SVA Dustys 2013: Q&A with the Director of ‘Rumspringa’

April 24, 2013

Last week, SVA Close Up offered a sneak peak at the upcoming Dusty Film & Animation Festival (May 4 – 7 at the SVA Theatre, 333 West 23rd Street). This week, we decided to catch up with current BFA Film and Video student David Lawson for a chat about his movie, Rumspringa, which will be screening at the fest.

What inspired your topic?
I am originally from Ashland, Ohio, home to one of the largest Amish communities in the United States, which helped inspire the topic.  As such, I have grown up around the Amish and their Plain traditions my entire life.

The Amish youth go through a tradition known as Rumspringa at age 16 where they are allowed to experiment with life outside of the Amish church. In Rumspringa, children are encouraged to go against their Amish traditions and experiment with the lifestyles of their English counterparts. This often leads to wild parties and rambunctious behavior, which is ignored by parents. It is also the time when a child must decide if they will join the Amish religion and conform forever to the rules of the church, or leave their family and friends and attempt to pursue an English lifestyle. It is a life changing decision.

Considering these elements, I began to wonder what would happen if a drastic event were to occur during Rumspinga forcing the youth to analyze their beliefs of their religion as it relates to themselves and their situation.

Do you feel a personal connection with your story and characters?
I feel a personal connection will all my characters, because in a way, they are all a small part of me. I created them, I know their ins and outs, how they think, how they will speak, and what they will do.

On another level, though, I feel a lot of the broader problems faced by the youth in this story are faced by all youth in all cultures as they transition into the responsibilities of adulthood.

What was your budget, and how did you raise it?
We had a four-figure budget and a large amount of in-kind donation from the surrounding area in the form of vehicles, generators, film supplies, food, and much more. We raised awareness for our budget and needs through an Indiegogo campaign and grass roots connections.

Did you shoot in any unusual locations?
Thanks to some great connections in the area, I was able to shoot at the local police station, Amish homesteads, and local businesses.

How did you cast the film?
The film was cast in Ashland, Ohio where we were shooting. I contacted college theater programs and regional theaters to find actors and held auditions locally. Because of the distance between the auditions and myself, I Skyped in and reviewed the recoded footage to make my decision. There was a large amount of the cast that I did not meet in person until the day before we began filming.

Anything else you’d like to add?
We actually had a lot of help from the Amish community in the area in the form of clothing donations, advice on their culture, and letting us use their property for filming. Most of the community is very nice and it was a great experience. Unfortunately, due to their religion, they will not be able to view the film, but it was great to have them respect what we were doing involving their culture.

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