THESISCRAZY 2018 (Part 6): It’s a Film World and We’re All Just Living In It

The members of 128A Church j chillin in the wonderful outdoors.

This ThesisCrazy is a group interview with three dudes, Benjamin Yap ‘18Alex Fabry ‘18, and Matt Kleppner ‘18To be clear, they did not all do their these together, in fact this group interview covers three different theses. However, the three of them do live in the same house, so hit them up at 128A Church!

To check out Part 5, go here.

Dive into their theses after the jump!

Benjamin Yap ‘18 FILM Major, Digital Film Thesis

Alex Fabry ‘18 FILM Major, Writing Certificate, Digital Film Thesis

Matt Kleppner ‘18 FILM and AMST Major, Digital Film Thesis


Alex: “Buried Treasure”

Ben: “An Affair”

Matt: “Moving Day”

On their topics:

A: “The movie takes place in a New England beach town, a place where a lot of people come in the summer to go to the beach. When the summer’s over, the townspeople like to go to the beach and look for treasure. My main character, Phoebe, brings her friends to the beach, and she really wants to find some treasure to impress them. And then things don’t go the way that she hopes.”

B: “Mine’s about two people having an affair. That’s the short version, but it’s about them contending with the status of the affair, and where it goes after.”

M: “Mine is: A mourning mother reconnects with her teenage son.”

On how they came up with their topics:

A: “I came up with a big list of ideas, like, ‘Person wants something, something gets in the way, and what they do about it,’ and this was the most interesting one. The movie itself is about wanting to fit in and social anxiety around other people, so it kind of stemmed from that place. The themes of the film came from a personal place, but the plot was honestly an exercise of writing a bunch of ideas down and picking the one I thought was the best.”

B: “I had a different thesis idea, and then me and Alex were watching a scene fromChungking Express, it’s a Wong Kar-wai movie. And we were just watching this one scene in it, which is really incredible, and I just threw out my old idea for my movie. I was like, ‘I want to make something passionate like this scene.’ So then I was like, ‘Okay, I’m gonna make a movie about an affair.’ It started from this very basic premise that it’s gonna be surrounding an affair, and then as I was writing it, it really became something else. Less passionate, but within that realm, but a little bit more strange, I think, and less simple.”

M: “I started wanting to find an excuse to put adorable home movies onto the Goldsmith screen, and decided the best way to do that would be to create fictional home videos as flashbacks for a mother mourning for her dead daughter. I wanted to get at the sort of intimacy and more realism and naturalism that you don’t see in a lot of Wesleyan film theses.”

On their progress:

A: “Well, I’m almost done, they’re almost done… I’m a little bit less almost done than them, but by Monday I’ll be the same almost done as them.”

B: “That’s the crazy part, that we’re almost done. Not the doing.”

A: “All of us wrote at least an initial draft of the script over the summer, and then we came back and shared that with our advisors and did a bunch of rewrites in September. Then September and October were like pre-production. It was pretty hectic. I think that with the film theses, at least with the digital, a lot of the heaviest lifting is in the first semester, which is kind of different from most of the theses. So last semester was pretty busy because we wrote the movie, planned to shoot it, and then we filmed it.

M: “But also because we’re working on everyone else’s theses too. So we’re really like, eight straight weekends of production. I had done five weekends of shooting before even starting to shoot my film.”

B: “I think with the editing process, it’s not as all-consuming, but it becomes this thing where you have to contend with the thing that you’ve just made, and then wondering whether it’s trash. Being like, ‘Is this bad? Or is this good?’ and just going through this process of loving your movie and hating your movie over and over again. I don’t know where I’m at at this point.”

A: “At this point I just don’t want to look at it!”

On their current mental states:

A: “I’m tired all the time. In terms of my thesis, though, I feel good about it.”

B: “I think I’ve reached a point where I feel pretty good about it, and it’s reaching a point where I’m pretty excited to start new projects and write new things and get ready to do something new.”

M: “Yeah I feel pretty zen. *whole house laughs* I think we’re all past the point of worrying whether the film is good or not because we’re past the point of being able to do much about that at this point. Ben and I are just doing color, and Alex is just finishing up sound. It’s just a matter of finishing what we started.”

A: “I feel like, a lot of movies get to this point and never get finished, not Wesleyan movies, just in general. Young people making movies, they get to the end, and they just can’t finish. I hope that I wouldn’t be like that, but because I have to turn it in, I know I can’t be like that. Have you guys thought about that at all? Not really?”

