Laura Van Alstine is the 2nd AC and a Production Assistant (she also is one of the main editors gathering these behind-the-scenes interviews).
What was your role on IWW and for those people not familiar with filmmaking, can you describe the job?
I was the second assistant camera operator as well as a production assistant throughout preproduction and production. Basically, I assisted the first camera operator on the RED camera we used, prepared the slate for shooting different scenes, and got to snap the slate at the beginning of every take, which was very cool. It's neat to know I'm the first person on camera in just about every scene of the film (though you won't see me in the finished product!). As a production assistant, I did all kinds of things -- helped run auditions and sign actors in, location scout for the film, sent out fundraising letters, the list goes on and on...
How would you describe In-World War (the film itself) in no more than seven words?
Extension of the future of poverty and video games. (sorry, that was eight words!)
Why did you get involved with it? How did you hear about it? What interested you in this film in particular?
I received an email from the Berkeley filmmakers' club (GIANT) and emailed Brant [IWW director DJ Bad Vegan] because I was looking to get my feet wet in working on film sets. I was currently in my third year at UC Berkeley as a film studies major and had realized I'd better get started getting film experience as soon as possible. I was interested because the internship would let me see all the work that goes into preproduction as well as production, which is a lot! I'm also a big fan of independent film so I admired how ambitious the project was -- making an entire feature film with lots of effects on a tiny budget.
Did you enjoy working on the film? What was the best part for you?
I really enjoyed just about everything while working on the film. I met a lot of great film students -- not only from UC Berkeley who were already in my classes, but also some students from Santa Cruz who were interning with us. It was amazing to see how all of us, the students, professionals, and countless others came together to get this film made. So many people pitched in their time for free and seeing how generous they were was incredible. I also loved that I never knew what to expect when I arrived on set that day. There were always a new set of challenges in getting the shoots done, and since I'd never been on a real film set before, I felt like I was flying by the seat of my pants, and I loved it.
How long have you been working in film/involved with film?
I have been involved with film since high school, when I started bringing my camera to school and noodling around with some basic editing. I really started getting involved with it in college while I was a film major, and made several horror shorts for Campus MovieFest with a group of friends. So I woul say it has been about seven or eight years of film geekery.
What is your goal in filmmaking generally (director, writer, director of photography, key grip, etc.) and why?
I'm an aspiring screenwriter because I love to write and I love films. I think that's your basic formula for screenwriting. After seeing movies like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and my favorite film, Igby Goes Down, I really aspire to write something that will move people in a completely original way. I'd also like to make horror movies, and coming of age movies, and a combination of the two, since those are my favorite genres.
In your view, why is filmmaking and making art important to society as a whole?
Films have always been my release from the world, and they offer such a great escape for society. They're also an amazing way for people to process what is going on in society in a subtle way -- think the Hunger Games or Dexter (though Dexter is a tv show, but anyway). We can take a look at how much violence pervades our lives and our own baser instincts without directly having to confront ourselves.
Did helping make an indie film leave you with a positive or negative outlook on this type of ultra-low budget filmmaking (and why)?
I was left with a positive outlook on ultra-low budget filmmaking, because people were just so helpful in giving us their time. So many people helped out on the film just because they wanted to be involved with filmmaking -- nothing more, nothing less. It wasn't about the money, it was about creating a piece of art that may or may not succeed commercially and/or creatively. Whatever happens with the film afterward, at least we all got a taste of what it's like to make a real feature film.
How do you feel about the genre of science fiction? Is sci-fi just for fun or can we tell serious stories that are culturally relevant? (Okay, that’s a loaded question....but still, what do you think?)
Sci-fi can be both fun and culturally relevant. I'm a big book nerd, and one book that comes to mind is Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake on the subject of genetic modification. The book is really not that implausible and I'm not going to give any spoilers away but it definitely connects to In-World War in it's being an extension of where the world could end up if areas of study (Oryx and Crake) or hot-button issues like Islamophobia (In-World War) could take the future of the world.
The film takes an usual sci-fi approach to issues around the so-called “war on terror” (specifically racial profiling and Islamophobia) and the consequences of massive personal debt -- how have these issues impacted your life and your work?
I can definitely recall the coverage of Islamophobia on tv and in documentaries post-9/11 and knowing that these topics were going to be extremely sensitive and they still remain that way. I'm excited that I was involved with the film, because it chooses to explore where these issues will go in the future and how we can look at the way they are treated today as a result. I think the film will cause viewers to take a step back and evaluate how Islam is treated currently and what their own feelings are about how Muslims are treated.
Before you started with IWW, what did you expect it to be like working on the film?
I expected it to be a lot of work, which came true of course, but not in a bad way. I also expected it to be a great crash course in learning what happens on a set and what the various people (the director of photography, the assistant camera people, etc.) do all day on set.
How was it actually, compared to that? What was exactly as you expected it? What was very different?
It was much more than I expected! Shoots can be very long, intense, and tough work. You have to be on task a lot, especially if you're in the room where they're filming. I was there a lot so I learned quickly to be as quiet as possible and to keep out of the shots as best I could. Sometimes this was difficult because we'd be shooting in tiny spaces, and I would have to slip in to hold up the slate, call out the scene number, and escape before the actors started doing their thing. I felt the pressure, but I loved the responsibility of it, knowing that working hard during production on the film would result in it looking great and I would always get to say that I was involved with it.
DIY filmmaking can be rough. What was the worst moment? If you have one, share a painful memory from making the film, to give a taste of how tough it got.
Well, filming all day long is very draining. You're on your feet so much, and not sleeping much in between shoots can be tough. I never missed a day of shooting, but I do remember catching a terrible cold from C.J., who did sound for the film. I remember feeling awful coming to set and filming one of the days but I'm really glad I pushed through because I didn't want to miss a moment of the great experience I could get from being on set.
What did your experience of working on IWW tell you about humanity and people in general?
Working on IWW taught me that people will be generous with their time and money for a great project. I remember location scouting for a restaurant and talking to a restaurant manager about the film, and he was very receptive to the idea of us filming there. I didn't know what to expect when I started location scouting, I didn't know how people would react to a stranger just coming up and asking if we could use their shops in a film, but people really do get excited to be involved with making movies.
What have you been doing since you worked on the film? What other film projects have you done?
I met a lot of other film students from working on the film, and was a production assistant on several of their projects. I'm currently a screenwriting intern and marketing director for Cross Currents Films with the screenwriter Peter Tamaribuchi. We are marketing his award-winning screenplay, Undiscovered Country and I'm very excited to be a part of it. We'll be having an IndieGoGo campaign starting soon. I'm working on the website right now and am very excited to be involved with a screenplay that's garnering so much good feedback. I'm crossing my fingers that it gets picked up and produced in the near future!
Why should people get involved with, donate money and/or help out on IWW?
Independent film needs all the help it can get. The more help it gets, the more notice it will get and hopefully little independent films will get picked up and be distributed to a wider audience.
What else would you like to say about your experience on IWW? Any funny anecdotes or behind the scenes stories?
Filming in the abandoned part of the Oakland prison was pretty interesting. I wouldn't say it was funny, but it was a cool experience. Although all the bullet shells on the floor were pretty creepy. I remembered my horror movie principles and never went anywhere alone in there!
If people want to get in touch with you and/or see your work:
Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
Cross Currents Films: crosscurrentsfilms.com