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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Filming for Free

    After a 45-minute drive, the car rolls to a stop next to a pair of train tracks in Nogales, Ariz. People are bustling about, carrying heavy equipment,giving orders and directions and asking for food. One man walks by carrying a plastic container of refrigerated sushi.

    This is the set of a war movie. To be more precise, it’s a war movie inspired by the Bosnian conflict in the 1990s. What this has to do with sushi and train tracks leading to Mexico is yet to be discovered.

    Media arts senior Joey Heslinga, one of the film’s producers, sits down and explains what’s going on. “”It’s almost kind of a war piece,”” he said.

    “”There’s a bunch of civilians that are living in a basement for a while. There’s some sort of outside threat that they’re hiding from, enemies or whatnot,”” Heslinga said. “”They run out of water and one of the younger, sort of ambitious kids in the group volunteers himself to go out and get more water. So he goes out and gets more water, and we have an ending that’s being shot right now.””

    The movie, currently titled “”April’s Last,”” is a student project funded by a grant from the Kodak Corporation. In the last months, more than 30 students have dedicated their time and effort to seeing this five to seven minute film to fruition. In the end, the only thing they will receive is experience and exposure.

    The entire crew is enrolled in an independent study program, tied to the university. The UA owns all the rights to the film and is even charging them for the class.

    “”We’re probably the only film crew that has to pay close to $800 to participate,”” Heslinga said. “”So not only are we not getting paid, we have to pay for the credits. And to be honest, more than half the crew doesn’t need the credits, and a good portion of them have already graduated.””

    Heslinga spent the last five months planning and working on “”April’s Last.”” He raised funds, held casting calls, budgeted and even organized a trip to Los Angeles for workshops and equipment pick-up. After the actual filming is over, the movie will go through post-production through 2007.

    Heslinga said Nogales is a good location to film because many of the buildings do not showcase Southwestern architecture. Since the regional flavor isn’t as apparent, the set looks like it could be anywhere. Most of the filming was actually done in Dunbar School, Tucson’s only segregated school in the 1920s.

    Shut down and abandoned in the 1970s for not following anti-segregation laws, it is finally being used again as the location for the “”basement scene”” in the movie. Much of this is due to the aesthetics on the walls.

    “”We’re not trying to literally interpret that as specifically trying to portray Bosnia in the 1990s and the Bosnian war, but it’s being based off of that,”” Heslinga said. “”So we wanted to keep true to that but still be ambiguous enough for where it could basically be anywhere. Not particularly Bosnia, but it could be anywhere in Europe, it could be in the United States. It could be anywhere.””

    The script was written by Hamdija Ajanovic, a man who was living in Bosnia at the time of the conflict, for a screenwriting class. The story is partly about his experiences, but has universal applications.

    “”It was in a sense attached with Bosnia, but I wrote it in English,”” Ajanovic said. “”And once we discussed it with all the details and everything we realized it’s really something that can happen anywhere and to anyone.””

    Ajanovic describes the plot in a little more detail, saying the characters trapped in the basement draw cards to see who must go out and get the water. When a young girl is chosen, the protagonist feels it’s his moral duty to protect this girl and get the water himself.

    His task is dangerous, and he must deal with snipers and enemy combatants when he risks everything for the safety of his colleagues.

    “”You know sometimes in the bigger picture about certain events in the world, these little stories of little people get lost,”” Ajanovic said. “”They never get there. A heroic act of a little small individual is something that we would read about or hear about, and that’s basically the theme that I was envisioning.””

    The movie has no political affiliations, and it is not meant to be a comment on the situation in Iraq. Both the director and screenwriter stress that it is a more personal story about people.

    Because of the Kodak grant the students have a rare opportunity to work with the newest and finest 35-millimeter equipment. According to Heslinga, this is typically unheard of for undergraduate students.

    Every year, Kodak gives out less than 10 grants to select students at film schools across the country. Kodak sought out the UA, and the school chose the producers. After that, it was up to the students to create a final project.

    When they are finally done with everything, “”April’s Last”” will be screened during a special Kodak festival in Los Angeles. After that, it will be submitted to various film festivals throughout Arizona and the country.

    Even then, the students must raise more money to pay for festival entrance fees. They get nothing for their efforts, except for the recognition and excitement of making a 35-millimeter film. But most everyone has his own individual motivations.

    “”The reason it’s actually being made is partially based because it was our decision to use this as a script for the project,”” Heslinga said. “”I’m sure the script would have been made eventually just because of its strength and its visual aesthetics that were written into it. It’s a really good story.””

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