Since the end of last school year, a group of eight students from Northwestern have been working on a video series they call TENTS: Building Something Together.
The idea for the series began while the students were hanging out off campus one night. The conversation started by expressing their frustration of feeling alone. Students explained to each other how they wanted others to understand what they have been through.
“We didn’t fit ‘inside the box’,” Justine Johnson said. “We used the analogy of pitching a tent and being able to invite everyone in to build something together. We want to be able to talk about things that make us feel alone.”
From there, the project grew beyond what the students had imagined. Originally, the group was planning on making just one movie. After some discussion, they decided to instead make six videos and produce them as a series during the second semester of the 2014-15 school year.
Each movie will focus on a different struggle, including dyslexia and self-harm. The stories come from a combination of different experiences the team members went through along with stories researched on the Internet.
The first five films will be focused on one specific individual going through a certain struggle. The final video will piece the stories together and wrap up all loose ends. Within the stories there will be messages from NW students.
Students will be able to write anonymous letters to the “TENTS” group about times when they have felt alone. The messages will be read between each of the films in hopes of making the film series more relatable and personable towards NW students.
“It’ll be cool to see how the students take these stories and apply them to their own lives and the different experiences they have had,” said Screenplay Writer Amber Beyer.
The team hopes the films will be used in the dorm’s discipleship groups, as well as other small groups in the community and on campus.
“We want them to be used even after we’ve all graduated,” Johnson said. “Film is a great way to tell stories for a long time.”
The group wants to invite the campus to unite in prayer as they begin the filming process. The main parts of the film will be shot over the weekends, but, a lot of that will depend on the weather and scheduling.
The biggest challenge the team foresees will be having to work with and around the schedules of such a big group of people. Although there are only six main characters, the film requires a variety of different age groups with lots of background characters.
Auditions for each role were held on Wednesday, Oct. 22 in Ramaker Center, and callbacks were held the following day. The auditions were open to community members as well as NW students.
Beyer worked hard over the summer researching different stories and began writing the scripts. Now that school has begun, she has continued revising and editing the screenplays in order for them to be ready for casting and for the filming to begin.
Julia VanDyk is the director for the films and worked with the casting that went on this past week. Production Assistant Abigail McCubbin has been excited to start the filming process because she is the “go-to” girl with a lot of the little tasks that need to be done.
When McCubbin was introduced to the idea of “TENTS,” she willingly joined this project for two reasons:
“I love my friends, so I support what they do,” she said. “I also have a strong connection to one of the character’s struggle.”
Also involved are Michael Johnson as concept artist, Assistant Director Abby Bliss and Logan Wright in charge of hair, makeup, and costume designs.
“Over the summer I couldn’t believe this was going to happen,” Michael Johnson said. “The school year seemed so far away. Even now it doesn’t really seem real.”
Brianne Hassman is the team’s production manager and has been organizing all the TENTS information over the past couple of months.
The team is excited to dig even deeper into their project and see how God is going to use the stories they are telling to impact the lives of students.
“We’ve been putting this together for a while and now we’re ready to give it to everyone else,” Justine Johnson said.