Loyola filmmaker premiers film “The Woodlands” at Prytania Theater

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Loyola filmmaker premiers film “The Woodlands” at Prytania Theater

Seàn Brennan

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Elliot Dejoie had never voice-acted a day in his life before Michael Rees and Brett Roberts approached him in June.

The duo saw past his inexperience and cast Dejoie, international business junior, as the narrator in their recently screened short film “Woodlands.”

“They weren’t just like bosses. They were like good coaches,” Dejoie said. “They wanted to work together to make an amazing project.”

For over the past year, Rees, digital film making junior, and Roberts, University of New Orleans graduate, independently handled every aspect of their 30-minute film’s creation. Seeing Dejoie’s potential as a narrator was just one piece of a long and unseen process.

“We worked on this for about a year, so patience was key. Filmmaking happens in phases, so you have to commit and wait,” Rees said.

From Roberts writing the script to Rees finishing the last edits, the two Mandeville natives collaborated throughout each step of this drawn out process. Together, they assembled a local cast and crew and filmed during the summer along the Bogue Chitto River in North Louisiana.

“I met Michael when he was in seventh grade through theater. That transitioned into high school video club, and then we worked on a feature together. ‘Woodlands’ is the biggest project we’ve done together,” Roberts said.

The short features the up-and-coming actors Escalante Lundy of “Django Unchained” as a mysterious homeless man, and Cameron Zeigler, who appeared in the award winning film “12 Years a Slave.”

Rees and Roberts were able to land both of these rising actors and showcase their talents.

“We pitched it to Escalante Lundy and he liked it and saw how serious we were about it. From there, it was about setting dates and sticking to those dates,” Rees said.

“Woodlands” reached a high point on Nov. 12 when there was a private screening for friends and family of the cast and crew at Prytania Theatre. The two filmmaking friends were able to sit back and see their handwork unfold on the big screen.

With the first official screening a success, Rees and Roberts can look forward to individual feature length productions. Still, they have to return to the all-too-familiar waiting game after submitting “Woodlands” to 15 different film festivals around the country.

While Rees and Roberts worked independently, a growing number of students are joining Loyola’s new Digital Filmmaking Program, headed by Grammy-Nominated director Jim Gabour.

According to Gabour, filmmaking is a long and business-oriented process that goes far beyond the lights and camera.

“We offer a practical approach to a creative profession,” Gabour said.

As for Dejloe, while he is unsure where his new-found career within filmmaking will go, he hopes to work with Rogers and Roberts again in the future.

“Encouraging. Encouraging is the word you would use to describe them,” Dejioe said.

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