Hamdija Ajanovic Music
\'hum-'de-uh\ \'i-än-'o-'vich\ \myü-zik\ - according to Merriam Webster
Casual Game Informer
By Jonathan "Blues Cowboy" Lester
Published: Monday April 6, 2009
On the upside, the music is awesome—a large selection of riff-heavy original metal tunes makes the perfect soundtrack to mass xenocide! Combine that with an epic soundtrack and ridiculous weapons and you’ve got yourself an essential community purchase. Support indie developers and stick it to the man!
Cheat Code Central
By Robert VerBruggen
The soundtrack is a marvel as well, with killer thrash-metal guitar riffing serving as a background to all this slaughter, courtesy of composer Hamdija Ajanovic.
Another positive to the presentation is the pumping guitar based soundtrack, this again feels like a step back in time to a more basic age of gaming, however it suits this particular title very well.
Arizona Daily Star
By Eric Swedlund
Several refugees huddle in a basement, seeking shelter in a war-torn land. The group is out of water, and someone must run to the well at daybreak, dodging potential explosions and snipers.
The story played itself out slowly Wednesday, through repeated shouts of "action" and "cut" as a UA student filmmaking crew progressed through the second day of a six-day shooting schedule. The project transformed Dunbar School into a movie set for two days as students hustled to keep on pace.
An ambitious project, it's the first University of Arizona student film to use a 35mm movie camera. An $80,000 grant from Kodak will allow the students to produce a Hollywood-quality film, gaining invaluable experience in the process and giving the emerging UA film program its first professional edge.
The UA is one of eight schools in the country to receive the grant, said Stephanie Joyce, one of two student producers.
"This project is really unique since we're not a really recognized film school," Joyce said. "It's way higher than your usual student film budget."
The film, "April's Last," was written by Hamdija Ajanovic, a native of Bosnia who just graduated from the UA with a degree in media arts.
Loosely based on the early 1990s war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the eight-page script follows the group as they run out of water, drawing cards from a deck to determine who will make the dangerous journey for more water.
A female character draws the unlucky card, but the male lead volunteers to take her place. Fearing explosions, he runs to the well, where a sniper spots him. The film closes there, with the audience not knowing whether he is shot.
Ajanovic wrote the screenplay based on personal experiences. Born in Bosnia in 1973, he fled the country to Germany after high school, and he moved to Tucson in 2000.
"The big concern was how to create the environment. When I saw the location and the production design, it definitely was mind-boggling, and it brought up some memories," he said. "I never thought it could be realized in Tucson, but it does look good. It definitely maintains the vision I had in the beginning."
Assistant professor Michael Mulcahy, one of three advisers supervising the project, said this is the first time Kodak has approached the UA.
In December, the media arts department put out a call for the initial creative team. Once they were chosen, director Joe Odea, director of photography Kelli Elizabeth Dickinson and producers Joyce and Joey Heslinga helped select Ajanovic's script and began looking for cast and crew members.
Student films are usually shot using 16mm film cameras and digital video cameras, with the Hollywood industry standard 35mm camera prohibitively expensive.
"The ability to work with this kind of equipment is really a plus," Mulcahy said. "No one's had the budget or the resources to work as part of this team this way."
Setting up the six 12-hour shooting days took two months, Joyce said. After the two days at Dunbar School, shooting moves to abandoned railroad tracks near Downtown and the hills outside Nogales.
"We're trying to get a European feel. We didn't want a movie based in the Southwest; we wanted to defamiliarize the location," she said.
Aside from the Kodak grant, the students received lights and other equipment from companies in Los Angeles. Still, the producers had to raise $12,000 in grants from the UA's Hanson Film Institute and the College of Fine Arts.
"Since we're officially attached to these companies in L.A., we have to do it in a very specific way," she said. "It's a lot more professional."
The film will be screened with the other Kodak student films in Los Angeles in 2007. The film will also be submitted to various film festivals around the country.
