Sept. 3, 2021
Richmond takes the spotlight Sept. 7 on opening night of the city’s annual international film festival when Virginia Commonwealth University graduate and adjunct professor Dorie Barton’s thriller/comedy “Welcome to the Show” is screened at 9:15 p.m.
Barton earned her M.F.A. in theatre with a concentration in performance and pedagogy at VCU’s School of the Arts in 2020, and teaches acting for the camera, showcase, and content creation in the Department of Theatre. She lived and worked in Los Angeles for 30 years, working as an actor on stage, television and film, and as a filmmaker and script consultant.
“Welcome to the Show” is her second feature film, starring a cast of all VCU students. The narrative of the film is driven by the concept of an inverted escape room that takes the ensemble around Richmond, filmed by a crew of students and professionals during the 2019 Thanksgiving break.
“It’s the kind of film that people will enjoy watching more than once because there’s a lot to see, figure out and make guesses about,” Barton said. “While the film is about a piece of interactive theater, and requires an active level of engagement, it trusts that the audience will enjoy not having everything laid out for them or tied up in a nice, neat little bow.”
Barton spoke with VCU News about directing, Richmond’s cinematic potential, and producing a film during the pandemic.Dorie Barton [View Image]Dorie Barton filmed "Welcome to the Show" during Thanksgiving break in 2019. Post-production took place during the pandemic. (Courtesy of Dorie Barton)
What’s unique about working with students in general and specifically student actors in film?
The students I teach are primarily in their fourth and final year at VCU. They’ve been taking movement, voice, speech, Shakespeare and scene study. They get this tremendous array of wonderful acting classes, but most of it is oriented toward performing on stage.
When I work with students on acting for the camera, what I get to do is honor all the other work that they’ve done and the work of all the other professors leading them through the program. Then I get to teach them how to apply that, how to use those skills and do the work of being an actor on a film set, which is a different environment than a stage.
I feel like it’s my job to help them learn what the environment of [a] set is so that they can be as comfortable and confident as possible, and know how to do the work of being an actor and be successful in that new environment.
What inspired you to make “Welcome to the Show”?
The first thing that inspired me to make the film was Richmond itself. When I first moved here, I was so excited to see the city. The look and feel of the city is so unique, unusual and specific to itself. I absolutely fell in love with all the juxtapositions — the natural beauty of the river right next to the industrial neighborhood of Manchester, the beauty of the houses in The Fan, the quality of how everything flows together in the city.
I wanted to make a film that honored the beauty of the city. My original idea when I began writing was to write a film about a piece of immersive theater that gets you out into the world and puts you on a path of solving a mystery. I’d been working on that for some time and developing ideas around that and writing different versions of that script.
Then in the fall of 2019, which was my second year of working on my master’s degree, a few things happened. I knew that I had a thesis project to make, so because I am a filmmaker I knew that it was going to be a film. And I felt confident in my ability to shoot and make a feature-length film. It didn’t seem that stressful and it wasn’t. My second year started and I knew that I wanted to begin production on my thesis. The ideas of the script that I had been working on connected upon meeting these four young actors that I ended up writing the script for: Richard Follin, Dillon Douglasson, Keegan Garant and Christopher Martin.
I was inspired by their friendship, their camaraderie, their way of communicating with and supporting each other, and their sense of humor. These actors were also deeply interested in working on film and were already knowledgeable about how films were made. So I changed the script that I had been writing, not necessarily what it’s about, but whom it was about. I wrote the script that ended up becoming “Welcome to the Show” rather quickly.
We had a nine-and-a-half-day production schedule that we shot over the Thanksgiving holiday of 2019. Then the pandemic shut things down during spring break of the following semester. I feel extremely lucky that we all moved so quickly into production and got it shot during Thanksgiving, because I don’t know if it would have ever gotten shot had we waited until spring break.