Orange County School of the Arts

Filming the impossible

Forest H. as James (left) and Nick S. the director (right) // photo by Soorim Lee
Forest H. as James (left) and Nick S. the director (right) // Photo by Soorim Lee

A high school student comes up to you and says, “I’m going to create a Western film in middle of nowhere in just three days.” One will tell him that it’s not possible and that it is a huge risk. However, Nick Scheuerman did not let the idea of it being impossible stop him from pursuing his vision. After months of pre-production, Scheuerman’s vision of a Western film became more of a reality on March 29, when official principal photography began near Santa Clarita.

First morning on set // Photo by Soorim Lee
First morning on set of The Deserter // Photo by Soorim Lee

Starring Forest Hostetter as James Dillard, John Marrs as General Strahl, and Tamar Rubin as Judith, “The Deserter” tells a story about morality and the theme of man vs. self and law. The released plot of the Western film, The Deserter, is: The year is 1863. The 2nd Louisiana Regiment has seen its fair share of blood and battle. Perhaps too much. James Dillard, farmer-turned-soldier decides he’s had enough. With the film being a Western, larger landscapes, horses, guns, and time period appropriate costuming were all required. Doing all of principal photography including such tasks in just three days while shooting on the RED with limited battery power throughout was indeed a risk. Regardless, the crew accepted the challenge.

Nick S. the director with DP Joaquin Sosa (both left) and 1st AD Soorim Lee (right) // photo by Marina Alvarado
Director Nick S. with DP Joaquin S. (left) and 1st AD Soorim L. (right) // Photo by Marina Alvarado

Collaborating with Snakebyte Productions and Entertainment Group, LLC., film and television students of Orange County School of the Arts, Scheuerman (director/producer) and Marina Alvarado (producer), filmed their high school senior thesis film titled The Deserter from March 29 to 31. All crew and cast members set up their tents on the 28th and prepared for the three days of production out in the desert of California where Wi-Fi and LTE are unknown. Despite the fact that we were in the desert, it was freezing. In fact, on day two, the crew was working while it was hailing for about 10 minutes.

However, despite the cold, all crew and cast members worked hard day and night to film the 10-minute Western in three days. With Civil War period costumes and props, guns, horses, and realistic special effects make up, the production went on no matter the conditions. In just matter of four days, all cast and crew members bonded and were as close as Marshall and Ted from “How I Met Your Mother.” Everyone truly cared about the project and worked beyond their best to do what many said would be “impossible.”

John M., Larry, and Tamar R. on set
John M. as Union General Strahl, Larry P. as Brandon Cox, and Tamar R. as Judith

From working as the first assistant director on set, I have learned things from how prop guns work to how costuming a Civil War period film works. However, if there is one most important thing that I was reminded of from working on this project, it is that when people gather together to make a vision come together despite all the things against them, anything is possible… that there are artists in the world who work passionately everyday trying to make a vision come true and to tell a story that means something to not just the creators, but also to the viewers. Everyone on set has inspired me and reminded me of why I make films: to tell stories together even if others may say that it is beyond the range of possibilities.

Nick S., the director, setting up for the day.
To support the filmmaking adventure of The Deserter:

It’s not a one person show and it’s not only about you. It’s about the director and screenwriter’s vision flourishing with the cast and crew’s visions to create one final product that inspires and entertains others. In the end, we all love a good story, don’t we?

If one truly cares, then the risks and the challenges are all worth it. It was just an idea he came up with in a restaurant last year, but now it has flourished into a film that will keep you at the edge of the seat, being awed by the power of filmmaking and storytelling–the power of a group of artists gathering together to create something with a message that you won’t forget.

One can stay updated with the status of the film on IMDB and Facebook.

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