The Berkeley Beacon

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Searching for Solace: Emerson students shoot Holocaust film

By Mercedes Lakatos / Beacon Correspondent
February 21, 2013 at 1:09 am

In recent weeks, as spring semester takes wind, posters and flyers have advertised crew and casting calls for dozens of student films, many of which are for Film II classes. With these narratives, students are broaching topics far and wide, from zombie apocalypses, to satires on the college experience, to dramatic tales with psychotic protagonists.  But the filmmakers behind the film Wallace Seeks Solace are taking a slightly different approach. 

In the required Film II class, Emerson visual and media arts majors produce their first large-scale film. For each project, students must hire a crew, cast actors, use industry-grade equipment, maintain professional protocol on set, and essentially create a real movie.

Director Chris Macken, writer and producer Zack Bernstein, and director of photography Courtland Noble have chosen to tackle a very serious subject: a period piece set during the Holocaust. The filmmakers describe the flick asa young boy’s journey through a horrific series of events. But instead of creating a conventional narrative, the team combines the child’s perspective represented through a Dr. Seuss-type storybook narration with the landmark historical event. 

“Our film is narration-based, rather than dialogue, and we are aiming to make it very surreal-looking, like a hyper-reality,” Macken said. “We wanted to take these two mediums of historical fiction and storybook narration and put them together to make something that has not been seen before.”

Although Wallace Seeks Solace takes place roughly 70 years ago in Europe, a far stretch from present-day New England, the filmmakers plan to shoot at five locations in and around Boston.  The locations for the film will include an abandoned train yard, a basement in Allston, the exterior of an apartment in Beacon Hill, and either the Emerson soundstage or a parking structure that will serve as a makeshift soundstage if they are unable to secure the one on campus.  The final location, Revere Beach, is where they will construct a mock concentration camp. 

Although the creators declare this to be their most intricate set, Macken — who said most of their proposed $1,500 budget will go toward production design — has a plan. 

“We’re going to dress it really well and we’re going to keep all of our shots relatively tight — meaning close-up — so we won’t need to make a humongous set,” he said. “If we keep it small we can definitely shoot within it and make it look as realistic as possible.”

To raise funds for the actual film and the extensive production design necessary for their film, Macken, Bernstein, and Noble have started an Indiegogo page. The website serves as a platform for filmmakers to present their projects and invite interested audiences to donate. The Emerson students are have currently raised just over half of their goal. 

“Right now, we have enough money to make the film,” Macken said. “The rest of the money that we need to get is to make it awesome.”

Both Macken and Bernstein said they have a strong personal interests in the Holocaust. Macken said that he has been studying the Holocaust for some time. 

This, coupled with Bernsteains innate ties to the event through his Jewish heritage, give the project a more personal drive. Macken agreed. 

“Hopefully, a new take on the Holocaust will bring about a renewed sense of understanding, and be able to spark more dialogue about it,” Macken said.


Lakatos can be reached at mercedes_lakatos@emerson.edu.