Filmmaking for the Sake of Filmmaking

A Buick Rendezvous rolled through Outer Drive. The woman in the front passenger seat frantically pointed in the direction that she wanted us to go. As the driver, I coolly reassured her that I knew where I was going. While that wasn’t entirely true, I had a good idea of where to go. We turned left onto Lewis, and quite promptly turned again onto a wide gravel road.

“Okay, now I’ll need some direction.”

“Just keep going straight,” she calmly replied. The passenger behind us let out a chuckle as he watched our back and forth conversation.

We made our down the gravel road, with a few soft curves here and there, but not enough to inhibit my driving. We soon encountered a ‘tunnel of trees’, as Regan Hanna, the woman passenger, refered to it. The road was riddled with trees on the side that grew tall enough to reach over and connect, making the canopy hang above our heads but still allowing enough room to drive.

“Wow, this would be a really cool location to film an ambush scene,” Max Servis, the rear passenger, laughed in awe.

“Yeah, there’s some pretty sweet places up here that we can use for the Post-Apocalyptic,” Regan casually replied. “Just wait ’til you see the farm.”

Once we passed the tree tunnel, it was only a few more curves and a left turn until we were at the farm. There were some houses nearby that gave somewhat of a village ambiance to the farm. As we exited the vehicle, Regan immediately led us around the farm to show us the various parts that would be suitable backdrops for a post-apocalyptic film.

If it’s not obvious by now, these three people (including myself) are filmmakers. We are part of a larger group known as Fatal Nostalgia. It’s a close-knit, loosely organized crew of filmmakers that post various types of videos to YouTube. The number of people that have been involved in videos numbers to 26, but the number of “official” members spans from five to ten.

“So who’s all the official members?” Max asked as we made our way to Wal-Mart. I went to explain that it’s a somewhat loose hierarchy…

There’s a sort of difference in rank of who has to be involved in the videos (Any video will require at least one of the three): Kelsey, Sam, and myself. Then there are two who have major executive decision the direction where writing goes: my little brother, Matt, and our friend Mason. After that, there are four members who mostly serve primarily as actors with some creative input for ideas: Max and his brother Garth, a buddy of mine from high school named Ben, and a high school student known as Charlie. Lastly, but not least, there’s Regan, who had become officially part of the group near the end of the summer, but has proven her worth rather quickly within the group.

Fast forward a few hours to when Max and I were scoping our more locations in Sioux City while Regan went out to eat with her family. We happened upon what appeared to be a junkyard, but it was shrouded by workplace buildings and potentially unused baseball fields (we couldn’t tell for sure). Max was extremely happy to find a place that looked so run-down and secluded. “This is the perfect location,” Max exclaimed, “words cannot describe how happy I am right now.” I made sure to video record the entire area to show Sam and Kelsey (a simple picture wouldn’t have been able to show the entire location). Max was still full of awe when he started to cite what he was thankful for, “I really like how this group works.”

“What do you mean by that?” I asked. His statement could have had a number of different answers, but I had a gut feeling of where he was about to go with it.

“Like, everybody does different stuff. Nobody strictly does one part, they all work on different things,” he replied, with difficulty finding the proper words to explain. “I mean, when Garth and I were with our old film group, every one would play the same type of role and be the same thing for crew. He and I joined kinda late, so we ended up being mostly just extras and stuff.”

“Oh, I see,” I affirmed his statement. My gut feeling was not too far off.

“But here, we get to go back and forth between main roles and background people, and I really like it,” he finished.

 What Max was referring to was the fact that we tend to keep our cast and crew well-rounded. Oftentimes, I had been the one who would edit videos, but when it came to films that Sam did cinematography, he would do the editing (for the most part). In addition to the multiple editors, Sam, Kelsey, and Regan all have their own cameras, so multiple videos could be made in different locations. This form of divide and conquer allows us to be able to regularly upload short (usually random) videos without any risk of hiatus.

The group wasn’t always this big and active, though. At it’s start, it was just Kelsey, my friend Ben, and me. Kelsey wanted to make an improv horror film and recruited me as a an editor. We needed another actor, so I called up Ben to see if he’d be willing to help. After much of what could have been considered “dinking around”, we eventually finished our horror film with poor lighting, awkward acting, and absolutely no script. The experience was so fun that we decided to try again with some different genres every video. Along the way, we let anyone join that wanted to help out. The end result were seven “Improv” shorts of varying genres that were released every other Monday.

After ideas ran out and schedules became too busy, the group went into a hiatus. Nobody could think of any new ideas for a different genre, and barely anybody could make it to meeting times. Eventually, Sam and Kelsey recorded a random non-sensical video simply out of boredom and posted it to the Fatal Nostalgia YouTube channel (which had been inactive for a couple of months). The video met positive reviews when it was shared on Facebook, and all of us in the group at that time decided that we would just work on any video idea that we had an post it anytime we filmed, rather than attempting a different genre every other week.

As a result, the filmmaking process grew to be more fun than simply showing off filmmaking capabilities. Films can be as planned as “Crazy”, a psychodrama with a script written by Kelsey and her roommate Nicole, or as spontaneous as “Shattered Dreams”, a nonsense film that Sam and Matt did while hanging out. Regardless of the amount of work that goes into each film, it serves as bonding time for everyone.

“I love you guys,” Kelsey sincerely stated as she looked at Matt, Mason, and me. We had just finished filming another impromptu horror film and were now just sitting in her living room, hanging out. “When I say you guys are my family, I mean that you are my family. I’m so glad that we do this together.” Kelsey often takes lead when it comes to the social  media aspect of Fatal Nostalgia. This film group has grown to be her passion and she plans to study film in the future (after two years of Gen Eds at Morningside or WIT). “Fatal Nostalgia isn’t like a family to me; It is a family. We are always growing in numbers and in ideas. [I] Love this group to death,” was one of the statuses that she posted to the Fatal Nostalgia Facebook page.

In the end, Kelsey’s post is not too far off. Aside from the fact that there are two sets of brothers in the group (Matt and me; Max and Garth), the rest of the group is connected as if they really were family. We don’t just get together to make films, we also get together to just hang out, go places, and adventure. It’s grown to not just be a hobby, but a passion for most of us. Matt enjoys this group so much, that he’s organized a plan where when we get rich enough, we’ll all buy out an apartment complex, live there, and just make videos for the rest of our lives. Though it sounds a little difficult to accomplish, I would be lying if I said that it doesn’t sound appealing to me.

In the mean time, we’ll continue making videos for as long as we can.


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