Hoping to inspire a Delaware filmmaking movement, 2004 Thomas McKean High School graduate Lindsey Copeland is scouting New Castle County locations for her first feature-length film, “Thumper,” which she will start shooting in August. Here, she discusses her new movie, her Hockessin roots and what filmmaking could mean for the First State's future.
In 2004, Hockessin native Lindsey Copeland graduated from Thomas McKean High School and headed to Boston to study art history. That was almost 10 years ago and a lot has changed for Copeland, who has finally found her place – and her voice – as a bona fide filmmaker with her own production company, Fivelands Films.
Copeland already has several short films under her belt, including "Sleep," a short film she wrote and directed that was selected for the 2013 Cannes Short Film Corner at the Cannes International Film Festival held annually in Cannes, France. Now she's ready to venture into feature films.
Along the way, she also has to raise $500,000. But, while raising that money, which she'll do through the crowd-sourcing website Kickstarter, Copeland is also hoping to inspire her home state to start thinking more about filmmaking in Delaware.
She took time, in between meetings, story rewrites and the general business of making a movie to discuss her current project, "Thumper," her desire to shoot the movie in Delaware and how a quiet girl from Hockessin found her voice through the magic of writing and filmmaking.
Q After high school and college, you decided to pursue post-graduate work at Brunel University in London. How did your time there influence what you are doing now?
A When I was twenty I went to London for the first time through my university's study abroad program. It was my first time being outside of the states by myself and it really opened my eyes to the career I wanted to pursue. I initially thought I wanted to be a novelist and it wasn't until I began handing in my assignments that I realized I was better at script writing. Initially, it was hard for me to understand that I was more adept at writing scripts since my program was tailored to novel writing. I thought that I was missing something, but what I discovered was that my talent was different and it was in a different area of writing.
The time I spent in London was invaluable. It changed who I was. I became braver because of it. I took more risks because of it. I finally found my own voice, one that I wasn't afraid to tell others about. Initially, you feel afraid of the vulnerability involved in telling people you want to write for a living and even more so telling people you want to make movies for a living. But my time in London made me bolder and made me less willing to shy away from the things I wanted to pursue, in part because moving there for grad school forced me to do everything alone. Doing things alone has a way of forcing you to believe in what you want to do, which you need if you're going to be a filmmaker. If you don't believe that what you have to say is worth saying, no one else will. I used to be afraid of the uncertainty of writing, and later of the film business. My mother would always tell me there's no glory in certainty, but I didn't understand what that meant until I was forced to go it alone and discover the beauty of uncertainty, even if I was initially scared of it.
Q You've done several short films but you are working on your first feature film, "Thumper," a story that reunites high school sweethearts on the eve of both of their weddings. What was the inspiration for that story?
A Without giving away too much of the plot of Thumper, I was largely inspired by a story I heard about a bachelorette party from a friend of mine. It's not exactly the same as what happens in Thumper but it was definitely what got the ball rolling for a script idea. At the time I was writing the script I had a lot of weddings coming up and I began to think about the permanency of marriage, or at least what we hope to be permanent. Marriage means a lot of things to a lot of different people and I spent a lot of time detailing those ideas.
I also started thinking a lot about nostalgia, and a longing for a time in which life seemed easier. After my parents sold the house I grew up in, I began to reflect on what it meant that the home I had always had was gone forever and now belongs to someone else. It happens to everyone but the more I wrote, the more I realized I was taking specific memories and blanketing them over a large period of time. It was a distorted memory. But, that's ultimately what nostalgia is-distorted memory. Portions of life are really never all good or all bad, there's a mixture in there.
So, this constant examination of these thoughts kept the story going for a while and then I hit a road block with the script in which I felt I didn't know how to properly end it. I went back and forth writing and re-writing until I decided to leave it and wait for inspiration to come. I then flew out to Arizona for a friend's wedding and suddenly, without even thinking about it, the ending came to me. My friends, my travels, stories I hear and collect, that's where most of my inspiration comes from. I like a good mix of real life and imagination.
Q But, why tell this story now?
A I felt this sudden need to make this film because I think it resonates with so many people. We all have moments of 'what if.' I don't think there's a person alive who hasn't thought about someone they used to love and what life would have been like had they taken a different path. Love, real love, carves a little space in your memory.
Even after you've moved on and forgotten a person, you'll hear a song, or catch a familiar scent, or someone will quote a line from a book or a movie and you'll say, 'Hey, I remember when I heard/saw/read that, I was with so and so.' There's a little piece of them in there somewhere. You can tell a lot about yourself by the people you choose to give your love to. In a way, your past loves are very much a reflective road map for how you view yourself. I hope when people watch "Thumper" they see that and they relate to it, and when it's over they'll say, 'Yeah, I've been there,' or 'I am there and I don't feel alone now.'
Q Producing a movie sounds time-consuming and costly. Explain why you turned to the crowd sourcing website Kickstarter and what you hope to accomplish.
A Producing is no small feat and it does take up a lot of time. That being said, I love and believe in this film so much that I'm willing to do whatever it takes to get it made. I used Kickstarter once before to raise post-production funds for my first short film, "Beautiful Girls," and had success with it. Granted, I'm asking for much more money this time around but I believe that the people, specifically the people of Delaware are interested in seeing feature films made in the state.
I believe this is a story that people would like to see told and I like that Kickstarter allows people to choose the films they want to see made. Instead of asking for arbitrary amounts of money, we're asking people to give $10, the average price of a movie ticket, in exchange for a digital copy of the film. In essence, we're saying that if this sounds like a film you would pay to see, then please do so. The bonus is that the people living in the areas we're shooting in throughout New Castle County, have the opportunity to be a part of the production. We'll need plenty of extras, people to work on sets, locations and everything. And, we'll also be able to put money back into the community by frequenting local businesses during production.
Q So, this project is about more than just making a movie for you?
A The project is two-fold. The first part of our Kickstarter campaign is the story of "Thumper." The second part is about encouraging filmmaking in Delaware. I grew up here and I'm inspired all the time by my experiences living here. I see the value in making films here and I'm surprised by the lack of filmmaking that's taking place, considering every state that surrounds it has production resources and are actively participating in production. The majority of my production team is coming from New York and I want them to be encouraged to bring production here. I'd like for everyone who sees the finished product to see Delaware as a great state for filming in. Production would mean a wide variety of new jobs and opportunities for residents. Films need a lot of things, they need insurance, caterers, vehicles, set designers, electrical equipment, rental houses, actual houses, animals, stunt coordinators, the list goes on and on. If there was a film presence in Delaware, then there would be a significant rise in employment opportunities for those who want to work in film production.
Q Have you started scouting locations yet?
A We are hoping to start filming in various locations in New Castle County this August. We've begun scouting various locations, which will include a high school, hotel, as well as various local businesses. So far, a lot of the locations we've been scouting have been incredibly friendly and excited about the opportunity so I'm hoping we're able to pull it off.
Q Finally, what's your ultimate goal with this project?
A My ultimate goal is to make a film people want to see, that they can relate to, and that they will want to watch again and again. As a teenager I loved having movie nights with my friends and bonding with them over films we loved. I hope I can bring that to audiences. And, I hope that I can inspire other Delawareans to make films. This business is not an easy thing, but if you love it you don't know how to leave it alone and you have to find your path to making it work. This campaign is a part of my path and I hope those who believe in this project will join me.