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Warrenton short film clears crowdfunding hurdle

Monday, Apr. 28 | By Ray Finefrock
Growing up, Brendan Rijke never thought of his hometown as a film location.

In fact, he never thought about making a movie at all.

That changed when Rijke, a graduate of Kettle Run High School, enrolled at the University of Virginia.

“I didn't develop a passion for filmmaking until my first year at U.Va.,” Rijke said in a phone interview last week. “I took photography in high school and really enjoyed it, but as a hobby. At that time I wanted to be a lawyer.

It wouldn't seem that Rijke's major in leadership and public policy and minor in media studies would foreshadow filmmaking.

“Art has always been a hobby for me and when I picked up a camera, that was just another way to produce art,” he said.

Rijke said he had an idea for a narrative short film (eight to 10 minutes) but never did anything with that idea.

“I had a lot of friends that wanted to do similar type projects and this film came out of those conversations,” Rijke said. “But it took someone actually saying, 'I know you know how to use a camera, let's make a film.' to get things started.”

The movie, which will be shot May 13 to 16 in Warrenton, is truly a collaborative effort with all aspects from the scriptwriting to direction, production and camera work done by six students.

“In the film, 'Fifth Street' is the street where the main character lives,” Rijke said. “The film shows her struggle with small town life. We have three locations for the shoot, Frost's Diner, a field across from Fauquier High School and a street in a neighborhood near Airlie.”

In an email, Rijke said living in Warrenton all is life served as his chief inspiration for the film.

“As a teenager I wrestled with the limitations of living in a small, rural town and dreamed about what life in the big city would be like,” he wrote. “In the film we find the characters at a critical juncture – how to find happiness in the context of place. In this regard, the film is really atribute to Warrenton – the people, the atmosphere, the culture.”

Rijke said he hopes to enter the film in a number of local, regional and even national film festivals.

Funding for the movie came through a Kickstarter campaign that raised $4,550 as of its deadline last week.

Kickstarter is a website that allows anyone seeking funding for a project to explain the project and seek donations from the general public. It is all or nothing, meaning that the project must receive at least the minimum funding needed or it receives no money.

“We wanted to start small to be sure we made the minimum,” Rijke said of the $2,000 he posted as the project goal. “We have easily surpassed that and any additional funding will be used toward festival entry fees.”

There will also be a cost for converting the film to one of the formats used by the festivals.

“There are basically three formats they use, 35-millimeter, HD cam SR, which is a physical tape, kind of going back in time and the most common and most expensive, DCP, which was never an option for us,” Rijke said. “We're going to convert to the HD cam.”

U.Va. third year student Mary Claire Davis plays the female lead. She said she has done mostly stage acting both at U.Va. and in high school.

“I just came into the project in the last month,” Davis said in a phone interview Friday. “Brendan and I have been friends since first year. I read the script, liked it and auditioned.

“My character is 22 years old, a little bit idealistic and tired of life in a small town. She thinks the solution is to move to New York City and try to make it as a writer. One of her major flaws is that she is a bit overly romantic.”

Davis said she was attracted to the role because of the idea that “the place where you live affects you so much as a person. Adelle is searching for happiness and I could relate to what she thinks will bring her happiness.”

Davis admitted she has no real-life experience as a small town girl.

“I grew up in Memphis and later moved to the Northern Virginia suburbs,” she said. “But I'm very excited to film in Warrenton. It seems like a beautiful place.”

The male lead is played by Dan Barr, a second year students. His character works at a car shop, Rijke said.

“This is mostly Adele's story, though,” he said. “

The film bug has bitten Rijke so hard that the third year student is not planning on going to graduate school after he graduates in 2015.

“I'd like to purse forming a film production company or trying to make a (full-length) independent film,” he said. “I hope my story can also serve as an inspiration to young filmmakers in Fauquier County – that this story can serve to show that it is not only possible, but worthwhile to pursue your passion.”

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