By: June Wambua
Editors Note: As with everything here at SU, production on the new film is on hold. We will keep you updated. During these hard times we want to give you some things to look forward to after this is all over.
“Fun. Charming. Crazy-romantic.” Three words that Blayne Weaver, Director in Residence of the Film Department at Shenandoah University uses to describe the upcoming Christmas film. In Fall 2018, the Shenandoah University film department wrapped up the production of Santa Girl. Capital Arts Entertainment, a production company in Los Angeles, financed the Christmas romance film. Santa Girl sold all of its money back and made a large profit.
The decision to work on another Christmas film was a direct impact of the wide success of Santa Girl.
“We wanted to go back to the Christmas movie because it sold so well,” says Weaver. “My job is to give them something like that but completely different so that it’s artistically satisfying for me.”
The Shenandoah University film department has some film projects under its belt. One of them is the successful Santa Girl, which made its way onto Netflix in December 2019. The movie is about Santa’s daughter, who leaves the North Pole to go to college. She comes to Shenandoah University and she falls in love with a boy; but trouble happens when Jack Frost finds out she’s there.
Getaway pays homage to1980s slasher films. Weaver describes the film as “a little meta.” “It’s a little stylized that 80s slasher kinda thing. But it’s super fun. Me and a bunch of conservatory actors just went out into the woods in West Virginia and shot a scary movie.” Getaway will make appearances at film festivals in the upcoming months, starting in March.
The upcoming film is still in the beginning steps, but Weaver was able to reveal some details. It is a Christmas film by Capital Arts Entertainment. The storyline focuses on a teacher on the campus who falls in love. “It’s a Christmas themed comedy. But a lot of romance, a lot of Christtmas-y sttuff,” says Weaver. “And we’re gonna be shooting Christmas in March, which will be interesting.”
The upcoming film will be Blayne Weaver’s third project with Shenandoah. He first stepped foot onto the Shenandoah campus during the pre-production of Santa Girl. Following the release of Santa Girl and the production of the horror film Getaway, the film department hired Weaver to aid in the department’s growth.
When asked about the factors that influence the upcoming film, Weaver emphasizes the importance of assets. The film will most likely be shot on the campus; so students are crucial to the process.
“It’s gotta be something that has a lot of parts for college students, because we have this great asset of the conservatory. That has these great acting programs and these young actors who are anxious to do things. So we have to reverse engineer it so that we can use those assets.”
Weaver proposes the idea of shooting the film beyond the Shenandoah campus. “We haven’t really gotten to go into winchester much. I would love to shoot at the walking mall, some of the rockwellian, quaint town, show some of the 1700s architecture that is out there.” He hopes to find unique around Winchester and beyond that can be worked into the upcoming film.
Of course, every film set poses challenges and important lessons for everyone involved. With regards to the new film, Student scheduling is a challenge that Weaver and everyone else involved in previous films endured during filming. However, Weaver aims to approach the challenge as an educator and not just a filmmaker.
The relationships that form between the director and the cast are special. This is one experience that Weaver would like to bring into the upcoming film. To him, being on the same team is a very important thing.
“I loved doing Getaway, because it was all students and I got to put them in positions that most actors starting out would never be in. of being the main character, being the bad guy.”
This meant that cast and crew members were elevated to positions that they normally wouldn’t receive. With this experience, acting and film students are a step ahead. Weaver would like to offer students this opportunity in the upcoming film.
“That’s the thing that I want to bring into this.” He says, “Giving people opportunities to legitimize their resume and give them a good start when they get out into the world.”
Making a film that he can sit down and watch is important to Weaver. This is what he accomplished with Santa Girl. “The emotion is real. The comedy is actually funny.” The film will stay true to the emotional truth of romance. “Romance means heartache,.” he adds. “So we go 100% down that drama road and we go 100% down the comedy road, while keeping the rules of the world they live.in the same.”
The creation and release of the new film will help the Shenandoah University film department improve, grow their footprint, and allow the public know who they are.
“We’re telling people that we’re doing something incredibly unique, that isn’t really happening anywhere else in the country. Where we’re making a feature a year for the marketplace.”
The fact that the film department made a movie that went somewhere, puts the film department at an advantage. That, according to Weaver, is what makes the film department at SU special; and that is how the upcoming film and future films will grow the department.
Though early in the filmmaking process, Weaver already has a goal for the film. It will be a feel-good, charming film.
“Like most romantic comedies, you kinda know what you’re gonna get. You kinda know that they’re gonna end up together.” To Weaver, the journey is what is important.
“If my grandmother and my niece, who is little, and me can all sit in a movie theater and enjoy it for different reasons, then we’ll have accomplished what I’m setting out to do.”