Some projects know that the best way to change the system is to shift things from the inside. That’s both the figurative and literal goal of the team behind “The Reign,” the Project of the Month for April, as chosen by Indiewire readers.
In telling the story of a teacher who convinces his students to mount a protest in the wake of his firing, the creative team behind “The Reign” wanted to employ an unconventional shooting style. To capture the in-classroom performances in the most unintrusive style, they’ve fashioned a multi-cam setup, anchored by GoPro Hero4s. By letting the action unfold in a single setup, they’re looking to reach of a level of filmmaking that offers a more natural end result.
And their disruptive ideas aren’t restricted to cinematography. By tackling a story set in the world of private education, they hope that their work will lead to a conversation beyond their shooting methods. “Mass education serves a purpose, otherwise it shouldn’t exist. What that purpose is, I am uncertain; but the question, I think, is valid. ‘The Reign’ is that question,” says writer Luke Pennington.
So how does that question translate to the screen? We spoke to some of the central members of the film’s production team via email about their novel approach and how it relates to their greater ideas about the American school system.
What’s next for the project?
Rebecca Louisell (Producer): Shooting our bigger and better GoPro proof of concept and casting are next on our agenda.
William S. Goldstein (Writer, Producer, Director): Well, since we’re shooting our film in an innovative new fashion with GoPro cameras hidden in the sets, our next step is to shoot a proof of concept video illustrating how exactly our method will be executed. We’re scheduling that shoot for later this summer.
Alberto Marenco (Writer, Producer, Director): We’re going to be the first movie ever to shoot this way, so we have to prove that not only does the method expedite our shooting time, but that its potential will exceed all expectation.
What are the biggest challenges for this project?
Goldstein: Given our GoPro shooting method, this is a potentially revolutionary new style of filmmaking. It’s going to be a challenge convincing people to get on board with it. But they will once they see the proof of concept, and how efficient and cost effective it is for physical production.
Marenco: I think our hidden GoPro method being a radically new idea is a big challenge in and of itself. That said, every aspect of this project has been, and will continue to be challenging, so I’m sure even bigger unforeseen challenges await us.
Louisell: Like many indie projects, we faced a kind of “chicken and egg” issue with regards to funding wherein investors didn’t want to invest because we didn’t have any money. It’s hard to be the first person or group to put money in. Raising money on Kickstarter was a good solution for us, it has opened some doors and we’re excited about new partners coming on board.
What are your goals?
Marenco: To make a movie that gets people thinking. Thinking about how they live their lives, how education works, how it has affected every choice they’ve made. We want people to come out of this understanding the importance of thinking for yourself, of how education should give you tools to better analyze the world around you, and make informed decisions, as opposed to just passing generic tests that assure you fit some prefabricated mold. Even our method of shooting with GoPros hidden in the sets speaks to that. There is no one and only correct way to shoot a movie, and different stories are better told using different methods. So in addition to getting people thinking about what education is and what it should do, we want remind the more complacent members of the filmmaking community, that there are other things to explore, not only in characters, stories and themes, but also in the methods used to portray said ideas.
Goldstein: We want to make a film that tackles the issue of education innovation in a new and groundbreaking way. Our hope is that the film will inspire a dialogue about the U.S. education system and how it can be improved for students’ benefit.
Louisell: We want to restart the conversation around education in our country, and be able reframe it away from testing and towards student centered learning. The American Dream has been replaced by student debt. Why is the wealthiest nation in the world losing ground in STEM education? What is the role of the private sector? Do we want it to be this way? Our team is made up of children of teachers and professors, and some of us now also teach filmmaking or writing. So we have a stake in and an opinion on these issues.
What do you wish someone had told you before you started?
Goldstein: This is a sensitive subject, and it needs to be approached with care.
Louisell: How to get mega followers on social media? We’re working on it but we would love your legit tips and tricks!
Marenco: Megan Ellison’s phone number! Well, that would be nice, but on a more serious note, I think all I would have wanted to hear was someone tell me this is impossible. It would have driven me even more.