Film Student Takes on the Impossible in Pendant

By VFS Web Team, on November 23, 2010

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Accepted wisdom is that live animals and children spell disaster for any filmmaker. Leave it to Film Production student Isaac Carter to put that to the test... in a period film, no less.
But that's what the Independent Project - a relatively recent addition in the ever-evolving program - is about. It encourages exploration and discovery by putting as much control into the hands of the student as possible. As the year in Film Production goes on and projects get more complex, students tend to specialize - but this means they can realize  their own vision early on.
"All types of films came from the class, especially since 26 films were made," Isaac says.

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Isaac with one of his stars.

Pendant is a short film about a 1750s Highlander who's surprised to find himself caring for the granddaughter he never knew existed. As the unlikely pair bonds, the girl is stolen, spurring the man to don his battle gear and head off in pursuit. "I came to Vancouver Film School to direct films that I would want to see, many of which are period-oriented," he explains. "The idea that we were allowed to steer the direction of what we wanted to learn was both a frightening and liberating feeling."
That's not to say he didn't know all about the pitfalls - something that was driven home whenever he pitched his idea. "Understandably, I got more than a few raised eyebrows," he says. But Isaac was undaunted. "First came script, then came set, then came all the other little pieces that make the film a legitimate period-looking film."
If anything, Pendantis something of a triumph of production design - requiring a scratch-built set that could convey the setting, including an aged Scottish roundhouse.
"I thought for a long time on how to accomplish this, whether it was by using movie trickery and using flats, pre-made structures, even a studio. In the end, I decided to take the most direct route, and one that I believed I could accomplish - to make it as real as it could be."
Isaac set to assembling the manpower needed to build everything he needed - including a 20-foot tree they cut from the yard they were building in to serve as the main beam. "From there ,we were able to scrounge smaller pieces ranging from 11 to 16 feet to act as the roof. The concept was basically to create a teepee and secure it with a wall underneath."
"After days of dirty, scary labour we finally got the finished product, something that one of our instructors called 'a $100,000 set' all done within a budget of $500."
[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"2883","attributes":{"class":"media-image alignright size-full wp-image-14722","typeof":"foaf:Image","style":"","width":"220","height":"220","title":"Behind the scenes of Pendant","alt":""}}]]The film itself is a major point or pride, but the hard work that went into set construction may be Pendant's crowning achievement. "Being able to get the compliment of 'this is an amazing set' by everyone who arrives really drives home the feeling that you have done something both unique and challenging," he says. And he wasn't the only one who benefited. For several weeks, the set was still standing in Coquitlam, just outside Vancouver. "One of the greatest parts of making this film was that two other classes since have been able to make use of the set."
"Saying that, I'm proud of it all. For the first drama I have done, I'm glad I did such a grand project and was able to learn the copious amount that I did."
"Taking on a large project like Pendantwas without a doubt a brilliant opportunity for me," he says. "I find it odd when students want to make films about what I call 'boy and girl talking in apartment'. If I'm going to make a film, regardless of what it is, I'm going to make it awesome in every single manner I can. It doesn't take a lot of money, either. It takes dedication, vision, and most importantly- contacts. You would be amazed at who's keen to invest their time and energy in making your movie."
To see behind the scenes of Pendant - with a focus on the horse scenes - check out this slideshow: