The navy blue binder sitting on the cafe table is nondescript, with little signs of wear. A finished script of 13 pages rests inside, freshly printed and unmarked. The psychological thriller, aptly titled “The Archangel,” is to be the peak of Garrett Stone’s filmmaking education.
Stone is one of many Southern Miss media production students tasked with a senior project. Besides working at the Hattiesburg Winn-Dixie, Stone’s resume includes middle-grade school documentaries and filmmaking contests. While attending Southern Miss, Stone worked as an assistant director with the local director, producer and writer Miles Doleac. Doleac now teaches at Loyola University.
Stone conceived the idea for the short film in September 2019. He then wrote the script over Christmas break.
“I don’t want this to be a student film. It is a student film, but I want to take student film to the next level and treat it like a real production,” Stone said over coffee. His script and laptop sit before him as the two most important tools for any student filmmaker.
Endless hours of work—developing the idea, writing the script, filming, post-producing— will culminate in a 20-minute film. The standard length for short films lies in the sweet spot of 7-10 minutes.
“I’m shooting it in 4K, I’m shooting it in a log profile, which means no color, and I have to add color in post-production. And I’m going over the time limit because I want to prove that this is what I can do,” Stone explained. The words spill eagerly out of his mouth, and his cup of coffee remains untouched.
Stone, his partner Josh Crepeau and the film’s 18-person team will have only 12 weeks for filming and post-production.
Already a difficult project, “The Archangel” would be lonelier and more daunting without a partner. Josh Crepeau and Stone met in class two years ago. Crepeau is a senior sound recording major. As Stone’s production partner, Crepeau’s role involves sound engineering, sound design and anything in between.
“It’s been interesting watching the story develop during this process. Reading new scripts or material as they are released has given me a neat perspective on how Garrett’s ideas take shape,” Crepeau said. “I have been coming up with ideas as well, and I believe our two creative minds will do justice to the story Garrett has written.”
Although group projects may be unappealing to the standard student, Crepeau said that he has enjoyed working with Stone on such an important project.
“I have nothing but respect and compliments for him. He has kept this process very professional, organized and open-minded throughout. I definitely look forward to our future progress with this film,” Crepeau said.
Stone’s ambition and work quality do not go unnoticed, especially by his professor, Jared Hollingsworth. Hollingsworth teaches video production and guides senior students throughout their individual projects.
“Garrett’s level of ambition is exactly what we are eager to see from all of our students,” Hollingsworth said. “With production, it is important to always push for the best quality product that you can kick out, and that is exactly what he is doing. I’ve consistently been impressed with Garrett’s drive.”
Hollingsworth said student filmmaking is truly a rewarding experience.
“I am able to witness and mentor as they apply the knowledge and skills they learn in the program. To see students carry a project from beginning to end and execute a story that they are truly passionate about is one of the best things about my job.”
Besides his professionalism, storytelling skill and overwhelming ambition, Stone is set apart from peers by his emphasis on crediting the team that exists behind the scenes.
“You look at ‘Avengers’ Endgame’, and it is a multi-billion-dollar movie. But how much of that went to the people that worked on it? ‘Endgame’ would be nothing without the seven minutes of credits that roll after it,” Stone said, referring to the large production team, and not the blockbuster actors. “I think the little people are what is forgotten in this industry. With my film, I am giving a lot of creative control to the artists on the team.”
Crediting the team, Stone believes, also includes adequate payment. In order to make “The Archangel” feel like a real production, Stone is contributing about two grand of his own money. “Everything is coming out of my pocket to make this film,” he said.
Overall, Stone believes the artistic conversation is getting better.
“The generation after us is learning the value of time. No one thinks that anyone can just do art anymore. And we understand that our time is valuable.”
Stone, Crepeau and their team will begin filming “The Archangel” the first week of the spring 2020 semester.