Production Begins For Artists Involved in Experimental Film Virginia

Cast members sit inside the Historic Palace Theatre and listen to instructions delivered by the directors before filming resumes.

Story and Photos by Adolphus Ames –

Production began this week for artists involved in Experimental Film Virginia. “Heroes,” one of several short films slated to be screened at this year’s Reel & Raw film premiere, was filmed Monday, July 25, in Cape Charles. It was co-directed by Kristin Bjerkestrand and Bradley Waller, two dancers who both perform for Danish Dance Theater in Copenhagen, Denmark. 

“Heroes” features a large cast of local children and serves as a metaphor for how kids are the heroes of tomorrow. It also highlights children’s capacity for imagination and creativity.

“As people grow up, we are shaped and molded by society and forced to follow all these rules and social standards,” said Bjerkestrand. “Children have much more freedom. Their imagination is unlimited. We wanted to capture this on film.”

Filmmaking is a collaborative process that consists of multiple tasks and phases. During preproduction,  the artists involved in “Heroes” held two workshops to bounce ideas and concepts off of each other. The workshop was followed by casting and location scouting throughout Cape Charles. 

“Our protagonist does a lot of walking throughout the film,” said Bjerkestrand. “During location scouting, we had to figure out what kind of worlds we wanted her walking into. How Bradley and I choose to direct the cast is sort of site dependent.”

“Heroes” began production at 2 p.m that afternoon inside the Historic Palace Theatre. Filmmakers participating in Experimental Film Virginia are given six hours to complete their projects. Keeping this time limit in mind, Bjerkestrand and Waller worked fastidiously and each took on different roles. 

“I’ve been dancing since I was six,” said Bjerkestrand. “I began with classical ballet and now I dance for neoclassical and contemporary dance companies. This is my first time directing. So for this film I’m handling the movement and choreography of the actors.”

Waller handled most of the visual responsibility, such as camera placement and selecting the type of shots required for a scene. “I’ve been directing and experimenting with short films for two years,” said Waller. “Every film I’ve made has been dance related.”

Bjerkestrand and Waller didn’t rule the set like absolute monarchs. They allowed their actors to have a voice. “We’ve allowed the cast to throw some of their own ideas at us,” Bjerkesrand said. “They have room to improvise and express their own creativity.”

Several other individuals were involved in the production of “Heroes.” Mariana Argueta, a resident of Mexico, served as the production manager. “I handle the scheduling, props, timing, and look after the actors’ well-being,” Argueta said. 

In her native country, Argueta freelances as a director of photography. “A director of photography is the same as a cinematographer,” Argueta said. “When I’m working back home I’m responsible for creating the look of a film and bringing a director’s visual aesthetic to life.”

Eldar Baruch, a music composer and editor from Tel Aviv, hovered around the set to observe the directors’ decisions and rhythm of the cast. Baruch will use his observations to form ideas about the type of musical score most suitable for the film and create the score during post-production.

“My musical style consists of keyboards, acoustic sounds, computer- based programs, and other musical instruments,” Baruch said. “I work mostly for dance choreography, theater performances, and dance film and video art.”

Production wrapped around 8 p.m. that evening. Everyone who participated in making the film looked back over everything the team accomplished with wide smiles.

“If there is one thing I could take away from this entire experience it’s that dedication and professionalism is required to create something special,” Bjerkestrand said. “All these beautiful children in our cast spent all day on set with us underneath this summer heat and never complained or quit. The rest of us have a lot to learn from them.”

“Heroes” will be screened alongside 14 other short films at the Historic Palace Theatre on Mason Avenue Saturday, July 30. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the Reel & Raw film premiere will begin at 8 p.m.

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