B: “No, I always finish the job. *laughs*”

M: “Well I think, maybe they get finished but they never get screened anywhere, and at least we have a Wesleyan audience.”

Speaking of which, when is the film screening?

B: “We think it’s May 11 and 12. We haven’t had an official announcement, but that’s what has been said.”

M: “But we don’t know which films are showing which days. I guess they don’t know that til they see them.”

On their most upsetting thesis experience:

M: “Being on set is kind of a blur, so it’s hard to remember exactly how I felt, but the house I was shooting my entire film in had two cats that we had to take care of while we were there. That was the exchange, we could film there over the weekend, we just had to watch their cats. Now these were really nice cats, but they were outdoor cats, so we let them out and then they wouldn’t come back for a little while. So after a 12-hour shooting day, after cleaning everything up and everyone’s exhausted, and I just want to go home, I have to wait for the damn cat Zoe to come back home. So I’m there at 2 in the morning screaming, ‘Zoe!’ out into the night, and the neighborhood is like 5 minutes from campus. I’m about to leave the cat out to freeze to death because that’s how tired I am. So that was my lowest point, I think.”

B: “I struggle to think of something that was actually upsetting because, if anything, the one thing I did right was pick a crew of very nice, affectionate people who kept me sane. Even as close as I came to losing my mind, I never lost my mind, there were always people to pull me back. If anything, I’m surprised by how sane I was throughout the entire process of it. If anything, the most upsetting thing would be the expectation that people are gonna watch this thing is gonna be the most excruciating. Because we’re waiting until May 11 until somebody see’s it that’s not our friends, and that’s terrifying.”

A: “Yeah, I have to agree with Ben. I think the screening is gonna be tough. I just get nervous about those things.”

B: “And then people are gonna be like, ‘Yeah, I love it!’ and I’m gonna be like, ‘Do you? Do you actually? I don’t know whether I can believe you, because what else are you gonna say?’ No one’s gonna come up to you and say, ‘Yeah, your movie sucked!’ So now I’m thinking, ‘Somebody’s thinking that but they’re not telling me…’”

M: “Ben, if I say that to you after the screening, will you believe everyone else when they say that they love it? Like, I would do that for you. It’s really that I hate your movie…”

B: “Now that’s just confusing! Now I don’t know what’s a lie! *laughs*”

On their favorite forms of procrastination:

A: “I have a few. They go from normal to more interesting. I like to go on walks, so sometimes when I know I need to do something, like I need to work on my movie, but I don’t want to, I just go on a pretty long walk. It feels like wholesome procrastination, y’know? So I can tell myself I’m getting some air, I’m stretching my legs, I’m not looking at a screen… So that I feel okay about when I do. Then I like to cook, also feels pretty good. Then I like to watch comedians on YouTube. I think that that is always pretty fun, but I think that I’m running out of material. I’ve watched a lot of SNL, I’ve watched a lot of comedians. And now furthering that, my brother loves Tim and Eric, these really weird comedians. So sometimes I watch their videos, and those are pretty strange. I guess maybe that’s the strangest procrastination. There’s probably something else, but I can’t think of anything.”

B: “Well I know that I’m about to put off color correction this weekend and watch a lot of TV, so there’s that. Cause I’ve been so behind, just been so busy, and now I can watch TV for a while.”

M: “I think the most insidious form of procrastination for me is when I sit down to edit and I don’t make it through any work, I just watch my favorite 2 or 3 parts of my movie over and over again. Like that’s the worst. It takes me like twenty minutes to start basically.”

On their plans for April 17:

M: “I’m gonna be in class when everyone’s popping champagne.”

B: “But that means we can’t skip either, we’re all in class at that time.”

M: “Our plan is to pop champagne outside of the film building, right?”

B: “I guess so, I don’t know…”

A: “That sucks!”

B: “Oh man that’s so annoying!”

A: “Who are we watching?”

B: “I don’t know, it could be something good…”

M: “What about that night, like after class?”

A: “I’m gonna be plastered, it’s gonna be a blast.”

M: “So: Drinking. Is basically it.”

Their advice for future thesis writers:

A: “Work with good people, because that’s huge. I feel so lucky to have worked, both on my crew to have had really incredible people who were committed to the project and were really talented, interesting, and also fun people, because that’s really important to have a good energy on set. And then I have gotten the advidce of a lot of people who I also trust and who I think are really talented. The movie’s only gonna be better the more people whose opinions you get, to some degree. It can only help the movie. So I definitely recommend forming relationships and working on people’s sets and having them work on your set. It also just builds a community that feels really good to be a part of. And it feels very supportive, especially this year. I don’t know about previous years, but I don’t feel like there’s too much competitive energy going on, it really feels like people want their peers to make a good movie. And I’ve just been so happy to be a part of that environment.”

