Upon walking into the Little Building dining hall, most peoples’ minds are filled with thoughts of late homework, missed classes and their own looming hunger. If anyone were to glance at four beanie-clad boys crowded into a corner booth table near the window facing the glowing lights of Tremont, they wouldn’t think twice.
But these four Emerson students have more on their minds than just pizza and soft serve.
With lights, cameras, and action on the brain, they are the founders of a new production company: Rat Cave Productions.
Adriel Gonzalez, Zak Ickes, Ben Epstein, and Alec Van, four sophomore visual and media arts majors, were eager to talk about their business and passion project, which has already started to attract paying clients. Initiated last year, the company was named after a place nicknamed the “rat cave” in the Paramount Center where the members used to go to smoke cigarettes.
“When it first started, it was just us calling ourselves something, but when we [Gonzalez and Van] went back to California with a camera, there were suddenly people that were asking us to shoot things for them and offering us money to do it, and that is when it became a ‘real’ thing,” Van explained.
Each member contributes specific skills based on his interest and, according to Van, nobody will accept less than the best.
Van, the screenwriter in the group, said of Ickes: “We’ve never found anyone else at this school who does sound as well as he does, and he just happened to fall in with us, so we are really lucky.”
Gonzalez shoots, edits, and directs. “He’s got an eye,” said Van.
“I’ve actually got two,” Gonzalez jokingly retorted.
“It was one of those things you could see right when he got here — that he just has something special to him,” Van continued. “[Gonzalez] pays attention to things, and he knows film. He can see it from the beginning to the end, even when I don’t know what is going on or how it is going to work, he always just tells me to trust him, and I do, and it always works out.”
Ben Epstein works on graphics and marketing.
Rat Cave recently finished shooting a music video for a New England-based band called Old Gray. The six-minute short features bold, lush colors of red, orange, and yellow as it chronicles the highs and lows of a young romance. The production company also has a 16 mm film coming out soon that was shot and finished on film for “film’s sake,” according to Gonzalez.
The Rat Cave is on its way to becoming an official production company. Their next legal step is to go to a lawyer and found an LLC. Van explained that Rat Cave has been accumulating funds from customers, thus expanding the possibilities for their new project. They also plan to launch a Kickstarter for their upcoming film, The Vapors. They say the work that they produce independently is not going to change because of their recent funding. The group sees money as a vehicle through which they are able to exercise more creative freedom.
“Money gives us more room to play with — it makes the sandbox bigger,” said Van.
The Vapors will mark the first time the four have worked on something that is not their own creation. The film was written by sophomore visual and media arts major William Ayre, and is a philosophical piece about a character named Jake Trudeau, an alcoholic trying to escape his past and understand beauty and happiness.
“He wrote it and came to us and said he’d really like for us to work with him on his piece,” said Gonzalez. Rat Cave Productions is holding cast and crew calls for the film next week. Gonzalez’s comment on how he prefers to run calls speaks further speaks to the communal spirit of the company.
“Most calls just want you to show up with a résumé and then they assess your accomplishments,” he says. “But for me, it’s more about learning who you are and what you do and finding out if you are someone who we will work well with.”
The group has the optimism of new beginnings and hopes to continue to work on perfecting their crafts and their final projects.
“With most people I’ve worked with, there’s always been that, ‘Oh, forget it — it’s good enough.’ And that is not something I’ve ever experienced with this group,” says Van.
“It’s because nothing is ever good enough,” adds Gonzalez. “We can always keep going.”
Cast and crew calls for The Vapors will be held in PROW L153 on Jan. 28 from 6-8pm & Jan. 29 from 6-8pm.