Student-made film debuts tonight

Few would argue that filming a motion picture is an easy process, but for several Boston-area college students, it became one of the most challenging experiences thus far in their lives.

The movie, titled “A Work of Fiction,” opens tonight at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline. It follows a young writer’s attempt to write a murder novel that will satisfy his demanding publisher. Fanuef said the character reflects the identity struggles students face during college.

“Because the plot and the theme involve one’s transition in defining themselves, it’s something that college students are familiar with,” he said. “That’s what our character does, but just in a very different way. It’s about establishing who you are.”

Northeastern alumnus Nathan Larson and Dan Fanuef, a senior government major at Suffolk University, met two summers ago to discuss working together on a movie project. Without financial backing and equipment from their respective schools, they pooled their resources and, with a meager budget of $5,500, an amount which mostly came from their own pockets, they began shooting.

“That was the most difficult thing we had to work against,” Larson said. “No one knew us, no one wanted to give us access to equipment, we just wanted someone to give us a shot, we wanted to prove ourselves, but even without others’ help, we still have come so far.”

Shot with digital film, every aspect of the movie was student-crafted, from the production duties to the casting to the film’s soundtrack. The project involved students from Northeastern, Boston University, Suffolk University, Berklee College and Emerson College, among others.

Although Fanuef has prior experience performing with the Suffolk improvisational comedy troupe, “Seriously Bent,” being on the set of “A Work of Fiction” put him in the director’s chair for the first time. His inexperience with directorial duties was the most challenging aspect of filming, he said.

“I was so impressed by the company I was with,” he said. “They were probably the most hardworking and dedicated students I’ve ever seen in my life, the most difficult thing was just keeping up, trying to fully embrace the status of director among people who were so talented.”

But Fanuef said his background aided his leadership ability.

“What I lacked in experience as a director, I made up in confidence,” he said. “My education as a government major [helped]. We learned how to govern and how to regulate people in a civilized way.”

For some students, working on the set was an opportunity to apply the skills learned in the classroom to real life and get practice for their post-college goals.

“From day one of joining the team, the whole process taught me what I could accomplish,” said Walt Irby, director of photography and a senior communication and studio film major at BU. “I want to be a director of photo in the future so operating the camera was a great experience. The more you do it, the more confident you are.”

Larson, who served as an executive producer, and was responsible for ensuring the cast and crew arrived on set on time, said being a student while investing yourself in an extensive extracurricular project made it tough to arrange meeting times.

“Aligning everyone’s schedules for days in the summer was very challenging,” said Doug Shineman, a senior BU film major who had crew and production duties. “Getting everyone to come back and keep working was tricky but we pulled it off. It required a massive organization effort. A lot of the success of that was thanks to the crew’s enthusiasm.”

Northeastern alumnus Ben Bullock, who worked on the sound for the film, said the film set a precedent for cooperation among Boston colleges which he said was one of Larson’s goals from the beginning.

“It’s cool because a lot of time you see colleges divided, Emerson is like this, BU is like this,” he said. “But they were united for the film.”

Fanuef said the crew is putting Hollywood ambitions on hold for the moment, preferring to wait until the film’s opening to gauge audience response before moving forward with future movie projects. He said he wants “A Work of Fiction” to serve as an example to students that hard work can pay off.

“We just wanted to, as a group, show the Boston film community that there are a lot of ideas out there and it doesn’t take necessarily a couple million dollar budget to make a film that’s worth seeing,” he said. “[We want] to prove to those out there that it’s not about the amount of money that goes into the film. It’s about the amount of thought and dedication to see it through.”

Before the movie opens, tickets for can be purchased online for $7.50. At the door, they are $8.

– News Staff writer Julie Balise contributed to this report.

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