M: “I would echo that and just say that giving as much help and advice as you can to each other. You make yourself invaluable to another film production, and they’ll do the same for you. That’s been the best thing, just having great people you can count on to work with and just save your butt so many times.”

B: “Obviously all that, and for me, the thing I was always very aware of is that all these people who are working on my film are not necessarily people I’m going to help out in return. Like, a lot of them are not seniors making films, and I was not gonna help them on their film, cause I won’t be here. But being very respectful of people’s time, and really being extra grateful all the time, I was just always in that mode. Anything that anyone does for me is something to be thankful for, no matter how small, because anything anyone’s doing is basically just for my benefit, almost exclusively. Really being very respectful and just noting that all the time. And I think that was what helped to keep all those relationships very positive, and kept being on set very… like, everyone’s very friendly on set, and everyone had good energy on set. So that even if somebody’s doing something that they might not enjoy, they can still give to because they respect you and you respect them. And the other thing is plan like a crazy person. Like, I tried very hard to plan to make my life as easy as possible. I think a lot of my crew members appreciated that because we didn’t do 15-hour days, no one really had to wake up in the middle of the night to take shots at night. I just planned it so that it would be a very easy shoot. Yeah, just plan very well.”

M: “And that starts in the script. You can write an easier movie or a harder movie to shoot for sure.”

B: “Not that you can’t make a hard movie, but if you’re gonna make a hard movie, you’ve got to know how to do it in such a way that you’re not gonna sacrifice everyone’s sanity to make your movie, cause they’re all doing it for free.”

A: “Also having you guys has been good. It’s just nice, I feel like we’ve all been helpful for each other.”

B: “Cause like, when we were shooting, the three of us were all doing movies at the same time. There was a ton of gear at this house, and we never stopped.”

A: “I feel like Wednesday was our weekend.”

B: “And then me and Matt were shooting at the same time, so that was two crews coming in and out… it was nuts!”

On their favorite parts of their theses:

M: “I guess I would say working with my actors. I had never really directed actors before, and I found three amazing actors (none of them are students here). And they just gave me a lot. I’d say the most fun one was my little five-year-old girl, Jonise, who never knew she was really acting in a movie but was just a ball of joy the whole time and would just play with different toys in front of the camera to make these home movies. Whenever she was on set was just a great experience.”

A: “My favorite part of the process was the collaboration because it’s awesome to have my ideas and connect with other people who have other ideas. And there are a lot of people, who both in the planning, the production, and the post-production who I collaborated with who definitely gave a lot and brought a lot of new perspectives to the table. My favorite part of my movie is probably… there’s a sequence in the second scene of the movie, which I think is really fun, and the music in it is fantastic. Josh Davidoff ’18 did an amazing job.”

B: “My favorite part of the process was definitely working with the people who I just love working with. Alex was there keeping me together sometimes and putting my thesis back together. My DP and my producers really held up, my producers kept everything going, like, I’d turn around and be like, ‘Oh wow! Things are actually happening without my input.’ My DP and my production designer who helped me make this beautiful film by putting all these beautiful things in it and photographing it beautifully. I think that all turned out very well. I had these two phenomenal actors as well who I casted from New York, and they gave me so much time and energy, working with me throughout rehearsal to craft these characters that just were on the page, and they made more sense as people by putting them on people. And for the movie, it’s my favorite part, I hope it works! But there’s a moment towards the end where the music just punches in, and I hope it works for people. It works for me, and I made it, so I hope it works for other people.”

On if their theses were a song/movie/tv show:

B: “Mine’s ‘Quizas Quizas Quizas,’ the Nat King Cole song. It translates to ‘Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps.’”

A: “Would it be bad if I said The 400 Blows? I don’t really think it’s that but it’s the first thing that came to mind.”

M: “It’s so hard to separate that question from things that just inspired the movie. Like part of this movie inspired my movie, but that doesn’t mean my movie is the equivalent of that movie.”

A: “Yeah, like The Graduate for me. It’s not that movie at all, but I feel like I got a lot of inspiration from it.”

M: “Alright, We Need to Talk About Kevin, just because of the mother-son relationship.”

This interview was performed by michelle, who did an absolutely phenomenal job.

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