OSWEGO — Kimberly Behzadi wears zombie makeup as she talks in the lobby of SUNY Oswego’s Johnson Hall on a rainy Wednesday night. She describes it as just part of the learning experience as the Oswego Independent film club prepares for its first major production, “Greg,” a zombie comedy.
“We had to figure out how long it takes to get made up and make sure it won’t cause skin irritation” for the actor who will wear it, explains Behzadi, secretary of the club. She even considers the rain fortunate for testing how the makeup withstands the elements.
The Oswego Independent, which has 25 to 30 core members, learns every bit of the filmmaking process as it prepares the 15-minute film about “a zombie who runs away from his master and ends up hanging out with high schools students,” Behzadi says. The production process includes around 25 crew members with a cast of six actors plus extras.
While the Oswego Independent has existed for a couple of years, “I wanted the club to get together as a group to make a really solid short film,” says President Mike Potterton, a senior cinema and screen studies major at SUNY Oswego. “At the first meeting of the year, I got there 15 minutes early and the room was packed, which was very encouraging. And it’s definitely still growing. We’re continuously getting people interested in joining.”
That enthusiasm continued through the semester, evidenced by the excited throng in the lobby of Johnson Hall in early December, preparing for a script reading and production meeting.
Selecting a screenplay
The club reviewed scripts earlier this semester, weighing not only the merits of each but also the practicality of filming on a self-raised budget. Club officers and a script committee reviewed 10-to-15-page submissions and asked for revisions in a process that took three to four weeks, Behzadi notes.
“What we were drawn to about ‘Greg’ was that it was charming, it was fun, and it was about zombies,” Behzadi says of the script by James R. Domachowske, a sophomore double major in communication and cinema and screen studies at Oswego.
“I wrote down five short ideas and asked my friends which one they thought I should make, knowing we had limited resources,” Domachowske says. “I’ve learned it takes a lot of pre-production, much more than I ever thought it would. As long as everyone does hard work, the job can get done. People are doing hard work and it’s showing.”
Along the way, Potterton emphasized having the whole club as involved as possible, encouraging students to choose which positions in the production they wanted. “If the students don’t want to do it, it won’t get done,” he says. “Fortunately, we have some really dedicated students who really want to do it. I’m really happy to see the club succeed as much as it has, and that they enjoy doing it.”
Behzadi has found the whole process educational, from working with Oswego High School for permission to film there to even finding the most minor props. “It took us a week and a half just to find a football,” she recalls. “We’ve learned about how much goes into securing a set location, legal release forms, so many details.”
Many members are freshmen and sophomores at SUNY Oswego learning from older students while providing a bright outlook for the club’s future, says Behzadi, a sophomore majoring in cinema and screen studies and English.
With pre-production running since October, the excitement for filming was palpable. “It’s really amazing when you’re about to start shooting and it’s going to happen,” Potterton says. “It’s a lot more intense than doing it for a class.”
After completing post-production, Oswego Independent will submit “Greg” for consideration at college film competitions, including the SUNY-wide film festival in February.
“We’re already asking students to submit scripts for next spring,” Potterton says, noting future productions should come together faster with experience. “We’re hoping to make at least three films next semester. By the first meeting of next semester, we hope to have two scripts picked to go into pre-production.”