Written by Eddie Loupe
This past year, four Ohio University Film Division students took an unusual route for their thesis projects. Instead of individual short films Daniel Diaz Aguera, Dustin Jenkins, Semih Bedir, and Shahriar Shafiani combined efforts to create one feature length film - Departure.
The film, which runs about an hour-and-a-half, was filmed over the course of twenty-two days in May of 2017. The filmmakers spent over a year writing and planning the film in an intense process of creation and revision. “Even remembering it stresses me out a little,” says Daniel, “Just imagine, you write a segment and then you immediately get it reviewed by three other people that will want to change the story to see it fit the film better as a whole.”
Semih recalls the afternoons spent workshopping – “if room 28 would be able to speak… it would tell you how many hours of arguments and discussions we had,” he says. But he thinks that the process was worth it, “At the end of the day, I believe we successfully created a team spirit.”
The project began with a push from OU’s Ohio Eminent Scholar in Film, the Croatian filmmaker, Rajko Grlic. When the students asked if he would be offering a master class in filmmaking, he agreed, but on the condition that they collaborate together on one large-scale project. The students were up to the challenge.
“In Ohio University’s MFA program Daniel, Dusty, Shahriar and I created a really good friendship and working group. We produced and helped each other for our Second Year Films and even created a production company to produce these films,” says Semih. Joining forces was no obstacle. Creating the film itself was another story. Dustin remembers the challenge, “it took us the next five to six months just to come up with an idea.”
“We decided to develop all aspects of the project together. We wrote together, produced together, raised money together, directed together, and
eventually edited the film together,” says Shahriar. The film eventually took form; four stories, four characters, intertwined around a disappearance. The project began as distinct segments, but the collaboration grew intimate, “Now I don't really have a concept of which section was mine versus Daniel's, Shah's, or Semih's; I truly feel like I got to write and direct an entire feature, and I think they all feel the same way,” recalls Dustin.
Now, the filmmakers are in the process of completing the film. “Our goal is to show it to as many people in as many countries as possible and eventually have it picked up for distribution,” says Shah. The filmmakers plan on showing the film in each of their home countries: Colombia, Turkey, Iran, and the United States. Dustin explains that their objective for the film is simple – “we think Departure will provide a unique experience for viewers to connect with four emotionally moving stories about four characters we've grown very close to over the last two years.