Emerson graduate debuts first feature film

by Beacon Staff • February 6, 2008

From premiering his first feature length film to working as a production assistant on the sets of two independent films in Los Angeles, Hemmingway has kept busy since graduating last May.,For some, graduation is an opportunity to spend time at home with family. For others, like recent Emerson graduate Chapin Hemmingway, graduation is the perfect time to grapple with murderous secretaries, grieving sons and amnesia-stricken grannies.

From premiering his first feature length film to working as a production assistant on the sets of two independent films in Los Angeles, Hemmingway has kept busy since graduating last May. He is currently working as an office production assistant on the independent films Driving Lessons and Miss Nobody. As an office PA, Hemmingway gets to spend more time at the heart of the action, working as the liaison between the office and the set.

"It doesn't get boring," he said while rushing to drop off film from his latest job, Miss Nobody, which follows the tale of a secretary as she murders her way to the top of the corporate ladder.

The Emerson grad spends little time lounging in the L.A. sun, since he juggles a 70-hour work week. Along with the completion of Miss Nobody, Hemmingway has begun assisting on the set of Driving Lessons, a film about a mother who has lost the last 15 years of her life to amnesia. This film is still in pre-production stages, and, according to IMDB, Dermot Mulroney and Hope Davis are set to star.

In addition to working as a P.A, Hemmingway is in the process of adding the finishing touches to his own pride and joy, Last September. The film runs approximately 92 minutes, making it his first feature length film. Last September follows the life of a young man who has recently lost his mother, and deals with his grief on a road trip with a former best friend.

On Dec. 30, 2007, with the support of friends and family, Hemmingway and his team saw their film premier in at a local theatre in his hometown of Portland, Ore. The turnout was huge, according to Hemmingway, thanks to an advertisement in the local paper.

"It was cool to see the audience reacting," he said.

A positive crowd response pleased the team especially because around 75 percent of the theatre was made up of strangers with no obligation to the feelings of the crew.

"It was amazing.I still haven't recovered from the experience," Hemmingway said.

The next step for the director and his team is to cut some time off of Last September, and make around 500 DVDs to send to at least 30 film festivals.

Hemmingway is no stranger to the festival circuit. His short film, Camouflage, made it into the LongBaugh Film Festival in Portland, Ore. In 2005, Hemmingway and some friends began work on the short, which he wrote in his media production class at Emerson. The three day shoot, which included one day of re-shooting, marked both Hemmingway's directorial debut, and the birth of his production company Exterior Films.

Exterior Films was created as a collaboration between friends, or, as Hemmingway calls them, "childhood buddies." The Emerson graduate has directed three movies under the company's name, including Camouflage, The Ranch and Last September.

At the moment, the company does not have its own equity, and money is raised on a movie to movie basis. Hemmingway and his crew get creative by hiring friends as actors and depending on one another for everything that goes into the film.

"We control the product from page to screen," Hemmingway said.

The Emerson grad cast his college roommate Jeremy Fiske as lead actor in Last September. According to Fiske, the two lived together in Cambridge, Mass. for two years before rooming together at Emerson's L.A. program. While in LA, Hemmingway began writing the script for Last September, and depended on feedback from his friend and eventual lead actor.

"As a director, his best quality is letting the actors know when we weren't getting something right," Fiske said.

He went on to say that he and Hemmingway will hopefully be working together in the future, even as early as next fall for the start of Fiske's own feature length film.

"I would love to work with Chapin again. I think I have learned.how passionate Chapin is about his film career and how good he is at getting things accomplished," Fiske said.

Since before Hemmingway can remember, his dream has always been to direct movies.

"Directors are the people who shape the movies, ultimately it's the director's vision that comes up on screen," he said.

Hemmingway's interest in directing grew during high school, when he was active in his his school's theatre department. For him, even his involvement in theatre stemmed from a love of movies.

"When I was in high school, [theatre] was the closest thing I could do," he said.

It was theatre that helped Hemmingway find Emerson College, when, after graduation, his theatre teacher recommended that the young man apply to the school. He was accepted in 2004 during his sophomore year, and transferred from Lake Forest College in Illinois to the Boston campus. During his years at Emerson, Hemmingway majored in film and was active in projects off campus.

The Emerson graduate's advice to current students of film is to surrender the fantasy of being a filmmaker right out of school.

"At some point, the dream fades away and you realize it's a job.be prepared to get your hands dirty," he said.

According to Hemmingway, making and directing films on the side is his fulfillment while he works 70 hour weeks for little pay. Despite the challenges facing the freshman of the industry, Hemmingway maintains a positive outlook.

"I love it," he said. Climbing the industry's ladder is a grueling process, but Hemmingway doesn't show signs of stopping anytime soon.