From Dream to Reality Shapley Davis '18 produced and premiered his own short film, and he hopes to continue making films as he heads off to USC's film school after graduation.
“I do believe in storytelling, and I’m excited to get to continue pursuing it as a career.”
Hometown: Winston-Salem, NC
I woke up, but kept my eyes closed. I had just exited a strange dream, unusual in that I did not appear in the dream myself at all. It had been about a girl struggling with thoughts of suicide and having flashbacks to her childhood and interactions with her father. Still very conscious of the story, I polished off the ending and opened my eyes. Not bad. I wrote everything down on my phone, already with the idea that I might make it into a short film.
About a month later, my high school buddies took me to a bar I had been to only once before. A friend from church, Santiago Ramos, walked in and said hello. He was only stopping in to use the restroom. I knew he had been involved in making a candle commercial or something, so after catching up, I told him the story of my dream. “Maybe we should make it — you can produce, I’ll direct! Haha.” It was the kind of conversation you don’t expect a follow up on.
The next morning, however, Santi texted me: “Let’s make it Saturday.” I reminded him that it was Wednesday and that we didn’t have a plan, actors, equipment or money. He was not phased. In retrospect, part of me would like to say we put our noses to the grindstone and worked furiously to put together a masterpiece in three days. In reality, we goofed around, test-drove a Tesla (pure joy), and spent a lot of time at the pool, all the while making phone calls and spitting out ideas.
Santiago had a friend who had acted in a play once, so she quickly became our number one candidate for lead actress. She happened to be very good. Another friend from church connected me to a father-daughter pair willing to come in and shoot on Saturday morning. The six-year-old daughter just happened to greatly resemble our actress. I then texted a friend from preschool who was involved in film in some capacity at UNC School of the Arts. He said he was a cinematography major, had a camera, sound equipment, lights, etc., and was available to shoot on Saturday. For free. Boom, we had a cast and crew.
Production was smooth and very fun, and I spent the next few months working with an editor and composer who were friends with Santiago. I loved the finished product and had a blast premiering it in October in Stackhouse Theater at school. Coincidentally, the premier was the day I submitted my film school application to USC. I would say that I am proud of the film, but more thankful than proud. Between the odd dream and the extremely unlikely circumstances by which the film came about, I can’t help saying the credit for making it feasible at all really goes to God.
Fast forward to mid-March, 2018. I was hanging out with friends when one brought up the fact that he had never seen my short film. I hadn’t shown it to anyone in person for several months, but I decided to sit down and watch it with him. After the credits rolled, he said he very much enjoyed it. I thanked him and told him the story of its production, almost exactly as written above. Fifteen minutes later I went upstairs, checked my email, and I had been accepted to my number one film school. So, no, I do not believe in coincidences. But I do believe in storytelling, and I’m excited to get to continue pursuing it as a career. I’m thankful for everyone who’s gotten me this far.
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