As with any project, it takes a team to succeed. So far our team consisted of me, John Quick, Chelsey McKrill, and Sarah Pierpont, but we were about to meet two people who would improve everything. One afternoon in September, we filed downtown to “The Pour House” to meet for the first time (of many times) Adam Noble and Adam Rector. I remember being intimidated at first, because they discussed all kinds of weapons and fighting styles that were far over my head. Adam Noble was an experienced choreographer and stunt coordinator in the midwest, and Adam Rector was a student looking for experience in this realm. I was thrilled to just be able to meet them. I was also nervous that my lack of fighting knowledge would deter them from taking me seriously. Luckily, it didn’t.
One of my early policies on the project was that it must be everyone’s vision. Sure I was the director and it was my vision and all that, but all of these people were going to be giving huge chunks of their time, and for that they deserved to have plenty of say in what they were doing. Also, I wanted the project to be fun for everyone. If it wasn’t fun then it wouldn’t be worth it. We could always stick to core ideals, but I wanted to incorporate the fun ideas and the spontaneous moments we had into the show as best we could. If people aren’t having fun, then why should they care? I wanted them to care, and I’d been on way too many sets where no one seemed to have a say in what happened, and thus didn’t care about the project.
I told this to Adam Rector and told him that for the most part he could do anything he wanted with the fights, so long as they lasted a certain length, fit the ending necessary, and incorporated the character’s differing fighting styles. I wanted him to be able to brainstorm some awesome fight sequence that would wow him. I wanted him to go too far with his ideas, in terms of ridiculousness, and then we could reel it in from there if we needed to. I didn’t want to play it cautious, in terms of ideas, I wanted to shoot for the stars. I later took this approach with the actors in rehearsals, but that’s a bit later in our story. I wanted Adam to have an idea, think “there’s no way we can do that”, then figure out how to do it.
After that initial meeting with the Adams, John Quick took me aside. Up until now Student Seven had been our baby. Everything I did I checked with him first to see his thoughts, and vice versa. On that day, John told me that he would probably be too busy, and handed full creative control over to me. I was nervous, but I knew that it made sense with his schedule and our timeframe for getting things done, with auditions now very close. Also, John had gotten into the Vancouver Film School and would be leaving at the end of December. As long as he was around I tried to keep him updated in the process, and I’ve never forgotten for a moment that originally Student Seven was his baby as much as it was mine.
With auditions getting closer and closer, we were working on nailing down the look. We wanted the characters to not be dressed normal. We considered getting costumes to invoke the look of some famous anime characters, and we discussed maybe having some kind of school uniform that all the students would be wearing. A lot of ideas went through our meetings.
We also tried to think more about location. Our plan was that a good chunk of the series would take place in the same classroom, and that it would become Gamer’s Brigade’s home base. This plan stayed true, but our classroom changed. Until this point the classroom was going to be TV 245 in the telecom building. TV245 is a pretty modern looking room, with white walls and nice carpet and nice seats. After a meeting with someone about the art direction, we realized that it would help for the story if the classroom were older looking. With older desks and no carpet and in general just a more antique classroom, the story of Gamer’s Brigade being a ragtag group would feel more authentic, it seemed. After a short search we found a classroom in Woodburn Hall, where I’d had a couple of classes. The room had a much more “wooded” look, and fit more into something much more old-fashioned. I instantly had the idea of hanging some china-ball lights as accent lighting, and using the soft light of the Kino-Barflys as an extension of those. I had already wanted to light this darker, more cinematically, and make use of shadows, rather than just flatly lighting everything and trying eliminate all shadows (I hate flat, no-shadow lighting). I had read about lighting for an environment, rather than characters, and then blocking the characters in a way that would help light them, and this is what I wanted to do. This classroom might be one of the first discoveries that set my vision for Student Seven into what it became. The more wooded, old-fashioned look eventually grew into the filmic-look that I didn’t yet know I was searching for.
Even with this discovery, we still needed to figure out costumes. The more classical classroom was a start, though. Knowing that the room would be more old-fashioned, we decided that costumes should be kind of a mash between an asian style and that classical design. I decided to give every character a color, based on their personality, so that when looking for clothes we could go by style and color. Ryan, being the reliable friend to Shane, took on a lot of dark blue and brown colors, and often a vest. Kyle, being the youngster of the group who didn’t know yet how the world worked, took on a lot of green colors, in reference to him being the “Green” one of the group, and I wanted him to look the closest to a traditional japanese school uniform. Script was initially given lots of reds, and anything that would show that Script had an ego. Kentucky, being laid-back but talented, was given Orange. Cym was given blue, as she’s much shier than anyone else, and the wild dog character was given black, to show how he’s just given up on everything. Shane was given grey, as his inner conflict is revealed throughout the series and he’s often conflicted. I had already wanted to incorporate color scheme to help tell the story, and that, like the characters overcoming their personal issues, the colors could begin fairly desaturated and work up to the color, as though the characters were earning the color. Seeing as how I’m still working on post-production, this is one of the elements that I’m still tweaking.
Now with the beginnings of a look down, fight choreographer set, and scripts being written and revised frequently, we were ready for auditions. We would continue to narrow down the look, especially when Sarah Pierpont, our trusty Director of Photography, would reveal the camera that had not yet shaken the world of indie production. Chelsey had scheduled auditions, reserved the classrooms, and planned more meetings with the Adam, as we figured out how auditions would go, while I continued to write the scripts, collect feedback, re-write them, collect feedback, etc. Chelsey and I began hanging flyers for auditions all over campus. Not just auditions, though. We would need a production crew to make this work, so we also began hanging flyers about crew positions. We wanted everyone to be clear that we couldn’t offer any pay, just a great experience and a credit.
With the campus littered with Audition and Crew Call-out flyers, Student Seven was about to take its first steps into the production phase.
Until next week, keep an eye on your honor!
-Sam Sher, Director