By Adolphus Ames —
Production wrapped this week for the artists involved in Experimental Film Virginia. “Porch Light,” one of the last films produced, was filmed on Fig Street at the Clark residence. It is about a young girl who returns to her childhood home and struggles to decide whether to reenter it. The film is a metaphor for the long road home and the road is represented by a game of hopscotch.
It was directed by Ned Farr, a Los Angeles resident and filmmaker. Farr has been involved in film production for over 25 years. He has written and directed several award winning films, including “The Gymnast” and “A Marine Story.” His latest feature, “The Aerialist,” was released in 2020 and is about an aerialist rehearsing for a rock tour that battles age, injury, and a young director that wants to end her career. All of these films are currently available on Amazon Prime.
“Porch Light” was not a one man show. Filmmaking is a collaborative process and requires individuals from various backgrounds that posses a variety of skill sets. Farr was assisted by Alex Naufel, and Cat Rider, two experienced cinematographers. They helped Farr set up shots and capture his vision.
Naufel, another Los Angeles resident, has collaborated with Farr on past projects, most recently on “The Aerialist.” He graduated from American Film Institute in 2000 with a master’s degree in cinematography. He discovered his passion for filmmaking early in life.
“I’d always watched movies,” he said. “But it wasn’t until I saw Wings of Desire, a German film, that I realized films could say something. It was then that I began to appreciate the visual artistry.”
Rider, from Cincinnati, started out practicing photography and used these skills to transition into film because she has always enjoyed watching and has always been influenced by great films. She has written and directed several short films and worked in the camera department on a few feature films, including “Judas and the Black Messiah,” a film about Fred Hampton and the infiltration of the Black Panther Party by FBI informant William O’Neal.
“I really like the challenge filmmaking presents,” Rider said. “In the future, I would like to direct more of my own short and feature films.”
Actors are equally as important to the filmmaking process as the camera crew. Lauren Raynor, a six-year-old from Melfa, starred as the childhood version of the main character. Although Raynor had no previous acting experience, she had no trouble tapping into the youthful innocence required for the role.
Mya McClellan, a dancer from Chicago, starred as the older version of the protagonist. She gave a passionate performance, one filled with raw emotion and rhythm that perfectly captured the struggle of returning home. McClellan has been dancing since she was five.
“I took a dance class in my local community and immediately fell I love with it,” she said. “I majored in dance at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and am currently pursuing a professional dance career. I would love to work with Kyle Abraham, a dancer and choreographer in New York that incorporates elements of hip-hop and R&B into his work.”
Mya was coached by Kelly Bartnik, a multi-talented choreographer and performer from New York City. She helped Mya choreograph her dance routine and tap into the emotions required for the role. Bartnik, a graduate of James Madison University, teaches movement for actors at NYU and participates in immersive theatre performances all along the east coast. She was an original cast member of the off-Broadway hit “Sleep No More.”
This was her first year participating in Experimental Film Virginia. She directed one short film with the working title “Tmesis.” “I was nervous because I don’t come from a filmmaking background,” she said. “But Renata has the program set up in a way where it’s able to live up to everyone’s vision. This festival has definitely surpassed all my expectations.”