Student film “Runaway” moves into production phase

Crew crowdfunds horror short film for Production 3 class

Top row: Austin Harvey, screenwriter, Johnny Hough, producer, Taylor Colbert, sound designer. Bottom row: RJ Lane, production designer, Ashley Stokes, cinematographer, and Drew Praskovich, director.

Written By Carley Bonk, Co-Features Editor

Drew Praskovich is enamored by horror films and spent his childhood watching them with his grandmother.

Austin Harvey is also familiar with the genre, inspired in his screenwriting by authors such as Stephen King, Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft.

Growing up near a drive-in theater shaped Johnny Hough’s love for film, an industry currently struggling to adapt in a world driven by online streaming.

With an original script, a joint admiration for all and a crowdfunded budget, this producer is ready to give audiences a new experience.

“It makes me sad to see theaters are struggling,” Hough said. “It’s our job to bring people back to the way movies are meant to be watched.”

These cinema students are trying to break the mold of traditional film ideas to bring audiences back to public screenings with their original short, “Runaway.” They will be taking the entire semester in their Production Three class to produce a short film (eight-to-11 minutes long), to be screened three times on campus Dec. 15.

“Runaway” brings audiences into the unstable mind of Ginny – a high school girl struggling to get a grip on the spiraling relationship with her mother while also coping with her own inner demons. This psychological thriller aims to take a “modern horror noir” glance into the darkness of mental illness.

The crew, consisting of seven Production 3 (P3) students, has been in pre-production for months and is ready to leap into the filming process. The short film has raised well over $3,000 and has been backed by 48 funders so far, surpassing the crew’s original goal of $2,500.

“Runaway” will be taking donations until Sept. 16 on IndieGoGo, with special perks like copies of the script, DVDs of the film and screening invitations up for grabs depending on the donation.

Hough, a junior cinema production major, built the crew last semester after reading through the script.

“We just locked in the script today actually, so we can’t make any major changes to the characters or plot,” Hough said.

“Runaway” is the brainchild of screenwriter Austin Harvey, a senior screenwriting major. Focusing on atmospheric eeriness, he found inspiration in soundtracks and scripts from “It Follows,” and the hit Netflix show “Stranger Things.”

The budget includes anything from food on set, to character and set design, to entrance into film festivals.

Leftover funds will be used to enter “Runaway” in festivals like the Oaks Festival or the National Film Festival for Talented Youth following the initial screening.

The film – pegged at 11 minutes – will be filmed on two separate weekends in October and will include a scene from an abandoned shipwreck site along the Three Rivers Heritage Trail in the North Side.

“I found it while I was riding my bike one day and thought it would be a great spot,”  Drew Praskovich said.

The other crew members – Taylor Colbert, sound designer, Robert Lane Jr., production designer, Zach Skeba, editor and Ashley Stokes, cinematographer – are all adding their own spark to to the film.

“As a kid, I used to make commercials for fun,” Stokes said. “You can really get experimental with films, the props and the colors.”

Harkening back to the ‘70s era of horror, the crew hopes to cast actresses that pay homage to great females in the genre, like Mia Farrow and Jamie Lee Curtis.

“How someone looks at you and what they can say with their eyes really means a lot in this film,” Praskovich said. “Our main character, Ginny, has to be someone who can communicate her inner struggle with their eyes.”

The crew agreed the formula for a successful film in such a competitive industry is multifaceted.

“Having a good crew means a lot; we’ve heard horror stories of crews fighting on set,” Harvey said. “We haven’t had that problem.”

“Sometimes it’s best to keep it simple,” Hough said.

After six days of filming, the crew has about two days to edit the footage for their P3 deadline, a quick turn-around.

The “Runaway” creators do recognize they have some hurdles to face before the triple screening.

“As the first P3 horror film, it’s difficult to form an original idea that we can pull people into,” Hough said.

Making the most of their budget is essential, especially in the horror genre, where scenes need to be as authentic as possible to evoke a reaction from the audience.

“We can’t be overly cheesy with a low budget,” Harvey added.

These cinema students have positive remarks for the P3 class that brought them together in the first place.

“Out of all I’ve taken so far, I’ve definitely learned the most from this class,” Stokes said.

Hough agreed.

“Any film student who doesn’t take this class is missing a great opportunity,” he said.