By KATE COIL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
When the camera starts rolling on the Las Vegas strip there will be a West Virginia native behind it.
A 2008 graduate of Bluefield High School, Cory Warner, is currently working to complete his course of study as a cinematographer at the prestigious American Film Institute in Los Angeles. When he graduates AFI, Warner will join notable alumni who have worked on films including “Iron Man,” “Hugo,” “Inception,” “The Dark Knight,” “Braveheart,” “Blood Diamond” and “Black Swan.”
However, before that can happen Warner and his fellow filmmakers have to complete their thesis project, a documentary film titled “This Way Up” that will focus on the lives of the homeless in Las Vegas.
“It is one of the final projects we do here before we go out into the real world,” Warner said. “It is the best film school in the world and all of the alumni are the top filmmakers out there. A lot of Oscar-winners graduated from here and a lot of socially conscious stories have been told by AFI graduates.”
Warner said the goal of “This Way Up” is to show the face of homelessness.
“We are hoping to shed some light on a topic a lot of people don’t think about,” Warner said. “Most people have no idea the extent of homelessness in their city or this country, and these are people right under their feet. These are people who are just trying to survive and make it.”
Though Las Vegas is the backdrop for the documentary, Warner said he and the others working on the film hope it will inspire people to think about homelessness in their own communities.
“What is great about cinema is how universal it is,” he said. “People can feel like they are experiencing it. We hope this will help people empathize with those less fortunate than them and relate to the issues in the film. I know I take a lot of what I have for granted. We just want this to be an eye opener.”
Warner said growing up in West Virginia has helped him bring a different perspective to filmmaking.
“I try to bring my West Virginia mindset into a completely different world on the West Coast,” He said. “The entire team’s personal backgrounds go into the making of a film and being from West Virginia gives me a different sensibility about film. A big thing for me growing up in the Bluefield area was the camaraderie we have here. We look after the other people from Bluefield and take care of our own. I’ve brought that sense of supporting others here and have a lot of support from people back home.”
However, Warner said he is far from the only West Virginian he has met while studying at AFI.
“I know about seven people who graduated from Bluefield High School out here,” he said. “It’s great and shows just how small the world really is.”
Warner said he hopes to receive continued support from his hometown as he continues to work on the film.
“We haven’t started production yet, though we have done initial research,” he said. “Shooting will begin at the end of October. All of the filming, sound editing, and post production should be completed by March. We are only about halfway through our initial fundraising goal for the film. We have $33,000 and the goal we set was $65,000 so we have two months to raise $32,000. We are seeking the support of family, friends and anyone who wants to support our project. A lot of people who are supporting us are doing it just because they are interested in what we are trying to say.”
When the film is complete, Warner said it will be showcased at the AFI Film Festival.
“We hope to put it on the festival circuit at places like Sundance or get it distributed,” he said. “I hope this movie is a stepping stone for all of us so we can pursue larger projects.”
Though his career as a filmmaker is just beginning, Warner said he puts his all into his work.
“The best advice I can give is to try and give 100 percent,” he said. “You have to take the initiative and work hard. It hasn’t been easy for me and I still have a long way to go to get where I want to be. If you are willing to make sacrifices and put your heart out there you can go a very long way. You just have to reach out.”
A silent auction and 50/50 raffle will be held on Aug. 31 in downtown Bluefield from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. as part of the Lemonade Festival to benefit the film as well.
For more information about the film or to donate to its production visit www.thiswayupfilm.com.
— Contact Kate Coil at email@example.com