Claire Darcy, Contributing Author
As 4 college students wander town within the hopes of discovering their approach dwelling within the new feature-length movie “Welcome to the Present,” many acquainted Richmond sights are pictured, from avenue murals to Belle Isle.
Dorie Barton, the movie’s producer, author, director and co-editor, stated that ever since transferring to Richmond, she needed to make a film in regards to the metropolis.
“I believe town is so lovely,” Barton stated. “It’s so cinematic in the entire contradictions which are right here.”
The movie stars greater than 30 VCU scholar actors and follows 4 people — performed by Dillon Douglasson, Richard Follin, Keegan Garant and Christopher Martin — as they take part in a mysterious interactive theatre expertise referred to as “The Present.”
“Welcome to the Present” made its world premiere on March 20 as a part of the Cinejoy digital movie fest. Cinejoy is an internet iteration of the annual Cinequest Movie and Creativity Competition, a world impartial movie pageant held in California.
This yr, the pageant ran on the Cinejoy web site for 10 days and ended Tuesday. Barton stated the movie was invited to be a part of the pageant after she submitted it to Cinequest.
“I needed to problem what the accountability of theater really is to its viewers; how those who make theatre relate to their viewers, handle their viewers,” Barton stated.
Every of the 4 fundamental characters take the identical title as their actor counterparts however are fictional variations of the boys. Douglasson stated that the 4 had been greatest associates earlier than the movie, and that retaining their very own names made it simpler to narrate to the characters.
“Each actor takes from their very own life,” Douglasson stated. “There’s totally different elements of the character that I may relate to — which is how I went about it, simply attempting to narrate to each scenario and the way I as an individual would react and the way I believed the Dillon within the film would react.”
The primary 4 forged members had been college students in Barton’s course on performing for the digital camera in the course of the fall 2019 semester. The movie was shot throughout 10 days in November 2019, and the modifying course of started in January of final yr, Barton stated.
“It was the longest 10 days of my life that glided by at a blink of an eye fixed,” Douglasson stated.
The film begins when the 4 associates resolve to remain on campus for his or her final Thanksgiving collectively earlier than they graduate and go their separate methods. Then, Wealthy finds an unexplained pink envelope in his jacket pocket. Contained in the envelope is an invite to “The Present,” which is described as “an interactive theatre journey in three acts.”
The following morning, the buddies head out to VCU’s Shafer Avenue Playhouse, the place they encounter the Ticket Taker, performed by Maya Forrester, and Girl Day, a personality who explains the principles of “The Present” to the boys, performed by Chyanne Leeland. Forrester and Leeland each graduated from VCU final yr.
As one of many movie’s co-producers, Forrester stated taking part in the position of the Ticket Taker was surprising. When a employed actress didn’t present, she needed to step in to fill the position.
“I used to be one of many few females that was there that day,” Forrester stated. “I placed on a gown that was 4 sizes too small, undid my hair from that morning. I used to be like ‘Oh no, I wasn’t prepared for this,’ however it was actually enjoyable and ended up being a extremely good expertise.”
The chums are led out to a automotive the place they meet the Driver, performed by Barton, who blindfolds the crew and drops them off in an unfamiliar neighborhood. Because the Driver speeds off, they resolve to seek for clues and shortly understand they’re lacking all their precious private possessions — telephones, wallets and keys.
The foundations of “The Present” forbid the characters from giving or receiving assist from anybody, so they have to work their approach by way of Richmond and again dwelling on their very own. Alongside the way in which, they encounter a number of teams of scholars, whom they think as being actors within the interactive play.
Alongside pal and fellow VCU scholar Andrew Bonieskie, Douglasson wrote unique music for the movie. He stated a lot of the rating was composed on his bass guitar, which he would play whereas rewatching the scenes.
Barton was a graduate scholar on the time of the movie’s manufacturing, and “Welcome to the Present” served as her thesis venture.
“From the time that I requested them in the event that they needed to be in a movie to once we had been taking pictures was solely about six weeks,” Barton stated. “I wrote the screenplay throughout that point and did the entire prep for manufacturing throughout that point, in order that was a really intense six weeks of my life.”
Forrester was unable to current her thesis because the COVID-19 pandemic halted in-person lessons halfway by way of the spring 2020 semester. She was glad to have the movie as one thing to point out for her final yr as an undergraduate scholar, she stated.
“‘Welcome to the Present’ was such an surprising reward,” Forrester stated. “It sort of ended up being my final venture at VCU and that ended up being a extremely superior reminiscence for me.”
“Welcome to the Present” will likely be accessible to stream on-line sooner or later, although the dates and platforms have but to be introduced.