Over winter break, 14 Champlain Filmmaking students traveled to Tuscany, Italy, where they paired up with Italian actors and filmmakers to create a short horror film based on an Italian tale about spiritualism.

They spent two weeks abroad bringing the film “Soul of the Cross” to life, which they scripted throughout the prior fall semester. While on-location, students held different roles on-set from directing, producing, writing, editing, and more throughout the process.

Filmmaking Associate Professor and Program Director John Rasmussen was excited to bring students on this trip after last year’s Filmmaking faculty-led trip to Sweden was canceled. 

“One thing about movies is that they change from place to place, but how they’re made is kind of universal. It was really cool to see the students meshing with the Italians and making that work,” Rasmussen said. “They spent all semester [working on it] and connected online a few times, but when they actually got together, some really good stuff happened. I think understanding that you can make stuff anywhere is liberating.”

For Kol Spielvogel ’23, the liberating experience Rasmussen described also allowed him to seize the opportunity to travel abroad for the first time.

“I’m currently deciding which local ‘scene’ to chase after I graduate,” Spielvogel said. “It’s reassuring to know that the whole world is chock-full of possible paths for me to follow, as well as plenty of exotic locations to film.”

Students gathered around a camera on set in Tuscany.

By the last day of the trip, editor Samantha Simpson ’23 had a rough cut of the film prepared to show around 50 people from the town who gathered to watch what they had put together, Rasmussen explained.

When it came to communicating with their Italian partners on set, Rasmussen mentioned that one actor spoke English and another spoke with a Champlain student in their shared Spanish language. He hopes trips like these inspire students to know what is truly possible with their creative talents.

“You meet new people, and that’s a lot of what filmmaking is about. Any piece that one does…it’s always different. You’re going to have different obstacles. It’s so wonderful to have that moment to work on a piece and come together [with others],” Rasmussen said.

Emma Mays ‘23, a director on the film, said that working on “Soul of the Cross” forced her out of her comfort zone, to an extent.

“It was the first time I had really been forced to work outside of the team that I traditionally work with to make films,” Mays said. “We went through the bulk of Covid protocols unable to really collaborate with other grades, so we stuck pretty close together. Being forced out of that was extremely valuable.”

The slate on the “Soul of the Cross” short film set.

Simpson is still in the thick of the film’s post-production, working through the language barrier. But now, she’s doing it without a translator.

“I think this is the most significant experience that will play a part in my post-grad life. To be able to say I edited a film in a foreign language is not something everyone can say they have accomplished,” Simpson said.

“Soul of the Cross” will be released in March and will screen at the Alumni Auditorium. Keep an eye out for updates!

Learn more about our Filmmaking program.

Haley Seymour
Class of 2023
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