With a little help from his friends, College junior Kevin Hudson took his passion for films abroad.
Hudson, who has had no formal instruction in filmmaking, traveled to Sweden this summer to film his project, “Sara.”
He called upon his friends to chip in and fund his project, and with a string of small donations and an additional small grant from the Penn English Department, he took off to Europe in June.
“Sara” tells the story of a young American living abroad in Sweden. Throughout the film, she struggles with superficial friends and finds herself searching for an escape. According to Hudson, traveling to Europe was important so the film could have a “geographical trajectory.”
The project was outlined based only on emotion and existed in Hudson’s mind as a travel narrative exploring dreams and the psychological.
“That’s how I work,” he said. “I [brainstorm] ideas and concepts [and then] that’s when Catherine comes in — she’s great at details.”
Finding the funding
After he outlined his film early this year, Hudson took his idea to his girlfriend and collaborator, Haverford College sophomore Catherine Casem, who traveled with him to Sweden.
“That’s just how our dynamic works,” Casem added. “[The project] kind of evolved throughout the spring until I had enough information to write.”
After spending about a month and a half writing the script, Casem and Hudson were ready to take their film on the road.
Hudson used Kickstarter — a website that helps creative projects find their funding — where 13 people donated between $10 and $250 so that Hudson could reach his goal of $2,000. He ultimately got $2,006.
The film, Hudson added, “was about as low-budget as it could have been.”
Hudson’s roommate, College junior Shaj Mathew, was eager to help back the project.
“It was really exciting — I was with him when he was conceiving the idea,” said Mathew, a former Daily Pennsylvanian contributing writer.
The Harrison round table
Mathew, Hudson and their third roommate, College junior Christopher Burcheri, like to philosophize in their Harrison apartment.
“We’ll be sitting around Harrison talking about literature and film seriously one moment, and then, a few non sequiturs later, start talking like our favorite rappers or people from the 1950s,” Mathew joked. “Basically we’re extremely normal.”
Between their majors — music, English and comparative literature — the trio finds themselves debating literature. They even started a Tumblr where they attribute quotes from the rapper Drake to philosophers.
Some of these inside jokes and philosophical tangents helped Hudson brainstorm themes for his film. Burcheri will be writing music for the project.
And while the roommates have helped Hudson with “Sara,” he has been educating them about film.
In their Harrison apartment, Hudson often uses their projector to screen films.
The screenings have introduced Mathew to French cinema and new films, Mathew said. “[And it has] made me a lot more cultured in terms of film,” he added.
“I watched a lot of movies in general,” Hudson said, in order to prepare for filming. “Everything from Old Danish movies [to] movies in theaters and everything in between.”
On location in Sweden
Hudson was inspired by the 1957 Swedish film “Wild Strawberries,” directed and written by Swedish filmmaker Ignmar Bergman.
Also, as a nod to famous playwright August Strindberg, whose “life was sort of like a dream,” Hudson decided that his film would be set in Sweden.
Hudson and Casem filmed first in Stockholm and then up north in Kiruna. This northwards journey took them to a city within the Arctic Circle where “the sun doesn’t set in the summer.”
“We found that [Kiruna] was a pretty sad space,” Hudson added. “The city is sinking into the [iron] mine … The very thing that sustains the city is eating it.”
In Stockholm, Hudson and Casem stayed with Fanny Frimodt and other Swedish film aficionados they found through Couchsurfing.org — a hospitality exchange and social networking website.
In addition to offering up her couch, Frimodt — a student working toward film school — helped them get around the country, suggested filming locations and helped them record sound.
Hudson also used Couchsurfing.org to find actors for the minor roles, while Casem had to step up and play the title role.
According to Frimodt, all the outdoor scenes had to be adjusted once Hudson and Casem arrived in Stockholm.
“I wrote the script and I knew that things would have to be changed,” Casem said. “And that was really frustrating.”
“Filming is mostly problem-solving,” Hudson said. For him, it means “working with what you have.”
In Kiruna, this meant battling the natural population of mosquitoes.
“If you listen to the audio, all you hear is buzzing,” which means that they won’t be using the audio from those takes, Hudson said.
Frimodt also helped the pair deal with the language barrier. Although the majority of the film is in English, as the main character is an American studying abroad in Sweden, other characters had to speak in Swedish.
Translating was not a simple issue, and the task was often amusing for Frimodt.
“Kevin and Catherine were sitting on the couch and just looking at us [strangely] because we were talking in Swedish and they didn’t understand,” Frimodt said.
Hudson found that sarcasm does not translate well into Swedish.
“We can’t just teach sarcasm,” he said. “It’s kind of charming though, so it’s okay.”
By the end of the trip, the three had become close friends. “They nailed a package of Swedish fish to my wall,” Frimodt joked.
Home to the studio
“It’s cool that we’re able to make films together,” Casem said. “There’s something intimate about the creative process. He’s my boyfriend, but he’s also my collaborator.”
Even though Casem hates acting, she felt comfortable starring in the film because she knew it was Hudson behind the camera.
She is enthusiastic about their project. Hudson, however, is characteristically unenthused.
“[He is] really self-effacing … very humble [and] not the best self-promoter,” Mathew said.
“I’ll probably hate it,” Hudson said of his film. “I can never tell if I hate it because it’s bad or if I hate it because it’s over and it’s dead to me.”
Right now, Hudson has edited a few scenes and title sequences. The rough cut is so far about 15 minutes, but he hopes the final cut will last about an hour.
But now he’s back at school, “Sara” is competing with other responsibilities for Hudson’s time.
Until he adds in the credits, Hudson is unsure what the final result will be.
But once he does finish, he will be asking Casem if their first foray into film is any good.
_The caption of the photo attached to this story has been updated to reflect that Kevin Hudson is a junior, not a sophomore. _