During Fall Break, University of Richmond graduate Ryan Frost (RC '05) returned to campus to shoot "Reunion," his thesis film for the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts.
The film focuses on the legend of the gazebo on the Westhampton Lake bridge — that if two students kiss in the gazebo they are bound to each other as soul mates. In Frost's story, college sweethearts Riley and Kirsten share a kiss in the gazebo, but do not end up together.
"Ten years later, by coincidence or by fate, they are reunited with each other on the bridge on Westhampton Lake," Frost's website, ryanscottfrost.com, said. "Within a blink of an eye, it's as if their passion for each other never faded. Except, Kirsten is married, has a child and is pregnant."
Frost was inspired to write the story because of the fondness he said he felt toward Richmond when he looked back on his college years.
During the shoot he had the opportunity to relive those times. To help control expenses, he opted to stay in his old fraternity lodge, Phi Gamma Delta, instead of a hotel, and he ate many of his meals with his crew at the Heilman Dining Center. Sharing meals with his friends at D-Hall is something Frost said he had missed.
"At Richmond you can get close to people very fast," Frost said. "It's not like that in L.A."
When Frost first arrived in Los Angeles, he took a job for White House Productions reading and writing covers for scripts. He was disappointed that the job did not allow him to be on set, a letdown that led him to enroll at USC's film school.
Going into film school, Frost thought that many of the students would have a great deal of film experience, but that was not the case.
Frost said it was better for him not to have taken film classes at Richmond because he felt it had given him a better perspective.
"The more you're studying film, the more you're trying to make other people's stuff," Frost said.
Senior Adam Ferguson worked under Frost during the shooting of "Reunion" as associate producer. Ferguson didn't know what to expect going into the project, but he said Frost was helpful in teaching him the basics.
"There are a lot of technical aspects that go into shooting a movie that you know are there, but you don't think about when you're watching a film," Ferguson said. "Shooting on a bridge created difficulties that we didn't expect, but we worked through them."
One unexpected difficulty was students and residents of the area attempting to cross the yellow caution tape that blocked both entrances to the bridge.
"The students would come up to the tape, shake their heads and find a different route," Ferguson said. "But some of the residents of the area tried to walk through."
For five days, Frost, Ferguson and a crew that included many Virginia Commonwealth University film students shot from sun-up to sun-down to create the 15-minute finished product.
Frost's plan is to submit his movie to film festivals where it can be viewed by prominent members of the film community. However, he said the most important thing for him in the experience was making a film that was personal to him.
"Of course it would be great if it got into festivals and led to someone seeing something special in me, but when I was out there on the bridge directing, I wasn't really worrying about that," he said. "I think if I can make a film that connects to me, then hopefully it will connect with others ... at least those at UR.
Frost acknowledged that the next few years would be an uphill battle. He said that there was probably a better chance of becoming an NFL quarterback than a top director, but he had a plan to succeed.
Frost told a cautionary tale he had heard, where a filmmaker got a call from a Hollywood high-up but didn't have any new material.
"I have a couple of scripts that I'm constantly working on to keep that from happening," Frost said.
Contact staff writer Zak Kozuchowski at firstname.lastname@example.org