Meet Bradley Wagster, an SC native whose short film, “Yard of the Month”, will be screened at the Expecting Goodness Short Film Festival on June 14. Get to know more about this featured filmmaker as he discusses the struggles and triumphs of filming in the Palmetto State, and how SPAM is so much more than a canned pork-meat product.
An Interview with Filmmaker Bradley Wagster
How did you hear about The Expecting Goodness Film Festival?
A friend of mine knew someone behind the festival and let me know that they needed filmmakers. So I hopped right on that train!
What is your background? Where are you from? What do you do for a living?
I’m 19, born and raised in West Columbia, SC. I’m currently doing freelance work for film and video production, so by definition, I’m “unemployed”.
How did you become interested in filmmaking?
I watched “The Wizard of Oz” constantly as a kiddo. I was obsessed with it. I saw one of those behind-the-scenes deals of it, and they explained how they performed the trick of the house landing on the camera in the tornado sequence, which was just them putting the miniature house over the camera, dropping it about two stories, then reversing the film. Being young, that little trick blew my mind. So that got the fire burning.
What is it about your assigned story that really grabbed you?
In all honesty, I tried to avoid this one. “Yard of the Month” sounded like a cliche title to me. I was looking for more kooky, weird stuff. But then I saw how it began with a family eating Spam and Crackers instead of a home-cooked meal, so I read the rest with eyes glued to the page. The sense of humor was wonderful. It was simple. Plus, the characters seemed like people I have conversations with everyday. So it connected with me, in a way.
What was the biggest creative challenge in adaptation?
The script was the easiest part. I wrote the first draft in two hours. But it was conforming those ideas into more realistic situations where I could actually put them on camera that got tricky. When you have a budget of money that’s mostly gonna go to paying people for spending all of their time doing a short film, it gets problematic.
What was the hardest logistical challenge you faced making your film?
In the movie, it’s revolved around this house with a horrible yard. We couldn’t find a decent house with a horrible yard in the area of a decent neighborhood. Finding tall grass and filming the yard work scenes in a “suspending disbelief” way was a nightmare. Because there was no way we could put the house behind them. Also, it ended up taking us nine days to shoot due to time constraints. All of that was headache-inducing.
What’s the most gratifying part of being a filmmaker?
Jeez. That’s a thorny question. I’ve always loved it. I love showing people how I see the world. How I would tell a story and all of that. But to be completely realistic and frank here, it’s finishing the whole movie, watching it with your feet up on a table and taking sips of a Dr. Pepper… That sense of pride (or embarrassment, at times) never really gets old. Heck, even I make a crappy movie, the fact that I finished it; that’s always the best feeling in this world.
What was the biggest lesson you learned from this process?
Scheduling, scheduling, scheduling. ‘Kay, next question, please.
Any fun anecdotes from the production that you’d like to share?
The first shot of the movie is of a large hunk of Spam splashing on a plate of crackers. We did about twenty takes of that, and on one take, the Spam caused the crackers to fly across the table like a catapult throwing rocks. The final day was fun too. With the Yard of the Month sign, we couldn’t hammer it in because we were using someone else’s yard. So we just had two people hold the sign up while our actor pretended to hammer it in.
Any advice for young filmmakers looking to get started?
Watch (old) movies, write movies, make movies, edit movies, repeat.
What does it mean to be a South Carolina filmmaker?
That’s deep. Well, living in South Carolina as a filmmaker can either be the best thing in the world or the worst. SC is generally really uncultured (and that sucks) but when you say you’re a filmmaker, it gets people interested (and that rules). You’re also surrounded by a community of great people, miles of wonderful filming eye-candy, and that giant fire hydrant in the middle of Columbia. That’s pretty cool. Also, we have those bizarre stories about David O. Russell’s “Nailed”, which was filmed here. You can’t beat that.
Watch for Wagsters’ film “Yard of the Month” at this years Expecting Goodness Short Film Festival