An adynaton is a figure of speech that describes something that is entirely impossible — for example “when pigs fly” or “raining cats and dogs.” That makes Adynaton Productions an interesting choice of a name for a start-up film company run by people who believe everything is absolutely possible.
“If you want to make a movie, pick up your iPhone and make a movie. This is going to sound — no it is — cliche, but I’m going to say it. ‘Just do it!’ Nobody’s going to advocate for you like you will. You have to make it happen for yourself.”
These are the impassioned words of Kemari Bryant, a junior in the College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) School of Theatre BFA Acting program and the Co-Head of Development for Adynaton Productions, a group of filmmakers that also includes School of Theatre students Michael Newman as Co-Head of Development; Cameron Linly, Head of Production; and J. Andrew Speas, Co-Head of Outreach and Distributions with alumnus Randall Simmons, Jr. (‘20 BA Theatre concentration in Directing.)
The group came together to make movies because they felt there were stories to tell and new ways to tell them. Co-Head of Outreach and Distributions J. Andrew Speas says Adynaton Productions merges realism and absurdism to talk about things that are impactful to modern audiences:
“Our characters are people being people in the oddest ways but there is always this heart in everything we do, and we always choose stories that are in the now. A lot of those seem to center around Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. We are always looking for ways to frame that conversation. Those conversations are not always easy to have, but we find ways to make them digestible through the medium of film.”
So far, they’ve tackled topics such as mental illness and depression in Sad Clown (April 2020); race, toxic male masculinity, and mob mentality in Libations (April 2020); and the role of community vs. traditional nuclear family in Brina (July 2020). Now they’re taking on politics in their current project Mothman: An Anti-Hate Superhero Comedy.
Co-Head of Outreach and Distribution Randall Simmons describes the film in which the protagonist takes on a vigilante alter ego:
The character Mothman is a young Black student journalist who has uncovered fraud in his school’s student body election. This story is vital because it gives a voice to the voiceless. It opens up the opportunity for a Black superhero. It encourages people to — like a moth — find light in the darkness to fight political corruption and injustice.”
You may wonder how four students and one very recent graduate have managed to build such a filmography in less than a year. Talent aside, it takes determination, resourcefulness, and a good plan, all of which Adnynaton founders say have been fostered in CVPA’s School of Theatre.
“We’re in college. We’re surrounded by all of these amazing brains. It’s a great time to be collaborative,” says Bryant. “We’ve been well-prepared and we’ve been allowed to stretch. My advice to other students is don’t get trapped, that you don’t have to pick just one thing, one art form.”
Speas adds, “UNCG exposed us to so many different types of work and ways to work. Not every BFA Theatre program talks about film. Here, we have Flannery’s class where we learn how to do everything from casting to directing to just running the boom mic and the clapper. We use those skills every day on the set of an Adynaton film, and we switch up our roles from film to film. We are grassroots. There is no hierarchy. We learned in our theatre classes that it really is the person to the left of you and the person to the right of you that are going to make this work.”
The “Flannery” to whom Speas refers is Michael Flannery, an Associate Professor at CVPA who teaches Acting for the Camera, the class which Speas and the others enthusiastically credit with preparing them for their filmmaking endeavors. Flannery shrugs off the praise saying what the students have accomplished so far is remarkable:
“There is so much talk today about the content of film and television not being representative of what the world really looks like. This group decided that they weren’t going to complain about it. They were going to do something about it. They’ve created their own content that reflects their world. What they’ve done already is incredible, and they are just getting going.”
Adynaton’s filmmakers say they intend to keep going, and to meet increasing production budgets they found Seed & Spark, a film-centric crowdfunding platform. They set a goal to raise $10,500 to make Mothman and they had nearly a third of that in less than one week. The CEO of Seed & Spark found the project so worthy she gave it a company endorsement and made a personal investment, and there was a large anonymous donation from as far away as Ohio. The group is celebrating being over goal now, but Speas knows they may need every bit of it.
“One of our other professors says something we all take to heart. John Gulley (Professor of Theatre) always says ‘Prepare and Improvise’ and man, is that good advice! We know how to stretch a dime, but we always want our prep to outweigh the improvisation.”
Striking a balance between the two seems to be a core strength of Adynaton Productions which begins shooting Mothman in a few weeks. And like a moth to the flame, you can bet these young artists will be drawn to create another film as soon as this one is in the can.
For more information on Adynaton Productions:
Facebook: Adynaton Productions