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Friday, June 5, 2020

From the Classroom to the Web

WEBSERIES 1 online
Tucker, played by Will Homel, and Cade, played by Natalie Fedak, share a scone in the first season of “After Forever.” Fedak was wearing a handmade costume for the filming of this episode in Larrabee State Park. // All photos courtesy of Natalie Fedak

An immortal warrior, a doting sidekick, a sorceress, one greedy businessman and a whole lot of scones are just a few of the ingredients to “After Forever,” a web series created by Western alumna Natalie Fedak.

“After Forever” tells the story of Cade, played by Fedak, she is a warrior with an affinity for scones who was rewarded with immortality for her bravery. The series takes place in the present and after 600 years as the people’s guardian, Cade decides she has had enough and begins to search for a way to undo her immortality.

Last year Fedak, a creative writing major through the honors department, was working on a senior project that was originally meant to be a feature length film, when she had the idea for “After Forever”. The inspiration came from a medieval photo shoot she previously took part in.

“I was sitting by Qdoba in the SeaTac airport when it all just came out, suddenly all of these connections came and I just wrote the basic plot right there,” Fedak said. “It just turned into this beautiful adventure for all of us.”

Fedak spent whatever time she could spare during winter quarter writing the script, scouting locations and making costumes. After spending her entire spring break wrapping up loose ends and reserving equipment from ATUS at Western, Fedak and her crew of volunteers were ready to begin shooting the series.

The first season of “After Forever” is shorter than an average T.V. show, with only six 6-8 minute episodes. However, the month and a half long production of the web series was not without its challenges.

After two days of filming the lead male actor, playing the character Tucker, canceled and Fedak had to replace him.

“I remember sitting on the theater lounge floor after class just crying,” Fedak said. “I thought, ‘it’s gone, we can’t do it without this actor.’”

Fedak immediately called Will Homel, a Western theater major who had originally been casted as the voice of Cade’s horse.

“[Fedak] asked if I was interested in playing Tucker and I said yes,” Homel said. “I ended up shooting my first scene that same day.”

Homel said it was not a role he’d ever expected to get, but he was definitely excited to have a larger involvement in the project.

The crew’s camera operator also canceled early while filming and was replaced by their chief audio technician, Josh Wildhorn, a Fairhaven music industry student.

“We didn’t really have another experienced sound person,” Wildhorn said. “So it was kind of a compromise.”

Even though Wildhorn did not have a lot of experience as a camera operator, he said Fedak was patient with him and never made the situation stressful for him.

“Being on set was always fun,” Wildhorn said.

WEBSERIES 3 online
Fedak checks her shot list on set at The Pepper Sister’s Restaurant as Josh Wildhorn sets up the next angle.

Fedak said her own biggest challenge was learning to trust people with her vision. 

“I think I put a lot of pressure on myself because I wasn’t sure anyone could follow up on their end,” Fedak said. “I put a lot of stress on myself that I maybe didn’t have to.”

Fedak hopes that in season two she’ll be able to trust more work to more experienced crew members.

To complete this project Fedak had to enlist the help of a multitude of skill sets including sound artists, marketers, post-production editors, composers, many of whom were Western students.

Fedak even reached out for guidance from Michael Petryni, a writer for several T.V. shows and movies such as Fresno and Angel Flight Down. Fedak met Petryni when he came to Western to speak in a class she was in.

Petryni said during this talk that in order to break through in the entertainment industry, one needs to have the courage to accost people available to help.

Fedak was the only student in the class to take his advice, Petryni said. He laughed as he spoke, “I was so dumb, I didn’t even see it coming and ten minutes after I said it and she asked ‘would you read my script?’” he said.

Petryni agreed to read Fedak’s script for the feature length film she was working on prior to “After Forever.” After critiquing a few of her scripts, Fedak mentioned she had been working on a web series and promised to share it with him.

Petryni said there was better writing in the web series than he’d seen in her other scripts. Fedak had a remarkable work ethic and her writing was getting better and better he said.

“She doesn’t just sit around,” Petryni said. “She flat out does things.”

Fedak already finished writing season two and has started fundraising for the production through Kickstarter. To begin production for season two, Fedak will need to raise $6,000.

One of Fedak’s goals for season two is to create a much more sustainable film set. With the money raised from the Kickstarter, she hopes to use solar powered generators to run their equipment and provide reusable water bottles for the cast and crew as an alternative to plastic bottles.

Senior Danielle Oyama, a friend of Fedak, is excited to see season two and some of the new characters that will be introduced.

“I’m really looking forward to [Cade’s] childhood friend,” Oyama said “The actor is very dreamy and I’m really interested to see where the whole plot of it goes.”

Oyama said a reading from season two at Fedak’s Kickstarter launch event hinted at possible love interests and mishaps with Cade’s childhood friend Pax.

WEBSERIES 2 online
Over 100 people were treated to scones and popcorn when they packed into Bond Hall last June for the premier of Season 1.

Fedak said season two will start right where the first left off, with Cade attempting to reverse her spell of immortality.

“With Cade, Pax and Tucker it’s a very potent mixture of searching for your identity in rapidly changing world and trying to stay true to who you are when you’re constantly changing,” Fedak said. “And it’s also fun and fantastical and there’s tons of swords and scones.”

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