Short film depicts war’s impact on childrenA free screening of “Ana’s Playground” shows at 7 p.m. Nov. 19, in the UW-River Falls Abbott Concert Hall.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
Town of Troy resident, filmmaker and business owner Jillian Nodland said the short film she helped produce “spoke to her heart.”
Nodland and writer-director Eric Howell and producing partner Marsha Trainer, feel tremendous excitement about a screening of “Ana’s Playground” at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19, in the UW-River Falls Abbott Concert Hall.
The viewing is free, open to the public and shown as part of UW-River Falls’ International Education Week. A question-and-answer session with the filmmakers will follow.
Nodland said about the film, “We just finished it about a month ago.”
The aim of the 18-minutes of footage is to raise awareness and encourage conversation about how violence and war affects children worldwide.
The trio of producers recognizes and reiterates on their website: Large numbers of children — about 300,000 — fight in active combats, representing 10 percent of all people fighting wars worldwide; war and its associated violence kill or injure about 2,000 children every day; and 66 percent of all war casualties are kids.
Militias and gangs often force or lure orphans and other children, at incredibly young ages, into becoming child soldiers.
“The mission of the film is to create dialogue and awareness,” said Nodland, adding that the makers intend it as a catalyst for discussion and to promote organizations that help these kids.
Howell wrote the screenplay as a school project eight years ago. Since then he has moved into a film career that includes traveling around world, seeing such effects firsthand and documenting them for various organizations.
Nodland co-owns her Hudson-based business Picture Factory with husband Craig Peterschmidt, who worked one of the cameras for “Ana’s Playground.” The 14-year-old company does film, video and event production worldwide.
Nodland met Howell during a Subaru commercial shoot, and he told her about “Ana’s Playground” during lunch.
“I asked what I could do to help,” she said.
Soon Trainer joined the team, and the three sought sponsors, funding, donations in kind and other people who wanted to see the film produced. Nodland said it took a year to raise the money, about six days to shoot the film video and about 10 months for post-production work.
It took a long time to do the effects for “Ana’s Playground.” The color, sound, props, and feel all had to be just right, from the generic parking lot where they shot the film, to the area actress’ dirty, tattered clothes and intense eyes.
The filmmakers intentionally created a non-political fictional allegory that could be set anywhere in the world. A specialized designer created a whole fake language and set of symbols to use for graffiti and poster props in order to have a realistic-but-totally-generic background. A dialogue coach helped with spoken language.
The list of donated services and goods runs long, says Nodland, two Panavision cameras, film processing for 40,000 of film, lighting, generators, food for the crews, construction materials like dumpsters and fencing, promotion, even items leftover from the Coen brothers’ “Serious Man” movie set.
She said the Independent Film Project (IFP) signed on as fiscal sponsor and donations of money, services and products paid for the entire production.
Audiences of “Ana’s Playground” will notice it features little dialogue and soccer as a key element. It demonstrates the hard choices kids like Ana have to make.
Nodland said one of the non-governmental organizations working in 23 countries to help those children, Right to Play, uses soccer as a kind of therapy for affected children. It and other games encourage them to re-learn how to be a kid again, resolve conflict peacefully and have fun.
The screening of “Ana’s Playground” at UW-RF will be an exclusive glimpse of the film, not to be seen in widespread distribution until after 2010 when it has finished touring the festival circuit.
Nodland said it’s been screened at four festivals so far, winning awards at three of them.
One festival deemed it a winner not only in its short-film category but also of the overall festival.
Soon it will be shown in Ireland, at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, before opening ceremonies at the Vancouver Olympics and at California festivals in Santa Monica and Santa Barbara and the Bahamas.
“The mission is not to win an Oscar but produce one good enough to win, which will help raise the maximum amount of awareness,” said Nodland.
She said she read with interest about the recent hate-graffiti incident at UW-RF, about the buttons produced in response to it that said “Speak loudly, silence is acceptance.” The phrase resonated with her because she says in her opinion, “Ana’s Playground” is really an effort to speak loudly about the issue of war and violence affecting children worldwide.
“That’s exactly the philosophy in the making of the film,” she said.
Learn more about it at www.anasplayground.com.