They said it could not be done, but that was not enough to stop senior Ian O’Brien. With the help of a team of around 17 people and a faculty advisor who was willing to support their vision, O’Brien and his friends have defied the odds and filmed – in just 37 days – the cinema department’s first full-length student movie: a psychological thriller called Deliria. Funded mainly by the students involved, the movie will be released this spring.
O’Brien, a senior cinema major and the movie’s director from Newark, Ohio, has been dreaming of this opportunity since his freshman year at Denison.
“I knew I wanted to do something big… something gutsy,” he said. At the time O’Brien did not realize that meant writing an entire full-length movie and producing it. O’Brien sought out people he knew he could count on to make his vision happen. “I wanted to do it… you know if you can get the right people behind you it can be done… you need collaborators.” He stressed that cinema is one of the most collaborative art forms, and he couldn’t have done it without his dedicated cast, and especially his production crew.
Deliria tells the story of seven friends and the events that occur on their vacation to the island of Deliria. “It’s about Sammy… a girl who is taken to this island by her friends to try and regain her sanity. The woods there possess supernatural elements, and she becomes sane again.” But the woods have a different result for the friends who brought her there. “It’s surreal, it’s got a pretty dark undertone to it,” said O’Brien.
“I have never worked this hard at anything in my life, and I have also never felt this valued,” said Joseph Firoben, a senior cinema major from Westerville, Ohio. Firoben, the movie’s producer, was responsible for maintaining logistics during filming process, organizing the shooting schedule and locations, compiling the cast and crew, and acting in the film as a named character.
For a successful shoot, all members of the crew are a necessity. “I’m a department in and of myself, [doing sound] I work closely with Jen [Trimmer] our DP [Director of Photography]” said Travis DeFraites, a senior from Kensington, Md., and a major part of O’Brien’s production team. Brett Reiter, a junior cinema major with a queer studies concentration from Chardon, Ohio, does the lighting for the film and is the assistant director, working closely with Trimmer. “Lighting isn’t taught in a class, it’s learned in production…[I’ve] learn[ed so much] more about styles,” said Reiter, after working on the film.
“One-third of filmmaking is [learning] in the classroom, the other two-thirds are in production; going out and doing it,” said O’Brien, commenting on the on-the-spot learning process associated with creating a feature-length film. “It’s [been] nice to go through three years of classes and then in the fourth year actually do it and fill in all the cracks.”
Coming from three different graduating classes, the cast and crew responsible for Deliria have been through a time-consuming and rewarding experience.
“The experience has been much more than I could have ever dreamed. I have known I wanted to make films since I was 15, so the opportunity to work on a feature film at 20 years old is unfathomable… I learn so much everyday on set and love the people I’m working with,” said Gina Marie Ezzone, a sophomore cinema major from Concord, Ohio, whose roles include
executive producer, script supervisor, costume designer, makeup designer and special effects supervisor.
“If you pass biology… you’re not qualified to be a doctor, [but in cinema] we’re unique, we’re doing some of our best work now, and it’s not made to get an A, it’s being made to make a good film… [Deliria] is going to look really good on a resume, but I didn’t even think about that when I started this,” said O’Brien.
Even the actors in the film have learned much from the experience. “It was a little strange for me at first because I’m mainly a stage actor and it’s so different, but I feel like it’s a nice new experience to have under my belt,” said Nicole Feehan, a junior psychology major from Bangor, Pa., playing the main character, Sammy Jacobs. “I think the greatest chal- lenges [have been] the unforeseen ones,” said Kassandra Lyke, a senior theatre and communication major from Newberry, Mich., who plays the role of Lana Pierce. “One day, we planned a full cast shoot
and the weather was not cooperating, so we lost a full day of filming…but overall, it’s been a blast.”
Making the movie has not been easy. O’Brien and his crew began their pre- production meetings for Deliria last spring, once the 72-page script had been completed. He and Firoben initially applied to the Summer Scholars program, hoping to receive funding and utilize that time to film the movie, but they were not accepted. So they planned to shoot this fall instead, and spent their summer coordinating schedules, logistics, casting actors, and trying to find funding for their project.
“It’s seen as too much for undergraduates to do,” said O’Brien. “They said how big [of a project] it was and they said it couldn’t be done… but Sarah Fiete, [‘12], was an inspiration to me. She wrote and put on her own musical last year on top of school work and classes, and extracurriculars… and I wanted to be able to do something like that too.”
After being met with skepticism and rejection about making a full-length fea-
ture film as an undergraduate student, O’Brien and his crew have had to pay out of pocket to produce most of the movie. It was only on the week of Dec. 5 they were awarded finances through the Horizon Fund, “a permanent endowment to help fund important opportunities for students,” according to the Denison web- site.
“We had our pre-production meeting[s] last spring, and someone suggested trying to get funding, and we thought about the Horizon Fund. We submitted it, and, at first, it got rejected, but the committee urged us to revise our proposal and so we submitted it again, and got it… We wouldn’t have even known about it if it hadn’t been for Caitlin Hodson, [’12], who received [the same grant] to make her short film,” said Firoben. O’Brien added, “It’s such a great opportunity, I’m hoping, at least, through us more people learn about it and apply for it…I’m hoping this is the first student full-length film of many…”
With production nearly completed, the cast and crew is now focused on sharing
their movie with Denison’s community. “We are starting to get into the process of figuring out screening dates. The two pa- rameters for the Horizon fund are that we have a campus-wide screening and that we also give a DVD copy of Deliria to the li- brary for them to keep in their archives… There will also be a limited distribution of the film, and a few private screenings off-campus, all aiming to happen around mid-to-late April, or May,” said Firoben.
Despite the odds and obstacles it faced at its beginning, the Deliria project is finally coming together. O’Brien is grateful for the dedication of his cast and crew, their level of devotion to the project, and their eagerness to learn. “We don’t have students working on a film,” he said, “what we have is filmmakers working on a film. This isn’t a student film; this is a film made by students, and we’re hoping to show people it’s so much more than that.”
For more news on Deliria and its release this spring, watch for updates around campus, and follow the movie on its official website, http://deliriamovie. tumblr.com/.