Dream on: BFA film student creates cinematic nightmare

by Jason Madanjian / Beacon Staff • March 21, 2013

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Dream on: BFA film student creates cinematic nightmare
courtesy of Noah Aust
Dream on: BFA film student creates cinematic nightmare
courtesy of Noah Aust

Noah Aust doesn’t want to make his dream movie for his BFA film project. He wants to create a nightmare. How To Make A Nightmare, which began in January, has already racked up a little over $1,500 on fundraising website Kickstarter for its ambitious plot that focuses on a group of scientists who create the nightmares that occupy peoples imaginations during sleep. 

“It’s a lonely, dark comedy,” said Aust, a junior visual and media arts major. “It’s about these people who traumatize for a living. And as the characters distort others, they themselves become distorted.” 

The project serves as a capstone to Aust’s Bachelor of Fine Arts in Media Production, which is a concentrated program that involves ample time to flesh out a project and opportunities to create a stronger collaborative relationship between student and teacher. 

Aust describes the film — which follows one nightmare creator as he falls in love with one of his victims — as fast, loud, and out of control. It’s a dash of Freddy Kreuger mixed with Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible.

Visual aesthetics are very important to Aust, who’s relying on Kickstarter to finance his vision of rusty basements and grimy costumes. Aust’s film will also contain a segment of stop motion animation, not unlike Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice, to be shot over the summer.

“The narrative comes second to the texture of the film,” said Aust, who hopes to give his film a distinctly gothic look that colleagues compare to Burton-meets-American Horror Story. “It’s all about the place, not the plot.”

When assembling a crew, Aust said he looked for a group of students who could help bring his world to life. 

“What I am looking for is such a specific vision. It is key to communicate that vision,” said Aust. “Getting on the same page with everybody is crucial.”

The crew is currently comprised of 25 students and is still growing.

“I have never even attempted something of this style or scope,” said Aust, whose film must be finished by December to complete the BFA program. “It’s fun. I feel the stakes are higher because everyone has an investment in this film.”

One team member with invested stakes is junior visual and media arts major Josh Levy, who serves as director of photography for the project. Levy’s job is to find the correct lights and lenses to bring Aust’s artistic proposition to life.

“You want to make sure the director’s vision comes out on the screen,” said Levy. “It needs to complement the style and colors that he wants.”

The movie begins filming on May 2 with scenes shot on the laboratory set in a location, still to be determined. 

The production design for the film, which is where a majority of the budget will follow, is being run by junior visual and media arts major Emily Deering.

“I want to show that the set is a living element itself — that it’s had an effect on the characters,” said Deering, who believes a film’s production design can unknowingly make or break the look of the film. “It’s one of the biggest elements of film that [the general audience] does not notice, but good production design is when you don’t notice it.”

The Kickstarter project needs to raise its proposed budget of $4,000 by its creator-set date of April 10 or it will lose all the money raised thus far. In case the Nightmare team’s dream cannot come true, back-up plans have been put in place.

“We would go with a more symbolic, minimalist aesthetic,” said Aust, if the worst case scenario arises for his BFA project. “There is very little that could permanently derail the film because it is so experimental.”

With a yearlong production process just gearing up, a big crew and even bigger budget, Aust looks forward to the challenges he will be presented with over the next nine months.

“I’m looking forward to things going wrong,” said Aust with a laugh. “So I can come up with creative ways to work around them.”