Lynchburg filmmaker completes short film funded by TikTok subscribers | Local News

About a year into the process, a Lynchburg filmmaker is preparing to send his latest short film to national and international film festivals.

Sam Van Fossen, a 2014 Liberty University theater graduate, isn’t new to writing, directing, directing and producing short films, but his latest project, “Fleeced,” is the most longest film he has made to date. about 22 minutes. The landmark effort was funded entirely by his TikTok followers.

The production, shot in multiple Lynchburg locations over six days and featuring a small but dedicated cast and crew of around a dozen people, was made possible by Van Fossen’s roughly 900,000 TikTok followers. The online community raised over $15,000, with an additional $3,000 in direct donations, surpassing the original fundraising goal of $10,000.

Written, directed by and starring Van Fossen, the story centers on a child star turned serial killer haunted by his past. Fitting perfectly into Van Fossen’s core horror/thriller film genre, it explores the psychological and traumatic outcomes of being exploited by the producers, agents, and other authority figures who controlled and raised a famous child.

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“The one thing I tried to make different with it was that it wasn’t just a typical thriller, but there’s kind of a message of mental illness in it,” Van Fossen said.

“I’m not saying that anyone with a mental illness is going to become a serial killer or anything like that,” he quickly added.

It was a film that Van Fossen had wanted to make for some time, and it was heavily inspired by the stories of former child stars who shared their stories of exploitation in the industry. The #MeToo movement has also inspired.

“I remember watching an interview with Corey Feldman, who was a child actor who had acted in several different films – ‘The Goonies’ and so on – and growing up seeing him in those films, you always think ” being a child star, I bet it’s awesome. You’re dealing with some cool stuff! But his interview was very dark,” he said.

Feldman spoke about experiencing and surviving sexual abuse and exploitation in the Hollywood industry as a child star in the late 1980s and early 1990s. His testimony brought to light the fate faced by many child stars.

Horror/thriller isn’t Van Fossen’s limit: his TikTok account is for comedy. While his shorts are thriller/horror, the comedy genre features prominently on his resume from other theatrical productions and TikTok.

Acting and filmmaking were things Van Fossen eventually fell into. Van Fossen was a self-proclaimed class clown in high school, and an acting teacher constantly encouraged him to join the high school drama club. Van Fossen always replied that he was too shy and reserved to do so. However, everything seemed destined to happen. After a professor in his Acting Class I at LU saw his potential and encouraged him to change majors and pursue a career in the industry, the Ohio transplant realized he really liked film production, theater and everything related to it.

At first, Van Fossen had no plans to join TikTok.

“A lot of my friends before that were like, ‘Sam, you really should get on TikTok.’ I was like, ‘No. Vine was the only thing, and it’s not the new Vine. I already hate it. I don’t want to be part of it,’ the 31-year-old said, referring to a old video platform.

“But when COVID started and we were all in quarantine, I downloaded it. I was like, ‘Let me see what’s going on.’ At first you see all these dance videos. It’s all these tweens dancing and stuff, and it’s just like, ‘Why? Who wants to watch this stuff? But the more I searched out there, the more I saw other people doing comedy sketches and stories, and I was like, “Oh, I can get in there!” That’s where my platform really took off.

Van Fossen eventually established his comedy-based TikTok following, so when he informed his growing community that he was interested in making another short film in the horror genre, the dark theme got a bit a shock – but it was met with great support.

Beginning production on “Fleeced” a year ago with around 725,000 TikTok followers, Van Fossen’s community has since grown to around 900,000.

“I would say for the most part I have a very supportive community following me. I’m just very amazed at how uplifting strangers can be,” Van Fossen said.

The Lynchburg community was extremely hospitable when it came to finding filming locations, Van Fossen said. Companies he approached with requests to film on their property opened their doors wide, offering enthusiastic support and sometimes asking if they could observe the filming process or help in some way.

From a downtown parking lot to a cafe, to Liberty University and the Academy Center of the Arts, to the hallways of the Kirkley Hotel, the Lynchburg community has been supportive and generous, and Van Fossen is grateful.

“All kinds of places opened their doors to us. We didn’t have to pay for everything,” he said.

Some additional scenes were shot in Van Fossen’s home state of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Richmond.

Although there were a few hiccups and an almost jaw-dropping incident of data corruption that caused Van Fossen to worry that significant amounts of footage could not be recovered, the “Fleeced” team put it all together. Hours of painstaking editing went into repairing the corrupted data, courtesy of the film’s editor, Bobby Orme, an award-winning freelance film editor.

“He was literally able to take the images that had the data corruption, those little pixelated things in the footage, and put them into Photoshop and literally edit every pixilation to where the footage was perfect. It took him months, but he was finally done with it,” Van Fossen said.

Correcting data corruption, which occurred while transferring footage from the camera to the computer, took at least half the editing time, Orme said. However, this wasn’t the first time he had encountered such a problem, so he was equipped to handle the situation.

One of the main focuses of Orme’s career in film editing is the psychology behind it. This specialization is part of the reason he was a good fit for the role of “Fleeced” editor, given its heavily psychological nature.

“There’s a whole science behind it that a lot of people aren’t aware of,” Orme said. “You can change the different times and different rhythms. The body picks up the beats and the rhythms, and you can make someone happy, or sad, or angry… you can make your audience feel the emotion by the way you cut the film.

Van Fossen plans to send “Fleeced” to select national and international film festivals. Although he has participated in about eight small independent film competitions since 2015, “Fleeced” was a production in which he and his team put extra effort, and he wants to aim higher and become more intentional about networking within Of the industry. Major film festivals are the way to do that, he said.

A trailer for “Fleeced” is expected this fall, and once the film has been submitted and screened at major film festivals, it will be available to the public.

“You can make a movie and put it online whenever you want, but I just wanted something that we were really proud of. Show people what we’re capable of,” Van Fossen said.

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