by Ashley Lok Ching Duong
“The Book of Truth” is a deceiving title for a film I would later realize to be of the horror genre. I had walked in expecting some sort of sci-fi wizardry film, similar to the many that are oh-so-popular with our generation.
But instead, I was greeted with an introspective and gory film, filled with murder and blood, introduced by four innocent and lovely-looking ladies who had all contributed to the movie. Standing tall and giggly at a podium at the front of McCormick theater, Marissa Tong, Iffanie Yang, Jessica Lin and Sabrina Yunus chattered excitedly as viewers trickled into their seats. And despite there being less than ten people who showed up to the viewing, their excitement never faltered.
For the first time in UCI history, a group of students has written, produced and filmed an entire feature film with one continuous plotline. Completed in only ten weeks, the movie follows a boy who finds a magical book that forces him to commit the seven deadly sins.
“It was all about challenging ourselves,” said Tong, a fifth-year film and media studies major and the unit production manager for the film. “It’s really uncommon for a feature film to have been completed in only ten weeks, so the dedication and hard work of the cast and crew really pulled through in order to finish such a large project in such a short amount of time.”
When speaking with them, the word “challenge” came up more than a few times. It seems all contributors were looking to push their boundaries as artists to create something that had never been done before.
“We wanted to do everything bigger. Bigger and better and longer than the last feature film. That was our goal,” said Tong.
While the fact that students made a feature-length film is mind-blowing enough, Tong, Yang, Lin and Yunus continued to impress by dispensing behind-the-scenes stories about all that it really took in order to create a feature film.
The film, although cohesive in its own manner, seems a bit disconnected at times due to the fact that the five different writers were all responsible for different parts of the script.
“In the end, it was a hundred plus hours of footage that we got, and at times, it was pretty choppy,” said Yang, one of the primary editors. “Because of the different styles of writing, there were some things that had to be rearranged. It was literally days on end spent in front of computers. Lots of soda.”
However, dealing with a choppy script was the least of their troubles. Several horror stories on-set, including incidents like someone accidentally deleting and losing the entire script as well as lack of proper on-hand lighting staff, further contributed to the filmmakers’ challenges.
Lin, also a film and media studies major and a producer for the movie, noted that there were two days in which shoots lasted up to 16 hours.
“People really had to make sacrifices. They had to choose between showing up to set or studying for midterms or finals or doing homework,” said Lin. “But each day, everyone showed up, and really, it was a labor of love. People were just showing up to do what they love.”
This was most obviously exhibited by their excitement at questions and their general interest towards the film. Their repeated expressions of gratitude towards viewers for having showed up to the Wednesday night screening betrayed the fact that, regardless of the actual results of the film, they were proud of their accomplishments nonetheless.
For the students, it really goes beyond just having made the film. It was an opportunity to make connections and gain experience in the fields that they wish to pursue in after graduation.
“Our film major itself is actually not very popular or developed,” said Yunus, the production coordinator of the film. “It’s more film theory, so it’s actually pretty hard to meet other filmmakers on campus. This project was a really great networking opportunity.”
As the conversation continued, it became clear that the creation of the movie was taxing in many ways and would yield very few results for the students. Why stick it through? Why put in all this work when, in reality, less than a handful of people would end up watching it?
Turns out, the glory of having completed such a phenomenal feat does not lie in film festivals or recognition, but rather in the ambition exhibited by the students.
“A lot of Irvine’s film department is student-driven. We’re a very ambitious group and we all reach out to one another to help create these great films. We’re all so proud to have been able to be a part of this project,” said Tong.
Yang also expressed her own hopes for the future of all those involved in the film, seeing the project as a launch-pad for many students.
“It’s cool to think that someone from the film could someday be famous. Or all of us that worked on the film could be famous one day. That’s an exciting thought,” said Yang.
Ultimately, the cast and crew’s resilience stood out most. From the various eye rolls and sighs during the conversation, it was clear that “The Book of Truth” was a test of the faith, ability, patience, organization, teamwork and pure ambition of the students. And still, Anteaters, both old and new, pushed through and made history.