By Sydney Svendsen
3:45 AM, Friday, January 13, 2017. The Marimba ringtone pierces through Julia Lodder’s dream. She lays in disbelief for a moment. Then, realizing what this means, she turns off her alarm and jumps out of bed. Everything that she needs is already laid out in a corner of her dorm room: props, camera, forms, writing materials, and a planner. She quickly gets ready and slips out into the deserted hallway. On second thought, not so deserted. A couple of girls lay sprawled outside their dorm rooms, wrapped in blankets, half-full mugs of coffee beside them. It’s been a long night.
Julia walks through the dark morning towards the parking lot. A couple people stand in a group waiting for everyone else to arrive. Groggy from the early wake-up call, they begin loading the three cars in almost complete silence. By 4:01 AM they are driving out: hour 15.
Hour 1 started Thursday, the day before, at 2:00 PM. Julia received the prompt from Dordt College at 2:00 on the dot. After quickly skimming the prompt, she began writing down what they would need to incorporate into their film: a cop, a hula hoop, and a character stuck in the 70’s. Next, she met with a few members from the Providence Productions Club to write down a brief outline for the next 48 hours of their lives. The film needed to be completed in exactly 48 hours. Things needed to get moving.
Julia sat through class during hours 2-3, anxiously tapping her pen so much that her neighbor kept glaring at her. Since it was the first week of school, there hardly seemed any reason to be anxious. However, because the club is relatively new on campus, many professors and students at Providence would not know what Julia was going through. She had had her fair share of explaining what the club was about.
“Providence Productions is a new club that meets every two weeks. We work on specific skills every week in order to produce a film. One week we’ll work on scriptwriting, another week we’ll work on post-production, another week we’ll work on the basics. It’s for people who like writing, producing, editing, directing, or just want to increase their knowledge in video production. The main reason we started it was so that we could work up to the Prairie Grass Film Challenge.”
The minutes dragged on until 3:45 PM when she was finally out of class. Julia hurried to the open classroom at the end of the hall. Hour 4 was coming up. Time for brainstorming.
As she had been in previous years of the competition, Julia was the designated producer who also helped out with the camera work.
“Basically the producer is the one who makes everything happen. There was a ton of paperwork I had to fill out and releases I had to sign. I had to organize, make sure the scriptwriters were at a room at a certain time. I made sure everyone was in the right places at the right time. I was basically a coordinator.”
After a couple hours of brainstorming, they finally made an executive decision concerning their plot and the basic structure of the film, and by 6:00 PM, Julia had made sure that the writers were all together; however, before they started, Julia had to check up on one thing. The previous year, during the competition, the Providence Productions Club had decided to incorporate not only an original script, but an original soundtrack. At 6:10 PM Dean Whitcher and David Duffee were composing. Julia joined the script writers and got working by 6:15 PM. Before they started developing the plot, they looked at the prompt that was given to them and asked themselves two questions: what is redemptive about this? How does this reflect Creation, Fall, and Redemption?
“It’s important to remember every aspect of Creation, Fall, Redemption. We need to acknowledge that we are a world that is created by God and a world that is fallen into sin. . . our job as Christians is not to be in our own little bubble. . . but it is our job to engage the secular world to pursue God’s greater kingdom.”
With this framework in mind, the the scriptwriters launched forward in producing a plot that included what was stated in the prompt. As they progressed, they realized that no one had a hula hoop. The prompt said that they could use a 50s record player in place of the hula hoop, but Julia and the rest of the group had already decided that they would shoot on location at the beach. Knowing that water, sand, and records don’t usually mix, Morgan Zylstra volunteered to run to the store and try to find a hula hoop. It was 10:00 PM. The script writers went back to writing, reminding themselves of what they did and did not want to convey in their story.
“Often, Christian films and Christian filmmakers are obsessed with portraying the good and making the redemption part so explicit that you expect it…it’s our job to engage the secular world. If we refuse to engage with something that is secular then we’re not pursuing God’s greater kingdom. We need Christians in the film industry; this fallen world shouldn’t hinder us from cultural engagement.”
At hour 10, Morgan showed up right as the group was finishing up. At such a late hour, she had miraculously found an open store in Pasadena that sold hula hoops. All they had was an obnoxious, hot pink hula hoop. Maybe not what they had all had in mind, but they took whatever they could get. Julia sent the group text: SCRIPT FINALIZED. The scriptwriters disperse for some much-needed sleep before their early wake-up call.
Hour 16.5. The group arrives at a beach in Malibu. Small strands of light are beginning to emerge from the distant horizon. Providence Productions Club sets up their equipment and then waits patiently for there to be light to begin filming. As the producer, Julia begins to scope out the area with her team to see what they have to work with. Julia stood at one camera while Nathan Lewis stood at another so that they would get the most out of every shot. Hour 17. Since they wanted to be on the road by 7:00 AM, they had to take what they had, which meant that they would only get to shoot a scene once or twice. The actors, as well as others who had come along to help, went about helping out and doing their parts as effectively and efficiently as they could.
“The group all came together and worked on everything,” Elisha Dunham, an actress, recalled. “There were a lot of people involved and we were all just helping each other out. It wasn’t just one person in charge of everything”
7:00 AM, hour 18. The three cars filled with props, equipment, and people, depart from Malibu. Their next stop is Cobb Estates in Altadena, a private property open to hikers or ghostbusters. According to local legend, the land was called “the haunted forest” based on rumors that spectral sightings had been seen. Ignoring the haunting fable, the group set up their area. This time they made their own makeshift tent and an encampment for the rumored shipwrecked survivors. They continued the same setup as before: Julia on one camera, Nathan on the other, Tyler Bulthuis on sound, Kyle Kortenhoeven producing, while the actors performed. By 1:00 PM filming was finished.
Much of the pressure was taken off the group, however, Julia and Tyler, the president and vice president of the Providence Productions Club, knew that they only had 25 hours left to completely finish the film. At 3:00 PM Friday, they began post-production. While they were editing the film, Dean and David continued to work on the soundtrack, until they finished in the late afternoon. Finally, Julia and Tyler had everything that they needed to finish up.
Hour 34. A rough cut of the film is done. There was still 14 hours to go to finalize it, so the pressure continued through the night and into the next morning. They had to hand in the film by 2:00 PM on Saturday afternoon.
Noon on Saturday. The film is done. Julia submitted it officially and everyone could breathe a sigh of relief. They had completed a short film from start to finish in 46 hours.
Hour 47. Julia and Tyler had the club get together to view the finished product. All 20 or so people gathered together in an upstairs classroom, excited to see what had become of all their hard work. There were cheers, laughter, and commentary through the showing as they passed around half burnt microwave popcorn.
“All in all, it was a success,” an actor reflected. “It’s hard to look back on your work, especially when you didn’t have enough time to really develop it the way you wanted, but for the short amount of time we had, it was good. Some things didn’t come across the way we meant them to, but that’s fine.”
At least the hula hoop won’t be missed.