VC students explore realities of film-making over summer

Vassar students, including writer and director Adam Buchsbaum, produced a short film, Desires, over the summer. They hope that the sexually charged drama will screen well at Vassar and festivals. Photo By: Spencer Davis
Vassar students, including writer and director Adam Buchsbaum, produced a short film, Desires, over the summer. They hope that the sexually charged drama will screen well at Vassar and festivals. Photo By: Spencer Davis
Vassar students, including writer and director Adam Buchsbaum, produced a short film, Desires,
over the summer. They hope that the sexually charged drama will screen well at Vassar and festivals. Photo By: Spencer Davis.

The independent drama Desires tells the story of Kate, a young, budding photographer, who is in a long-term relationship with her boyfriend and roommate, the preppy and timid Tim. Unsatisfied, she enters into an affair with their other roommate, the freewheeling and hedonistic Vivian.

The drama follows five young adults over a relatively protracted period of time.

“Desires has a kind of sexual libertine quality to it. In many ways it’s about Kate’s journey from someone who is more timid about her desires and how she copes with relationships, and she discovers what she wants out of life and how to assert that,” said director and screenwriter Adam Buchsbaum.

The film focuses on female sexuality in particular. “Adam has a particular style and an interest in gender roles and breaking them,” said wardrobe and set designer Marlena Crowell ‘14. “This girl thinks she has an idea of what she wants, but instead she ends up changing. He’s really interested in how things shift.”

On choosing a female protagonist, Buchsbaum said, “I think it makes the sexual journey more interesting, because it’s not as meaningful a progression for a man to become sexually liberated, since our society is more stigmatized to female sexuality than male sexuality. There’s not much for Tim to rake through, but there’s a lot for Kate to face. Implicitly, part of her nervousness is because she’s a woman.”

“Tim is more traditional,” explained Buchsbaum. “He’s for a long-term relationship; he wants to marry Kate. Vivian, on the flip side, is almost the opposite of Tim. She’s open and doesn’t have any particular expectations of fidelity in a relationship. In a way, they’re two opposing choices for Kate. When Kate leaves Tim for Vivian, she’s playing with the other side of the scale.”

Buchsbaum came up with the idea for the film at the beginning of summer and spent around two months writing it, encountering many challenges along the way. “It went through many revisions; nobody should ever read the first draft of the screenplay,” he said. Titling his piece became an exploration as well. “The original title was Ménage à Deux,” he said, “but the problem with that title is that it’s alienating. It takes too long to figure out what it’s about. With a good title, you should be able to tell pretty quickly what the film is going to be about.”

Logistical issues presented themselves as well. “If I could do it again I would staple the shot list and script to my chest,” said Buchsbaum, “because I kept losing them. It was a very fun but exhausting process.”

Since the film takes place over a period of six months, technicalities complicated the lives of the set designers as well. The film was shot on location in Los Angeles in only two days after an equally short rehearsal period. Prior to shooting, the team had only a few weeks to work hard raising money with an Indiegogo campaign they created so they could get some of the extra film equipment and have a budget for set design, costumes, makeup, and more.

“It was hard because we were all wearing a lot of hats,” said Wendel Smith ’14, the film’s producer and cinematographer and one of the camera operators. “Every single scene we had to change the makeup, and that’s probably what made our shoot so long.”

Crowell agrees on the difficulties of the logistics. “If I wasn’t dealing with the actors, I’d have to set the scenes,” she said. “I would allow the actors to make some choices they thought were appropriate for their characters, which helped me, since I was so spread between all these different projects. But we finished it on time. I was proud that we were able to get it all done.”

Despite its time restraints, Crowell and Smith believe that the film, which is branded under Smith’s production company Five Way Media, will turn out well. “It’s probably one of the most professional things I’ve done,” said Smith. “That was probably the coolest aspect, that as a student film we were able to raise the stakes in terms of production value.”

Crowell found that she enjoyed working with his friends, though the work was compressed into just two days. “It was a lot for two days, but I thought it turned out great,” said Crowell. “I liked working with my friends the most and I learned a lot.”

For Buchsbaum, the production was rewarding as well. “One of the things I liked the most was seeing my words come alive,” he said. “You try to make it flow and be as true to life as possible, but you don’t really know until the actors read the script. There’s a certain childish excitement at hearing someone say your words.”

“I really loved working with such a great crew,” said Smith. “It was a lot of fun and a lot of team bonding. We were all working together to create something we believed in. Because that’s the thing – whenever you’re making a movie, you don’t want anyone on the crew who doesn’t want to do it. Because then you’re only going to get half their energy and passion.”

The short film, which will run somewhere between sixteen and twenty minutes, has not been fully edited as of yet; the tentative release date is in October, and the team is hoping to enter the film in a festival afterwards as well as potentially screening it informally at Vassar.

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