Third-year communication and media major Josh Briggs is ready to make a movie.
“There’s a German director named Werner Herzog who said if he ever started a film school, he’d have all his students walk a couple thousand kilometers before they can attend because he wants them out experiencing life,” said Briggs. “You should experience life and it should be reflected in the film.”
Briggs said with his own experiences, and after metaphorically walking his own 1,000 kilometers, he is in the process of producing and directing a feature-length film, “Life Among Valley People.”
After writing the script in the summer of 2010, he spent about two months refining and perfecting it. The “coming-of-age story” revolves around a group of college students who come together over the course of the summer. The film documents their lives over a period of 48 hours. It focuses on the growth, development and change of relationships.
“The story line was kicking around in my head for awhile. The concept was doing a series of couples. Once I started writing, it kind of changed through some events in my life and books I read; a culmination of things,” he said.
The film takes place in and around New Paltz, although its four main actors are all from the New York City area. Briggs said he used Mandy.com during his search for actors. After an accumulation of over 500 responses, he was able to lock in the four who fit the parts. Minor characters appear in the film as well, including SUNY New Paltz students Cody Torlincasi and Arielle Kellman.
Briggs was also able to secure Mark Sylvester, a cinematographer from Brooklyn.
“I’m not technical at all,” said Briggs. “He’s my right hand. We’ve got a good working relationship.”
Inspired by authors like Ernest Hemingway and French new-wave cinema, Briggs said he is focusing heavily on innovative camera techniques.
“You can make films so cheaply now, I personally feel you should experiment a bit more. It’s not like the old days where you’re spending $10,000 on a couple rolls of film. You can really experiment where you put your camera. That’s the way the French tried to do it, but they were limited financially,” said Briggs. “We’re going to keep that in mind and try some innovative shots. But also keeping the standards of American film as well. It’s the best of both worlds.”
One of Briggs’ biggest concerns is the film’s financial situation. Although he said they own or can borrow most of the equipment, they still need lights. Briggs decided to create an IndieGoGo account, a fundraising website.
“It’s a great fundraising platform for any kind of artist, band, painter, photographer, entrepreneur who want to raise capital for their productions,” said Briggs.
The website lets contributors donate however much they like, and in return, they receive some sort of gift. For donating $1, the contributor receives a “heartfelt ‘Thank You’ e-mail from the director,” while a $500 contributor gets to meet the team, as well as a pair of tickets to the premiere and more. Out of the $9,000 estimated goal for the production, the film has raised around $1,500. After being put up for less than a month, Briggs said he is pleased that a lot of people have been very supportive.
The shooting of “Life Among Valley People” will be from July 5 to 26. He said he has talked to many people in town who have been very generous and helpful with locations. Some of the film will be shot in Paul’s Kitchen on Main Street.
“It’s going to be interesting,” said third-year English major Torlincasi. “I think it’d be cool to show off the nice spots we have around town and shit. It’s easy working somewhere you live and know so well. It should be pretty fun.”
Briggs said he hopes to bring the film to Austin, Texas’ South by Southwest Festival when it is completed.