Behind the scenes of Fading Ink: an upcoming short film from a team of Wilmington filmmakers
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - A couple dozen people sat in the sweltering Sokoto House on August 6, a few weeks into the filming of Fading Ink. Director/cinematographer Calvin Berenyi operated the camera while fellow director Tylen Watts and producer Abby Walkur watched a camera monitor and controlled the focus.
The scene went like this: the film’s lead actor, Yah Battle, hands out custom-printed t-shirts to a group of people sitting in a semi-circle of folding chairs. The people sitting make small talk and thank him for the shirts as he passes them along. Then they cut and reset, neatly re-folding the shirts into the box they came from.
Afterwards, Berenyi explains that there was plenty that could go wrong in this one short section. It was a tracking shot, meaning that Berenyi and a crew member holding a microphone had to walk in a particular sequence in sync with each other. The crew operated fog machines to get the lighting just right, but after a few minutes the fog would have to be re-released and fanned into the correct place. They have been working with Battle throughout the process, but the other actors playing bit parts were less familiar with the tone and expectations of the scene.
Despite the heat and the challenge of the complicated shot, the tone of the set was positive. A bit sweaty, to put it mildly, but determined.
The team at Creators’ Print House Productions is hard at work on Fading Ink: a short film planned to be around 15 minutes long about the owner of a shop printing memorial t-shirts. The fictional story has some biographical elements: lead actor Yah Battle is the co-owner of the Creators’ Print House and the shop serves as inspiration and a filming location for the project.
As perhaps implied by the name of the production company also being the name of the shop that inspired it, this is a capital “I” Indie film -- the successful Kickstarter raised just $4,735. That funding primarily went towards rentals, craft services and locations, while the rest of the budget comes from personal investments; whether that is help from friends or funding from their jobs during the week.
I spoke with the owners of Creators Print House, the codirectors, production coordinator and main actor about the origins of Fading Ink and how they plan to make a professional-looking film on a limited budget.
When Creators’ Print House was starting up, co-owners Yah Battle and Robert ‘Bobby’ Flood expected to focus on helping up-and-coming artists and designers to get their work out there. Instead, memorial shirts were some of the most common orders: people requesting shirt designs to remember their lost friends and family.
“They say you kinda build tough skin on it, but not really; because it’s always something new, especially depending on who passed. It could be a kid, it could be an older adult,” Flood said. “Every person that we actually, you know, make a memorial shirt for has a story behind actually what happened.”
In early 2021, co-owners of Creators’ Print House Yah Battle and Robert Flood first worked with some of the team behind Fading Ink at Cucalorus’ 10x10 challenge. Ten local filmmaking teams are randomly matched with 10 businesses to create an advertisement. The team couldn’t help but be a bit nervous; they were competing against more professional and experienced teams.
After the challenge, Berenyi returned to Creators Print House with a script in hand and with Yah Battle as the main character. The print house agreed, Tylen Watts was brought on as co-director and production began around the summer months of 2022 after a successful Kickstarter campaign.
“Nobody is more enthusiastic and inspired about this project than Yah,” said Berenyi “Every single day, it’s a massive smile on his face, he’s constantly posting it. Everybody in the community is absolutely cheering him on about it.”
Though the summer is hot and the production schedule keeps everybody busy, Battle’s enthusiasm makes up for his relative inexperience.
“it’s been real challenging, but I’m loving it. I’m loving everything that I’m learning, the new experiences that I’m gaining, the new friends that I’m making through this.” Battle said. “I never thought I was gonna be acting, but sometimes God throws things your way you don’t expect; you just gotta pick it up and start running with it.”
In such a small production, many on the crew wear multiple metaphorical hats. Abby Walkur is a producer and production coordinator: helping both on and off set to help make the movie possible. Walkur works on figuring out filming locations, running the social media and working on set to get things running as smoothly as possible.
Tylen Watts is co-director, co-writer and a producer, while Calvin Berenyi is co-writer, co-director and cinematographer for the project. The two of them and Walkur all come from the University of North Carolina Wilmington Film Studios program. The directors hope to truly capture a certain locale -- in this case, Wilmington North Carolina. One of their stated influences and inspirations is Sean Baker, director of Florida Project, Red Rocket and Tangerine.
“We love kind of like, his naturalistic style of trying to always capture a landscape, and that’s something we’re trying to do in this film is really capture the backdrop of Wilmington,” said co-director Berenyi.
Production likely will wrap up by the end of the year, but the directors say the focus will then shift from making the film to getting it screened at film festivals. Significant consideration goes into the strategy of the film’s release: some festivals will only accept a film if it hasn’t appeared at any other festivals. Some festivals have large entry fees, and festivals also tend to brand the film. If it’s never shown at a big festival, Berenyi explains, it may get a reputation as a small festival film.
“We’re really putting a lot of thought into it, because we believe in this project so much,” said Walkur.
Walkur particularly highlighted how her experiences in university activities and the film industry itself have been keys to getting the production funded. Even a film that is expected to be around 15 minutes long takes a monumental amount of work, and perhaps more significantly, work that is primarily done by people volunteering their time.
“It’s also helpful just having the support and encouragement of a lot of great people around us. Friends, family, Bob, Yah, Daniel, the guys--the owners of Creators’, they’re all there helping us out,” said co-director Watts.
For now, the team at Creators Print House Productions continues to work to make their film a reality.
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