APU capstone film, “Luiseño”

This spring, a team of senior cinematic arts majors will produce the most expensive capstone project film in APU history for their senior thesis project, the crew says.

“Luiseño” is a short narrative film based on the people and events surrounding the Temecula Valley Massacre of 1847 during the Mexican American War. This western film follows the story of two American brothers who cross paths with two Luiseño survivors. Together they must overcome their differences to reach safety and protect land grants to the valley from the Mexican Army.

“Luiseño” was the name given to the Native American people of Southern California by Spanish explorers in the late 1700s, according to Ryan Bowman, producer and senior cinematic arts and business management double major.

“We have three different races in our film: Caucasian Americans, Mexican military and Native Americans, which makes it unique,” said Tanner Morrison, director of “Luiseño” and senior cinematic arts major.

“Luiseño” will be filmed in Temecula Valley, the same region where the actual battle took place. Other filming will be done locally, in the Azusa and San Dimas canyons.

“We [the crew] love historical stories that are inspired by true events that people wouldn’t necessarily hear about unless we made them,” Morrison said.

Bowman, a resident of Temecula Valley, is excited to bring his senior thesis to his hometown to tell a story that has been a part of its history for 150 years.

The production crew expressed much excitement over the story line itself, which is a period piece in members’ niche and a western film.

“Going through table-reads, there were a lot of moments when I was shocked,” said Connor Eaton, assistant director and cinematic arts production major senior. “That hasn’t happened to me at all during film school, where I’ve read a script and get emotionally attached to a character.”

Morrison and three of the crew members, fellow senior cinematic arts majors Allie Lapp, Tom Scott and Corban Aspegren, have been creating films together since freshman year.

They won an award in 2014 for their sophomore production, “Wildblume,” at the Broadcast Education Association’s Film Festival of Media and Arts.

“We want to create a film that APU can use to show that we’re not just some small school, but that we can compete with bigger universities,” said producer Allie Lapp.

The strong story line and tightly knit crew of “Luiseño” are factors that set it apart from other student films. The cast hopes that a story with great visuals and sound will make it stand out even more.

The film is meant to be something that APU can showcase for years to come.

“It’s a solid story, a compelling one, and Corban has done a great job creating this story,” Eaton said with much excitement.

“Luiseño” has been in the works since January 2014. Fall semester is being used in its entirety as a pre-production period.

The first draft for “Luiseño” was co-written by Morrison and Aspegren. Aspegren was then given full rights to finish the story over summer vacation and he finished writing the script about a month and a half ago. It was then handed over to Morrison to make the final touches.

Filming doesn’t begin until January 2015. The crew has four weekends to film and post-production will take place until mid-April.

“The sheer scale of this project makes it different from undergraduate films in the past,” Morrison said. “We are going very big, in terms of production and production value.”

Morrison and his team also hired a casting director for “Luiseño.” Casting will take place at APU in December.

There will be four main actors, three supporting roles and eight others that will be seen throughout the film but have one line. Extras will used for battle scenes.

“We’re hiring horses, professional stunt men from the Matrix, 24, Agents of Shield and other major Hollywood productions,” Bowman said.

In previous years, capstone films had a $10,000 budget. However, the “Luiseño” crew has a $15,000 budget, which is the most expensive ever for an APU undergrad film.

“We decided that this story demands a film with a ‘go big or go home’ mentality,” said Bowman. “It’s full of action, stunts and amazing production design.”

Being a senior thesis project and only one of three capstone films, the team receives some matched funds from the university but the rest, members must raise on their own.

“For smaller projects, we had a lab fee and the school matched it, this project we are responsible to fundraise all by ourselves,” Lapp said.

In order to achieve the necessary funds, they created a Kickstarter campaign and prepared packets to send out to friends and family. They also are doing TV tapings and are more recently beginning a Krispy Kreme fundraiser.

Besides the APU premiere at the Writer’s Guild Theater in Beverly Hills, “Luiseño” will be entered into the 2015-2016 film festival circuit. According to Eaton, the crew wants to go big and hit Sundance if possible.