A gay–friendly short film made by SCAD graduates has a lot of news value in and of itself. But the setting of The Flight is also unique.
Very few people have heard of Fort Fremont, at the very tip — it’s called Land’s End — of St. Helena Island, S.C., just outside Beaufort.
The remnants of a coastal defense facility built around the time of the Spanish–American War, Fort Fremont’s sprawling, deserted concrete bunkers are a filmmaker’s dream: Ominous, minimalist, evocative, cold and brutal.
The Flight’s writer and director of photography Jennifer Bird says she and the crew were able to get permission to shoot at Fort Fremont the old fashioned way.
“We were just incredibly persistent,” she laughs. “We initially contacted the South Carolina Film Commission and they directed us to the Friends of Fort Fremont,” a nonprofit dedicated to preserving what’s left of the fort.
“At first they said no, absolutely not. We kept telling them there would be no liability. Over the course of a few months, they slowly warmed up to the idea and decided it would be a good opportunity to help students.”
Anyone who’s been to Fort Fremont knows there are no safety features whatsoever. While the huge coastal defense guns are long gone, the emplacements have no guardrails.
The maze of service tunnels underneath has no lighting and no windows, and they’re very dark even in the middle of the day.
“One stipulation was that we couldn’t shoot inside the tunnels,” Bird says.
While Fort Fremont isn’t the only location used by The Flight, Bird allows that “the production value it added was huge. There’s no way we could have built anything like a set like that on our own.”
The film — think Pan’s Labyrinth meets a Grimm’s fairy tale — is about 12 minutes not including end credits, and takes place in what Bird describes as a “false future.”
“It’s basically in the early 1900s if there had been an apocalypse that reduced the known world to a single island,” she says. “It’s about being a slave in this post–apocalyptic society, and about knowing that something everyone tells you is not true.”
The main character, Athena (played by Holly Hubbell, who also has a role in the upcoming CBGB), believes there must be something else to life.
“One day she breaks into some legal materials and finds book with the design of a flying machine in it,” Bird says.
Hubbell really “nailed the audition,” Bird says. “She really empathized with the character.”
The lesbian angle, while certainly present, is comparatively subtle and almost more of a suggestion. In any case, Bird says, the message is more important than the presentation.
“It’s an allegory. I grew up in a similar kind of stifling environment in a small town in Ohio. It was an amazing, wonderful place, but also very censoring and conservative. People interested in the advocacy of gay rights couldn’t speak up,” Bird says.
“A lot of people who weren’t really sure if there’s anything better out there would say things like, ‘Why would you ever want to leave,’” she laughs.
In writing The Flight, Bird was motivated in part by a desire to present a loving gay relationship in a larger context.
“I see so many films just about coming out,” she says. “We need more movies about what happens next.”
Right now, the Flight team is in “promotion mode,” Bird says, having just garnered their first film festival acceptance in an event in Washington DC. She also hopes the film will play a part in the next SCADemy Awards.
Other crew associated with The Flight include director Charlie Curran, set photographer Rosario Edwards, co–producer and first assistant camerman Luke McMahon, and producter Rachel Silberman. Other cast members include Brooke Mullen, Pepe Streiff and Jobey Wright.
For more info go to www.flight–film.com