Applying the Knowledge: OC film students gain professional experience on locally-shot horror film

Professors Amy Hesketh and Aaron Drane look to expand the OC Film School

For many aspiring film students, the dream of actually working on a movie set may seem far-fetched and impossible to reach. Olympic College film professors Amy Hesketh and Aaron Drane are making that dream a reality for many students — while still in school.

Both Hesketh and Drane are not only film professors but are currently active in the film industry making movies. Hesketh is originally from rural Maine, but most recently lived in Bolivia for 10 years, launching her production company Pachamama Films. To date, she has produced more than 12 feature films.

“She directs, she stars in her own films and she writes her own films,” Drane said of Hesketh. “It’s hard to do that at the same time.”

On the other hand, Drane is a Bremerton native but lived in the Los Angeles area for 30 years, starting with attending film school at UCLA. Drane eventually became a screenwriter, selling many features to 20th Century Fox. He said he sold his first feature film for almost $1 million. After selling screenplays that weren’t being produced, Drane decided to become a producer in order to have greater control over the material.

The two film buffs recently got married, having first met at a film festival in Mexico on a street corner.

“It was true love,” Hesketh said. “We even have these matching tattoos with the coordinates of the street corner where we met. It was like this amazing synthesis that happened.”

At that time, Drane had already been working part-time at OC when he asked Hesketh if she wanted to move up to Bremerton with him to create a bachelor’s degree program at the OC Film School. At that time, Timothy Hagen, founder of the OC Film School, had already started the associate degree program.

“For that level of instruction, you really need people who have worked in the industry and have a high level of knowledge,” Hesketh said. “All three of us worked together to create the entire curriculum and get it up on its feet, and now we’re doing really well. Film is extremely necessary now as a form of communication.”

The current film project that Drane, Hesketh, and OC students are working on is called “Rucker (The Trucker),” a genre-bending terror film about a serial killer trucker who attempts to salvage family relationships. Hesketh serves as the film’s director and Drane produced the film. Both are credited with co-writing the screenplay.

“It came to me in a dream and I pitched the idea the next day,” Drane said of the film. “It’s not a scary film, it’s a terrifying film. This film will keep you up at night. The goal is to make the audience feel very vulnerable.”

As it relates to the OC Film School, “Rucker” was the first ambitious project in which students were incorporated as a large part of the crew, Hesketh said. Ninety-five percent of the crew (roughly 35 people) were OC students — both past and present.

“That’s like the best crew I’ve ever worked with,” Drane said.

Hesketh said she had to turn down students due to the enormous intrigue about working on the movie.

“We had more applications than we could handle,” she said. “We couldn’t take everyone. It just worked really nicely because we were putting into practice everything we had been teaching.”

“For some of them, I think they were a little shocked by the long days,” Hesketh said of the students’ first exposure to a real film set.

“They have a lot of opportunity for hands-on learning here, but I think it’s just a little different to be on a professional set where the stakes are very high. It’s not a classroom anymore. You have to perform at this level or the film doesn’t get made properly.”

“Rucker (The Trucker)” was shot locally in Bremerton at places such as the Illahee Preserve, Elandan Gardens, McCloud’s Grill House and the Elks Lodge. United Moving & Storage provided the truck for filming. Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor plays a prominent role in the film and flew out to Bremerton for three days with his wife, who is also in the movie. Drane has known Taylor since 2013 from a previous film project.

“I just thought he was literally a rockstar for making this happen for us,” Drane said of Taylor’s involvement in the film. “I think he brought a lot of inspiration to everyone on set. He’s very driven and he’s very intense.”

“I wasn’t expecting him to be so flexible,” Hesketh said. “He’s very funny and understood the character.”

Currently, “Rucker (The Trucker)” is in the post-production phase.

“We’re hoping to have everything wrapped up by the end of March,” Hesketh said. “The post-production is going really well and very smoothly.”

Drane and Hesketh lauded the relatively low cost that the OC Film School provides in comparison to other film schools across the country.

“The OC Film School is the most affordable film school in the nation,” he said.

“I love that we can give our students this really amazing education and gear that is comparable to much larger film schools at a cost that they won’t be carrying around with them,” Hesketh said.

Involvement by OC film students doesn’t stop here. Drane said he wants to continue this model going forward. The two of them are even considering adding a master’s program to the college.

“I think that Amy and I both teach and speak to empowering our students to develop their own unique voice and style,” Drane said. “I think it gives them an opportunity to put that into practical application.

“In a nutshell, there are two types of students; the ones who talk about making films and the ones who make films,” Drane added. “I think our students are makers.”

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