‘Hatchet’ film inspired by GTA:IV

Somewhere along Tom Caswell’s childhood, his career aspiration changed.  

He’s unable to pinpoint the exact age – it was well before high school, but he knows that his dreams of becoming a rock star fizzled out and he decided he wanted to make movies instead.

Caswell references that some of the behind-the-scenes extras on his favorite movies captured his attention. Enthralled by the work and energy put into titles like “Lord of the Rings” and the “Matrix” series, he would sit and watch these additions as much as the movies themselves. Caswell said he could not only recite dialogue from the films, but also the answers the actors gave during interviews.

After making short films in high school, Caswell decided to make the leap and attend college for his hobby. He’s made a handful of films since, but the now junior film and video major at Drexel University has a new film project in the works.

As part of Caswell’s junior thesis film class, students were required to pitch project ideas.

The story Caswell pitched, which he called “Hatchet,” was loosely based on the events surrounding the video game, “Grand Theft Auto IV.” It wasn’t necessarily the premise of the game that captured Caswell’s attention, but dynamic and interactions the characters have with each other.

“There’s this bit in this game, I don’t want to spoil it necessarily, but two characters are arguing over whose body is in this grave and one character knows and the other character doesn’t.” Caswell said. “They were such close friends and… even with all of that, they still have this conflict and I immediately knew I wanted to adapt a film around that idea.”

Although only a handful of ideas were chosen, Hatchet was given the green light.

The film is somewhat of a first for Caswell. Instead of creating a premise and script around actors he had already chosen, the actors will now have to fill roles he already created by putting listings on casting websites.

“With this movie I wanted to go with all kinds of fresh blood,” Caswell said. “So most of the actors that are working on the film I am very new to and they are very new to me…so I’m very excited.”

Rather than taking the typical route by holding fundraisers and applying for grants to fund “Hatchet,” Caswell said he  turned to Kickstarter.

The Kickstarter ended yesterday, Feb. 10 and exceeded its initial goal of $1,000, reaching $1,360. Caswell said each additional donation will be used to help make the final project better. He said he wants to make the film as exciting as possible, and the additional funds will be used in post-production.

The filming of “Hatchet” will take place over the course of two weekends with a cast and crew of about 17, a number that fluctuates depending on the shooting schedule.

Shooting will take place around the area, with the Tioga shipping yard as one location.

Caswell said he has high hopes for the project. He will have to submit it to his class to be graded, but he hopes to submit it to festivals as well.

“The projects I’ve done before are a little bit more personal, and this is almost a straight-up action film,” Caswell said. “There is drama, there is conflict and there are what I feel are strong characters, but I think it’s a more publicly accessible film than some of my other works.”

Although “Hatchet” is his immediate focus, Caswell said he has other projects in the works. In March, he’ll be working as a cinematographer for a friend’s movie. He’s also already paying attention to what his senior thesis production will be.

As one final bit of advice, Caswell implores that people make time to check out some of the small films being produced by artists in the area.

“Everyone should check out what is going on, because there’s some really talented people working on movies that no one has heard of,” Caswell said, “and people should take note of some of the names on these projects, because some of these people are going to have some amazing careers in the future.”

Samantha Tighe can be reached at samantha.tighe@temple.edu.

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