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From Concept to Cannes

FLASHBACKIf anyone would have told three budding moviemakers back in high school that their first feature film would be represented at the Cannes Film Festival in France one day, they probably would have looked at you strangely, raising their eyebrows and tilting their heads with surprise.

But that is exactly what happened for Brendan Rogers, William (Will) Phillips and John Mondelli in April 2012 and more recently when they signed a contract with Vanguard Cinema to distribute their film, Flashback, on DVD and on video on-demand  throughout the United States, United Kingdom, Eastern Europe, and China, with additional markets in the pipeline.

These three ambitious men played various roles in both high school and Stetson University theatre including The Fantastiks and as characters in numerous videos to fulfill class requirements.

While both Rogers and Phillips are Stetson University graduates, Mondelli should be considered an alumnus for the years of work and dedication to a medium all three believe to be their life’s work.

Brendan Rogers, whose father Gary has worked in the film business since the 1980s, received his bachelor’s degree from Stetson University in 2007 with a double major in theatre and philosophy and also studied at Oxford University. Later he attended the University of Central Florida and completed his master of fine arts degree in acting, and currently has been teaching acting at Stetson as an adjunct instructor.

Will Phillips graduated in 2005 from Stetson with a bachelor’s degree in English and also studied at Oxford University. He worked full-time, until recently, in Stetson University Marketing as director of video and photography. Now he spends the majority of his time building the company all three men have created, AndYouFilms, assisting individuals and corporations with video production, web design and other support to help build their businesses.

John Mondelli graduated Mainland High School one year after Rogers and it was there the two men met and forged a friendship while attending Mainland’s Academy of Communications and Multimedia Technology. They worked on several video projects together. John is an expert at voice-over work, computer graphics, music and acting.

In the movie, Rogers plays the second villain, Skitulz, and serves as the picture’s director, co-producer, co-writer, VFX and editor. Phillips plays Lamar Garret, the sinister studio executive, and is also co-producer, co-writer, VFX, production designer and editor on the film. Mondelli, who plays Rufus Lucas (a parody of Star Wars’ George Lucas) and whose character consistently spouts quotes from the famous film, also is a co-producer, cinematographer, VFX, production designer and editor.

Alexa Cappiello in Flashback

Alexa Cappiello ’08, who plays Tiffany Sloane, poses at the Flashback premiere August 2011 at the Athens Theater.

Jack Taylor, played by Andrew Ramos, a fellow Mainland High School graduate, is the studio lot’s only human janitor whose amorous advances to the starlet, Tiffany Sloane, a 2008 Stetson University graduate, played by Alexa Cappiello, are, at first, rejected. They find themselves time-traveling in “Back to the Future” type flying vehicles with paparazzi on their heels.

The original first draft of the script was completed by Rogers in three days totaling only 40 pages. The production was originally slated to be completed in one summer. Fast-forward three years later through several revisions, extending the script, and extensive planning before shooting began in the summer of 2005.

As Mondelli recalls, “We were young, ambitious, naïve and tenacious.” They shot the movie wherever they could find space. There were sometimes challenges on how to build the movie as they saw it in their minds’ eyes.

The first venue was at the Black Box Theatre at Lake-Sumter Community College, now Lake-Sumter State College. They filmed at several locations throughout the Stetson University campus especially at the former Stover Theatre, with help from the SU Theatre Department. Based on availability, they also used rooms in Flagler Hall, Nemec Hall (a residence hall on Stetson’s campus which allows residents to own pets), and their favorite, the Hatter Cheerleaders’ locker room.

They sent out casting calls on campus for the hundreds of extras they would need. It would take timing and planning to film one scene and then help the extras mentally move into another scene fairly quickly.

It took three summers to film all the scenes and the fourth for pick-up shots – added shots they felt were needed to make the movie flow well.

The nearly 200 people who participated in the film were mostly Stetson University students, faculty and staff, and even a few family members.

Using Adobe AfterEffects, Photoshop and Premiere software products, they created images into 3D shapes, building cubes from fourteen thousands layers in photographs which caused the team to have to manipulate the software to accomplish the task.

They had no budget and editing was completed in Phillips’ garage with a small team of folks working day and night in between jobs for 2 ½ years, often until after midnight.

Three guys made up the effects team and it was the persistence of Caitlyn Foster and Elise Holt, 2013 and 2007 Stetson graduates respectively, who helped with the compositing work which moves characters into the digital world by taking out the blue backgrounds from the original shooting of film. All three creators admitted that this is a ‘thankless task’ and admitted that without the selfless dedication and tireless tenacity  of these two women, they might still be completing the film.

The original premiere, in August 2011, was held at the Athens Theater in downtown DeLand and received excellent reviews. Next step was to gain distribution for the film, which came from Vanguard Cinema after an extensive letter and email writing campaign. “Only one percent of all films get distribution,” said the team.

And it was this nine-year journey that led them to the Cannes Film Festival last spring.  “Seeing your movie’s poster at Cannes…Wow!” Rogers said as he, Phillips and Mondelli all beamed a satisfied smile as he recalled the utter joy he and his fellow filmmakers experienced from that milestone moment.

Flashback at Cannes

(l to r) Will Phillips, Andrew Ramos, Brendan Rogers and John Mondelli at Cannes.

Flashback takes place in a movie studio, whereby the lead villain, a tyrannical executive played by Will Phillips, battles for control of the studio through vicious plans of his own.

Additionally featured in the movie are Chris Heidt, who plays JR or Janitor Robots and Raymond Cardet who plays Raul Burton. The original score was composed by George Shaw, himself a rising star in his field, creating music for both studio and independent films.

Its science fiction, action-packed comedic story features robotic characters, famous movie lines, fake movie posters with titles similar to “Die Hard with the Wind,” a combination of “Die Hard” and “Gone with the Wind.”

There is so much to see, so many lines to capture, so much action, so much comedy, and so many computer animated scenes, your eyes are dazzled throughout the movie. Flashback will certainly become a cult classic similar to the Rocky Horror Picture Show with the need to see it repeatedly to absorb all it has to offer and even don the persona of a favorite character.

In a field primarily governed by large film studios, Rogers, Phillips and Mondelli have shown that perseverance, determination and the certain expectation of success bring out magnificent results. And this result will be bringing laughter to adoring fans for decades to come.

by Mary M. McCambridge

Flashback – Official Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4nP3Bls29Y

BEHIND THE SCENES: A Look Inside Flashback: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nwc1Wmz47Dc