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How a college prof made a compelling film with no budget

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Two apples and a bag of chips. That's the kind of budget director and writer Nickolaus Swedlund had at his disposal for the filming of his feature-length debut, All the Time in the World.

The film is set to make its premiere at the Twin Cities Film Festival tonight.

The story centers on a college senior football player whose career in sports ends after an injury. He soon realizes that the only reason he attended college was to play football, and has no idea what he's going to do now that sports is out of the picture.

“That injury kind of propels him into basically what is an existential crisis,” says Swedlund, a professor at Crown College in St. Bonaficius.

The main character is played by Drew Zoromski, who was actually sidelined for two weeks during his senior year at Crown due to injury. For him, it was a wake-up call to the fact that his days in college football were numbered despite the vision he had for his future. Doing the movie taught him a good life lesson.

“Sometimes things don't work out the way you want them to,” he writes via email. “And this movie taught me that that is okay. Perhaps the biggest thing I have learned is how to be patient.”

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Swedlund wrote the script in the summer of 2014, before students arrived for the fall. He used that time to figure out what kind of story he could tell there.

“I formed the story out of what I had,” he says. “Creativity from constraints.”

He was able to get support from the college, as he told them it wouldn't cost them anything. St. Bonaficius is the first college to do so in Minnesota for a feature film. He used the school's equipment, which wasn't difficult for him since he teaches the videography class there, and his students helped on the production.

“I definitely had the students involved as much as possible,” he says, adding that most of the time-lapse footage seen in the film was shot by them.

Except for one of the two faculty members in the film, no one had any professional acting experience. It was something Swedlund took into account when writing the script.

“They don't have acting experience, so they are essentially non-actors,” he says. “I wasn't going to to try and put very ultra-specific dialogue in their mouths, and have them try and say it. It wouldn't feel right, and it'd be awkward.”

The script itself was about 30 pages long, though he knew that a proper feature film requires a 90- to 100-page script. He planned it out so the 30 to 40 scenes were roughly three minutes each. There was also tons of room for trying ideas out.

“A lot of scenes actually had written in the script 'improvise here,'” he says.

He also drew inspiration from three filmmakers he admires: Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life), Drake Doremus (Like Crazy), and David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express). From Green he adopted the technique of cutting a scene if it didn't work.

“Every scene is disposable and nothing is precious,” he explains further.

What surprised him the most was when he realized that everything was coming together. He was making a feature film with his students, and he actually liked it.

“When it all came together, I told my wife that, 'Oh, it looks like a movie!'” he says.

And there's a chance that more than a movie may come out of this. Swedlund says that the college is in talks to start offering a film and video production degree next fall, and he'll be teaching a short-form video class next spring. To say the students are excited may be an understatement.

“They're writing their projects already,” he says.

IF YOU GO:

All the Time in the World

5:15 p.m. Thursday, October 29

$11

For more info about the event, visit Twin Cities Film Fest's website.