“Are you Ready?”
These are the first three words uttered during the one minute and 20 second movie trailer for “St. Osmunds.” This question, combined with the eerie feel of the trailer, hints at a level of unknowing and unexpectedness. Though this project is not slated to be complete until the spring 2013, the students behind this endeavor have already answered this question.
Thirteen students from Professor Tom Cook’s film production three and four classes at Keene State College are the creative effort behind bringing the school its first feature-length film. Cook said the idea came about when film student Tom Jorgensen approached him about doing a feature-length movie for the upcoming year.
Jorgenson was the assistant director for Cook’s film class the previous year. “My initial reaction was, Tom you’re nuts because it’s so much work,” Cook said.
Jorgensen said this past January was when he first decided he was interested in developing a film and pitched it to Cook; this is when he began generating ideas about what he would want to do. “I was thinking ‘how frickin’ awesome would it be to do a horror movie, a found footage movie, in an insane asylum?’ I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that,” Jorgensen said.
Cook said his familiarity with Jorgensen’s work ethic and dedication along with his belief in the students enrolled in the class helped him give this project, which is three to four times larger than the normal sized advanced project, the go ahead.
“I really thought that if there is a crew that can do it they seem dedicated, willing to do it and why not give it a shot,” Cook said. Now Jorgensen and his crew are working towards making this seemingly herculean task a reality.
The crew held casting during the weekend of Sept. 20 in Keene and Manchester, N.H. as well as Boston, Mass. Here they selected two actors to play the lead roles. They uploaded a trailer for the film onto the Internet this past summer. Jorgensen typed the last words on the second draft of the script and a fall-back filming location is cemented if they are unable to find another location.
The film’s writer and director, Jorgensen, said the movie will chronicle a documentary film crew piecing together a film about St. Osmund’s, which in Jorgensen’s fictional setting,was the largest insane asylum in the United States during its operation, housing 15,000 inmates. Jorgensen said this number is realistically close to the actual largest ever in the United States.
Jorgensen explained this documentary crew is attempting to unearth the reasons that lead to St. Osmund’s closing in the 1960s with 15,000 unaccounted inmates. Once the documentary crew gains access and is locked in the building, the themes of this film are drawn out as the crew begins to uncover the reasons that led to the asylum’s abrupt closing.
Jorgensen said the film will be shot in the found footage style, akin to films such as “Paranormal Activity” and “The Blair Witch Project.” “We’re kind of painting a target on our own backs with how we are constructing this movie,” Jorgensen said. “It’s a student horror film that’s in found footage style. Those two things make it hard for people to take us seriously.”
To combat this stigma, Jorgensen said they are producing a film that relies on more sophisticated methods of eliciting a frightful response than the typical blood and gore of horror films. For that reason, Cook said the film is more psychological in nature.“I think it’s a bit more … intellectual than straight horror,” Cook said, “But we’re definitely going for the scares.”
Jorgensen said he and his crew shot a trailer for the film at an abandoned prison in Boscawen, N.H. over the summer, which can be viewed on the group’s Facebook page “St. Osmund’s.” This is unusual, according to Jorgensen, since a movie trailer is usually cut from the finished footage once all shooting has taken place. Jorgensen and his crew used the trailer to help bolster fundraising efforts on their Kickstarter page, a website that helps raise money for creative projects. “We wrote the trailer to show what the film would look like and touch on where some of the horror would come from and the visual look of the movie,” Jorgensen said.
Jorgensen said prospective film students are aware as early as orientation that for their senior thesis project, they will have to fund their projects independently. Aside from the department equipment students can borrow, which Jorgensen admits is essential to their success, they must fund their own movie. Cook stated that these projects usually cost in the range of $15,000 to $20,000 with all the funding coming out of the students’ pockets. He said this works out to an individual investment of up to $2,000 for each student involved with projects in the past.
Jorgensen explained how the Kickstarter page works: you set a goal, in their case it was $5,000. If you meet this goal within 30 days, you can keep the money you raised minus a five percent stipend to the website for hosting the page. They raised a total of $5,550 and were able to keep $5,050 of this money. Jorgensen said Matthew Newton of the New Hampshire Film Office and KSC graduate of 1997 helped them find a location to shoot this trailer. Newton is also working with the students to help find a different location to shoot their actual film. Newton said that one of the top filming requests they take in the N.H. Film Office is from departments searching for abandoned places and asylum-looking buildings. He said this is one area of interest that is big today, adding, “Students try to emulate what is popular.” Additionally, Jorgensen said student involvement branches outside of the Film Department. He said they would use Keene Theater Department actors in situations where “we need numbers.”
Upon completion, Cook said he is unsure whether the movie will play during the Keene Film Festival in the spring due to the length. They may have a separate event on campus to premiere the film; Cook added he hopes through his connections with Hollywood they can market the movie. Jorgensen said he has already talked with the manager of the Wilton Town Theatre in his hometown of Wilton, N.H, about premiering the film there. One item Cook and Jorgensen agree on is there is a lot riding on this film, not just for the students involved, but also for future film students.“ A lot rides on it for future advanced productions,” Cook said, “If you were taking the class next year and wanted to do a feature, a lot is going to depend on whether we are able to successfully pull this off.”
“One of the exciting things, and one of the terrifying things about doing a feature is that it opens a lot of doors for the future of Keene’s film program,” Jorgensen said. He added their success could force the administration to take another look at supporting the students more. “I’m not trying to make it sound at all like they shaft us but, when it comes down to money that the students are contributing, it’s a lot,” Jorgensen said, “if we can succeed this year maybe in the future the school as a whole looks at the film department and says ‘there is so much potential there that we can develop if we invest in it little.’”
The students behind the St. Osmund’s project have not only demonstrated a readiness to tackle this movie, but also to take on the added responsibility, that if successful, it could spell big things for the department’s prospects for the future.
Jake Williams can be contacted at