Every year, dozens of Webster University film students in the School of Communications make “Senior Overview” movies as their final projects. The films are reviewed by faculty for final grades and are shown to the University community and guests during Commencement week.
But this year, one of those films has earned some extra attention. After gaining buzz online, the film “Sophie” was turned into a much more elaborate production and was featured on Kickstarter.
On July 21, “Sophie” premiered at Tivoli Theatre in the Delmar Loop neighborhood of St. Louis as part of the annual St. Louis Filmmaker Showcase. The film went on to win numerous awards, including Best Costumes, Best Makeup/Hairstyling and best production Design/Art Direction. “Sophie” is also invited to the Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival 2015 in November.
“I wanted my senior film to be more than just a student film. I wanted it to be special,” said filmmaker Alvaro Aro, who will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in film production and a minor in photography in December. “Webster University gave me the opportunity to do that. They give the students access to professional cameras and lighting, and there are incredibly talented students and faculty who are more than willing to help out.”
The movie is a fantasy film about a young woman who finds herself a captive in a strange place and is trying to find a way to escape.
The project initially was planned as the Senior Overview film, but Aro said he purposely challenged himself to try and make the best film he possibly could, using as many existing set locations and resources that he had available.
Aro reached out to other students for assistance in making it. Soon, he had the support of film-production majors Nate Nguepsi and Jake Zavertnik, advertising major Ricky Ortiz, and scriptwriting major Larissa White. They were joined by Webster adjunct faculty members Justin Fisher and Susie Wall and Webster film production alumnus and actor Brock Russell. Nguepsi agreed to be an associate producer and the marketing director.
Nguepsi said it was clear to the students that Aro’s film had a lot of potential early on in the process. The students quickly devised a plan to make it more than just a student film and started raising awareness. The students spent months pre-planning and making promotional materials before filming started.
“I was responsible for promoting the film via social media, contacting backers, and interacting with local media outlets,” Nguepsi said. “This short fantasy film excels in visual wonder and a cast of interesting characters. The film was successfully funded through Kickstarter in February, and was even selected as a Kickstarter Staff Pick. I am proud to inform you that ‘Sophie’ was featured on the front page of Kickstarter, in the Film and Video category.”
Aro said the project raised $7,500 from Kickstarter and he put in $3,000 of his own savings, all of which paid for sets, costumes, transportation, and other costs with the production. “Everyone worked for free,” Aro said. “That’s what you have got to do. When you have limited resources, you have to convince people who you respect that this is a project that is worthy of their time. And without the support of all those people, this could have never happened.
“I want them all to be recognized for their great work and contributions to this project. I could not have found a greater group of people to collaborate with.”
The movie was shot during the week of March 18. During the following weeks, it was edited and a copy was submitted for review for the St. Louis Filmmaker Showcase.
Aro admitted he is a bit nervous about his film’s preview, but said he will try to relax during the festival, enjoy the other films being shown, and prepare himself for his last semester at Webster University.
Then he will go make more movies.
The official trailer for “Sophie” can be seen here: https://vimeo.com/126386851