When he was a teenager growing up in Vandalia, cinematographer/director of photography Collin Brazie developed a passion for independent film. So, it’s fitting his latest endeavor, the war drama “Foxhole,” will receive its local premiere Saturday, May 7 at The Neon, Dayton’s premier venue for independent film.
Recently acquired by Samuel Goldwyn Films, “Foxhole” is told over the course of 36 hours from the vantage point of five soldiers in three separate wars: The American Civil War, World War I and Iraq. The soldiers ultimately come to terms with such themes as morality and futility as volatile situations escalate.
“When I read the script, I found the story very interesting because it was a story I felt hadn’t been seen before,” said Brazie, speaking from his home in Brooklyn, New York. “The story takes place in three different time periods and (concerns) the atrocities of war as well as the camaraderie between the soldiers and how that is cyclical through time. The story felt so original. The idea of being able to shoot in three different time periods and have different visual approaches to each time period, to each war, was also very appealing.”
Written and directed by Jack Fessenden and shot pre-pandemic in upstate New York in the summer of 2019, the film premiered last September at Germany’s Oldenburg Film Festival and received the Ultra Indie Award for Best Film last October at the Woodstock Film Festival. In its coverage of Oldenburg, the Hollywood Reporter praised Brazie’s contributions stating, “DP Collin Brazie gives each segment a distinct, era-appropriate look, making the most of a clearly tiny budget.”
Brazie, 36, says one of his chief aims was to tell and serve the story with the best camera lenses possible, particularly in order to catch the proper light and shadow. He was pleased to be able to use three different lenses to not only capture the various eras but the intimacy among the characters. Keeping much of the action confined to the foxhole setting was a considerable plus for him as well.
“It was the best way to tell a war film on an independent budget,” he said. “Typically, when you think independent film, you don’t think of a war film or period piece because those are often very expensive because of costumes, clientele and cars. The costumes and production design alone can be the budget of an entire independent film. But we were able to pull this movie off because of the contained environment and locations. While battling the elements, the heat and thunderstorms, we shot the film in a giant makeshift sound studio that was made out of a tent in a field.”
A 2002 Chaminade Julienne High School graduate, Brazie says he gravitated toward visual ideas rather than the written word when it came to school projects, fueling his love of storytelling.
“If it was writing a paper versus making a video presentation, it always seemed more appealing to me to pick up a camera,” he said. “I loved reading and watching films, but I wasn’t really good at painting or drawing. But once I picked up a still camera, I felt like I could compose images and tell stories in that way.”
He also credits his dad for taking him and his brother to The Neon, creating memories that still influence his cinematic perspectives to this day.
“I remember seeing ‘American History X,’ which had a strong effect on me,” he said. “I’m also a fan of ‘Fargo,’ which I really love, as well as ‘Good Will Hunting,’ which drew me to more films by Gus Van Sant who is one of my favorite filmmakers. I also remember seeing ‘Do The Right Thing’ at a very young age which really had a big effect on me and is one of the best films of the past 50 years.”
Brazie, specializing in narrative, documentary and branded content, received his MFA in film production and cinematography from the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts at Chapman University in Orange, California. His previous projects include “Retake,” “Last Call” and “Empire,” which were all screened at The Neon. Taking stock of industry trends, he says it’s critical for venues like The Neon to remain an outlet for independent film, especially with the rise of streaming services.
“I always feel for movie theaters like The Neon because five to 10 years from now, we don’t know where those places will be,” he said. “If the streaming platforms continue to grow and expand and giant movie chains and studios are only interested in telling bigger blockbuster stories, and those are the ones people are flocking too, places like The Neon will cease to exist, which is really sad and disappointing because those are the places where the most interesting, true stories have always been told, especially counter-culture point of views that might not have been told to someone growing up in Vandalia in the ‘90s. I believe in the theatergoing experience and that’s why I want The Neon to stay alive.
“I’ve always been supportive of the arts in Dayton whether it’s The Neon or Dayton Contemporary Dance Company or Dayton Art Institute. I’ve always been a firm believer that you vote with your dollars,” he continued. The things you support are the things that will continue to happen. If everyone is only supporting franchise or superhero films, that’s all you’re going to get. It’s important to have a diverse array of content.”
“We’re delighted we’ve been able to witness the growth of an artist on our screens at The Neon, and ‘Foxhole’ is a great showcase for Collin’s skilled camera work,” said Jonathan McNeal, The Neon manager. “I believe ‘Foxhole’ will be a calling card for even bigger projects for Collin. From his early projects in grad school, Collin’s maturity and craftsmanship as an artist have indicated we’ll continue seeing great work from him for years to come.”
Brazie plans to take part in a Q&A following Saturday’s screening. He’s hoping to appear in-person but will make arrangements to participate virtually if necessary.
“It’s always a pleasure to bring a project to The Neon and have it screen there,” he said. “The Neon helped me fall in love with filmmaking and it’s a dream come true to have something playing in your hometown.”
HOW TO GO
Where: The Neon, 130 E. Fifth St., Dayton
When: 4 p.m., Saturday
Tickets: Purchase at the box office or visit neonmovies.com
FYI: The film’s running time is 90 minutes.
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