From acting roles and screenwriting to script consultation and internships, University of Louisiana at Lafayette alumni, faculty and students helped make Lost Bayou a hit at the Tribeca Film Festival.
The feature film premiered at the independent festival in New York, one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world.
Lost Bayou tells the story of a woman struggling with addiction who returns to Louisiana to reconnect with her estranged father, a Cajun faith healer who lives on a houseboat in the Atchafalaya Basin. She discovers he’s hiding a disturbing secret.
Two screenings of the film were originally planned for the festival. After they sold out quickly, Tribeca organizers scheduled two more.
Two alumni are featured prominently. Hunter Burke, who earned a bachelor’s degree in performing arts in 2007, co-wrote Lost Bayou and is a supporting actor. Teri Wyble, the film’s lead actress, earned a bachelor’s degree in performing arts in 2008.
Conni Castille, a senior instructor at UL Lafayette and director of the University’s Moving Image Arts program, was a consultant during filming.
She helped three of her students – Levi Porter, BreAnna Smith and Ryan Watts – get a front row seat to the shooting of Lost Bayou.
Porter and Smith were in the final semester of their senior year; they graduated in May 2019 with bachelor’s degrees in moving image arts. Watts was also a senior during filming. She earned a moving image arts degree in Spring 2018.
Each of the three worked as production assistants several times a week.
Smith photographed and catalogued “continuity shots.” The sequenced photos are referenced continually during shooting to ensure that actors’ clothing, and set backgrounds and details are consistent from take to take.
For Watts, duties such as holding a boom pole topped with a microphone gave him an up-close look at unfolding scenes. His proximity to the inner workings of movie production emboldened him.
He envisions becoming a director of photography for movies or TV shows. “That kind of work, honestly, is intimidating. But after being on a movie set I was like, ‘OK, maybe I can do that,’” he said.
One of Porter’s duties was ensuring quiet on the set during takes. When cameras stopped rolling, he took every chance he could to pick the brain of Natalie Kingston, ’04, the cinematographer for Lost Bayou.
Porter aspires to be a director of photography for feature films, in charge of considerations such as how shots are framed, lighting and camera angles.
This article first appeared in the Fall 2019 issue of La Louisiane, The Magazine of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Photo: Lost Bayou had sold-out screenings at one of the world’s top film festivals.