of two quarreling neighbors, Lewis and Clark. The two neighbors spend the final days of their life together. The film cuts back and forth between the neighbors and the six shorts, where each focus on someone the neighbors meet.

The AFC decided to title the film “Strange Louis” because the shorts involve strange stories all taking place in St. Louis, featuring different neighborhoods and personalities.

Hatcher said AFC had a goal to stay local and promote St. Louis — they used local actors and businesses.

One scene of Radcliff’s short was shot at Vincent’s Market, in Soulard. The two actresses were mother and daughter Mary and Jenn Bock. They also filmed scenes for “Strange Louis” in several different areas of the city, including South County, Soulard and South City.

“We all work here and we all live here and we love St. Louis,” Hatcher said. “Let’s shoot where we love.”

Stephen Jones, 2010 Webster graduate, told Kate Fox, Webster 2010 graduate, their group of friends who had gone through the film program at Webster should make a movie together. Fox and Hatcher brought the idea to several others. As a group, they decided to meet and discuss ideas.

“By working with each other we could create something bigger,” Fox said. “None of us alone could create a feature film.”

Each short has its own director, who had complete creative freedom with the scripts they wrote. In the early planning stages, AFC discussed possible themes and ideas for the film. They decided to agree on the film’s theme after directors completed the scripts.

“We wanted each director to have the freedom to write what they wanted to write,” Hatcher said. “We didn’t want to creatively stifle anybody.”

After reading and critiquing the scripts, the AFC saw a common theme — connections.

“It all kind of fell into place,” Fox said. “It was kind of miraculous.”

Fox said the AFC focused on connections between characters in St. Louis and that most of the shorts have a surreal quirky feel.

The script of Lewis and Clark was written after the majority of the shorts were written as a way to tie everything together. The writers and directors for each short were:

—The story of the neighbors was written by each director then adapted and directed by  Fox, Sarah Worner (2009 Webster graduate) and Ed Calvey.

—“Owen and the Monkey” written and directed by Alejandro Jaen Bay (2010 Webster graduate).

—“Hearts” written and directed by Fox and Thom Murray (2010 Webster graduate).

—“Antenna” written and directed by Alan Helton (2011 Webster graduate).

—“The Apartment” written and directed by Worner.

—“Fishbone” written and directed by Radcliff.

—“Repair Story” by Fox and, written by Murray and Katie Vessel (2011Webster graduate) and directed by Vessel.

*All titles are tentative.

“It was kind of an unorthodox script writing process,” Wornor said.

Hatcher wants “Strange Louis” to inspire other filmmakers to choose St. Louis as a location.

“We want St. Louis to be put on the map,” Hatcher said. “There’s all this talent here. Why go do something in LA when you can do it right here?”

The film has no official budget. “Strange Louis” is a self-funded project. Each director put money into his or her short, not expecting to get reimbursed. Fox said they aren’t filming “Strange Louis” to make profit. Everyone in the group shared what equipment they owned with one another.

“We have really been able to be a support for one another,” Fox said. “It’s kind of a community of people.”

Each short’s script was written and directed by one or two people in the AFC. However, everyone worked in some capacity on multiple sets for the film.

“We all have different strengths,” Hatcher said. “That’s why I think this works.”

Everyone helped with each others’ shoots. Hatcher’s main role is a producer, but she contributed in other ways. On one of Radcliff’s sets, Hatcher helped in a production assistant’s role. On Helton’s set, Fox worked the camera as director of photography. Zach Ginnever (2010 Webster graduate), Stephen Jones (2010 Webster graduate) and Courtney Otto (2011 Webster graduate) did not direct but have been involved from the beginning and helped on set for the film.

Several Webster professors support the project.

“They don’t stop caring after you graduate,” Fox said.

Jorge Oliver, chair and associate professor electronic/photographic media department; Kathy Corley, film/video professor, and Aaron AuBuchon, assistant professor in electronic/photographic media department have supported the film’s progress by getting the word out and reassuring their former students that you can make a movie outside of the industry on a low budget. They’ve assisted their former students with the film when they could.

AuBuchon’s video editing class, section No. 3, will be editing one of the shorts later this week. The video editing class focuses on editing client based documentary and narrative work. The scene from “Strange Louis” is part of their final project.

“It’s good for them because they can get something done they don’t really have a budget for,” AuBuchon said. “And it’s really good for us because we get to have the students work in the same sort of capacities that they’re going to find when they get out in the real world.”

Hatcher said not all members of the AFC are from St. Louis.

“We all ended up here and we all have this connection,” Hatcher said.

Current Webster students are also involved with the film. Propes worked the slate on one of Radcliff’s sets and will act in one of her scenes.

“I’m excited for the scene I get to act in,” Propes said. “It’s going to be a lot of improv.”

Shawn Mullarkey, freshman film production, met Worner through a mutual friend at Pine Crest Family summer camp. When “Strange Louis” production started in August, Worner asked him to help out on set. Mullarkey was excited to meet Webster alumni and be on a film set for the first time.

“They were all friends at Webster, and now they’re doing what they love,” Mullarkey said.

To track the film’s progress and see behind the scene photos visit http://strangelouis.blogspot.com/

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