By Anthony Vassallo
Lebron and Akers play hide and seek with a clapperboard (photo via officialdevyn_ Instagram)
Covid-19 has drowned us in a variety of negative emotions, but throughout this struggle film has continued to thrive at SUNY Purchase.
“The Journal,” is a screenplay written by Aladen Gulmohamad, a 20-year-old junior playwriting and screenwriting major, and it is among many student-driven short films that will be produced this semester.
“I have a film assignment I have to do next week that’s already shooting with actors within locations on campus,” said SUNY Purchase Film Department Chair John G. Young. “We had narrative films being shot on campus throughout the pandemic.”
The danger of producing a film has decreased since the past two semesters, and the crew members working on “The Journal” are confident in their ability to complete the process safely. “This virus, it’s still here and I guess we’re still in the pandemic, but I'm working around smart people,” said 20-year-old junior acting major Devyn Akers. “I shouldn’t expect anything to go wrong.”
Starring alongside Akers is Sanise Lebron, a 20-year-old junior acting major who believes that the pandemic has strengthened relationships between the Purchase film and acting community.
“We’re gonna be seeing each other on a regular basis, and we’re just gonna make sure we take care of each other and work when we can,” said Lebron.
Nevertheless, Young says there are still hurdles to jump over to be ready to make a film on campus.
Things like scheduling and work orders have returned to the forefront of issues that the cast must deal with. “It's scary, it’s really like pulling off a gymnastic act, getting everyone together at the same time and being productive with everything we need,” said Michael Falco, the Director of Photography for “The Journal,” and a 20-year-old English major with a minor in film from Manhattan college.
“The Journal,” is about a character named Pat who is in her early 20s struggling to make ends meet. She is put in morally compromising positions and must make character defining decisions throughout the film.
Pat’s best friend is also very important to the plot, and the director Jaden Doret, wanted the actors playing these roles to have a relationship in real life.
Doret, a junior communications major at Purchase said that Akers and Lebron immediately came to mind when thoughts shifted to casting. He texted them, offering both parts to the two of them, and after Akers and Lebron mulled over the two characters, they came to a clear decision.
“We knew naturally which character we identified with a little bit more,” said Lebron.
Akers looks forward to doing the film alongside his roommate and best friend Lebron, as well as other passionate artists.
Doret and Gulmohamad were blown away by Lebron’s acting ability before auditions began, which certified her position in the film. Pat is a more fun character than Lebron normally plays which she believes will give everyone within the film community a new perspective of who she is.
Despite Pat’s goofiness within the film, Lebron describes the piece as being dramatic. A young woman with little money, involves herself in thievery to get by. “Getting into character isn't really that hard cause I can relate to her a lot, and I feel like if I was going through what she was going through I would have a similar reaction to a lot of the things that happened,” said Lebron.
One of the scenes will be shot in the Dining Hall on campus. Purchases guidelines while filming on campus include wearing a mask and keeping spaces as least dense as possible. A COVID safety officer is also supposed to be on set taking temperatures and making sure the shoots are being conducted safely.
Doret and Gulmohamad, the writer, plan on shooting for three days, one in the Bronx, one on Long Island and another day at Purchase campus. “The less I could show of purchase the better,”
said Doret. “Me and Aladen are very adamant on having locations that are very unique.”
Although On-campus shooting must be done within a set of guidelines, off-campus shooting invokes issues like social distancing from the public and staying aware in a foreign surrounding. Gulmohamad was worried about one scene on Long Island where a lot of people and cars could be passing through.
“We’re gonna have to do our best of just avoiding people in general,” said Gulmohamad. “The plan I have right now is me going around the perimeter while they’re shooting, and kind of like an offensive lineman blocking people away.”
Gulmohamad, Falco and Doret roomed in a suite together their freshman year at Purchase and bonded over the fact they were all in love with film. Gulmohamad said, “He (Falco) loves cinema more than anyone I ever met in my entire life, and he’s been itching to get himself out there.”
This is Falco’s first hands-on experience as the Director of Photography, but he is confident that he will be an effective part of the team. “Once filming starts, I really want to make sure I bring my ‘A’ game and be as available as possible and be as productive as possible, and really bring an edge to the film that wouldn’t be there if I wasn't there.”
“Jaden is the nicest person you’ll ever meet and Aladen is the best writer I know,” said Falco. “I know Aladen is very passionate about this, and this is his vision so I obviously want to do everything I can to make it come to life properly.”