DePaul film ‘Bernadette’ gains a quick following

 

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15 DePaul students along with faculty Patrick Wimp and John Psathas produced “Bernadette.” (Photo courtesy of TAMMY CHANG)

Some DePaul students began their summers with 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. internships or packed their bags for study abroad trips. For a handful of other DePaul students and faculty it was lights, camera, action.

DePaul faculty members John Psathas and Patrick Wimp have spent the past month creating an independent feature film using a Project Bluelight grant, which is awarded by DePaul’s College of Computing and Digital Media.

Co-writing and co-producing “Bernadette,” a coming of age comedy centered around a group of teenagers in a fake suburb, director Psathas and cinematographer Wimp wanted to make a type of comedy that has become uncommon in the present day.

“They don’t make those 80’s screwball comedies today…like complete absurdity mixed with a little bit of heart,” Wimp said. “I feel like we kind of pulled from the John Hughes camp for the heart and then kind of ‘Caddy Shack,’ ‘Animal House,’ and ‘Ghostbusters’ for the insanity.”

“We wanted to make a movie that was a comedy that we love, enjoy and don’t see too much of any more,” Psathas said.

“There are a lot of nods to some of our favorite stuff littered throughout. Originally, we had almost a line in every scene,” Wimp said.

With the script written and the grant arranged, it was up to a group of 15 DePaul students to help this film come to life. Project Bluelight is a junior year experiential learning course that is offered through digital cinema.

Typically, the course takes place during the summer and DePaul students earn credit for their hands-on work. This year, however, Psathas and Wimp decided to redefine Project Bluelight by designing a pre-production course component that took place this past spring quarter in conjunction with the summer course.

“The university funds and produces a film and in the past they’ve always been short films. This is really the first effort at a feature length film,” Psathas said.

Given the intensive nature of the feature length film, Psathas and Wimp decided they needed everyone on board before the filming began. When designing the pre-production course, Psathas and Wimp weren’t without their doubts.

“We weren’t sure how it would shake out to be honest. It was taking a leap of faith,” Psathas said.

However, the spring quarter component quickly proved its worth. “Everybody brought something to the table. We worked as a team from the very beginning,” Psathas said.

The Project Bluelight Grant provided the “Bernadette” effort with a “budget just south of $30,000,” according to Wimp. However, Wimp assured that this amount will not be reflective of the completed product of the film. The quality of the film is said to be much greater than the allocated budget suggests.

“By nature, independent filmmakers have to make compromises. The best thing you can do is be as smart as you can about your decisions so you compromise only the right things and the story won’t suffer for it,” Psathas said. “We made every dollar count and I think it shows.”

Beyond DePaul students’ behind the scenes efforts on “Bernadette,” the university is well represented in the cast, with DePaul Theater School student Sam Straley starring as the main character, Archie Kinsler.

“This was my first feature and it was the best five weeks of my life,” Straley said. “It was a blast all the time.”

With a cast made up of over 30 characters, the majority of the cast is local professionals, but the sprinkling of DePaul students is something that will undoubtedly stand out in the film. Additionally, the “Bernadette” production and costume designer Claire DiVito is also a DePaul Theater School student.

For theater veterans DiVito and Straley, film was a whole new ballgame, and something that they have personally grown from.

“I had never done film before and now I only want to do film ever again. (Psathas) took a huge chance on me in a lot of ways because I…was kind of a wild card,” DiVito said.

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Director Psathas and cinematographer Wimp co-wrote and co-produced the film, which they describe as a coming-of-age film comedy with heart set in the suburbs. (Photo courtesy of TAMMY WANG)

Wrapping up 27 days of filming, DiVito’s experience was something that has affected her future career path. “For me it was a month of affirmation. Every single day I was reaffirmed that this is what I want to do,” DiVito said. “It clicked with me in a way that nothing ever has before.”

 

Psathas also expressed amazement at what the students were able to accomplish this summer. “My thought has always been to raise the bar as high as you can and set the standard. Giving students a challenge and not setting the bar low is a valuable experience for students,” Psathas said.

The “Bernadette” cast and crew hit the ground running this summer and embraced every challenge as it came along – especially the rainy June weather.

“It became one of those things where it would just beat you down so much…that (the weather) was just a forgone conclusion,” Wimp said.

“You never know where challenges are going to come from and that is what makes it exciting and new every day. Something is going to happen and we are going to go with it,” Psathas said.

Although the gloomy weather occasionally put a halt on filming, the energy on set never died down. “Most of the day was spent talking to people, getting to know people and making friends. It was a family by day three,” Straley said. “It only got better every day.”

“The hardest thing for me has been letting go – stopping shooting,” Psathas said. “I had so much fun on this shoot with these students and with this crew. I’m heartbroken that it’s almost over. We’ve finished 27 days of shooting and I’m just sad that it’s over.”

After a fast-paced shooting schedule, the current state of “Bernadette” is straddling the line of production and post-production.

“We are actually already going to start moving onto editing. Then there’s going to be a post-production workshop in the fall and we will all get together again and talk about strategies for festivals and marketing,” Psathas said.

The hope is to release “Bernadette” early next summer. With over 1,700 Facebook page likes and over 6,600 teaser trailer views, “Bernadette” has already accumulated a quick following in the two weeks since its social media efforts began. Despite the film’s recent end of shooting, an eager audience has swiftly emerged.

While Wimp and Psathas set out not only to create a feature length film, they also want to expose students like DiVito and Straley to the film industry.

“When I started to see people who had never touched a piece of equipment by week three being at near on semi-professional levels, to actually see exponential experience and growth and see this kind of nebulous plan that we put together as educators, that became the best thing for me,” Wimp said. “People are gaining learning experiences that I feel they should have and that I was never able to have. They are going to essentially create new groups of elite talent at this school.”