"We're an up-and-coming film school," Joyce said. "We're trying to bring a lot of attention. If this goes well, we hope we'll be invited to do it in following years."
By LA MONICA EVERETT-HAYNES
War survivors gathered in a dark, poorly ventilated classroom at Dunbar School. Some, disheveled, sat with sunken eyes; others played cards and talked about love. When the group ran out of water, a young woman was randomly chosen to enter the war zone to search for a water pump. As she sat crying, someone else volunteered to go.
Though realistic, the scene was an act. University of Arizona students adapted a colleague's first screenplay, titled "April's Last," after receiving an Eastman-Kodak Co. sponsorship. The sponsorship meant professional training, loaned equipment and a film screening in Los Angeles next year. Kodak selected UA, two other Arizona schools and several California institutions to produce short movies on 35 mm film. "Most students and aspiring filmmakers see 35 mm as the Holy Grail, the format they would like to shoot on," said Patrick Roddy, a producer in residence for UA's media arts department. It's also the type of experience UA can't provide, he said. "They've never had this opportunity," said Roddy, one of the students' mentors. "That is one of the main reasons why we think this is so special."
UA media arts major Joe Odea has made his own films but never in 35 mm. Today's filmmakers have the choice of film, digital, high-definition video or other formats, and Odea said it helps to be familiar with them all. "They're all tools, and all have their strengths and weaknesses," said Odea, 23, the director. With 35 mm, running time is limited, he said, noting that the students had 80 minutes of film. "It means you're not doing endless takes," Odea said. "You have to be a bit more careful." Students spent months learning about the format and preparing before they began filming at Dunbar School on May 23. The students had to hire the crew and actors and produce and direct the film. Some of that time was spent in parts of southern Arizona that mimic Europe's rolling hills. "It's a huge undertaking," said Lorette Bayle, Kodak's project regional director. "The best way to help students is to let them shoot on a format and with equipment that's not really accessible to them," Bayle said. And for the UA students, making an accessible film was key.
Writer Hamdija Ajanovic, who was born in Bosnia, said the script draws on his memories of the Bosnia-Herzegovina war. Like Ajanovic, other students said the film is meant to display the humanity and courage often ignored during political conflict. "My message is simply about individuals who, for a moment, wanted to do something brave in life," said Ajanovic, 33, who has lived in Tucson since 2000 and who received his UA media arts degree this month. "Some people will try and turn a negative experience into something positive in mind, body and soul," he said.
The film also has something to tell about gender roles and survival, said Stephanie Joyce, 23, its co-producer. "The dialogue seems to be about trivial things, but there is also this auspicious and personal side," said Joyce, a UA journalism and media arts major. "This is not specific to Bosnia. It could have easily been placed in the present."
After a 45-minute drive, the car rolls to a stop next to a pair of train tracks in Nogales, Ariz. People are bustling about, carrying heavy equipment,giving orders and directions and asking for food. One man walks by carrying a plastic container of refrigerated sushi.
This is the set of a war movie. To be more precise, it's a war movie inspired by the Bosnian conflict in the 1990s. What this has to do with sushi and train tracks leading to Mexico is yet to be discovered.
Media arts senior Joey Heslinga, one of the film's producers, sits down and explains what's going on. "It's almost kind of a war piece," he said.
"There's a bunch of civilians that are living in a basement for a while. There's some sort of outside threat that they're hiding from, enemies or whatnot," Heslinga said. "They run out of water and one of the younger, sort of ambitious kids in the group volunteers himself to go out and get more water. So he goes out and gets more water, and we have an ending that's being shot right now."
The movie, currently titled "April's Last," is a student project funded by a grant from the Kodak Corporation. In the last months, more than 30 students have dedicated their time and effort to seeing this five to seven minute film to fruition. In the end, the only thing they will receive is experience and exposure.
The entire crew is enrolled in an independent study program, tied to the university. The UA owns all the rights to the film and is even charging them for the class.
"We're probably the only film crew that has to pay close to $800 to participate," Heslinga said. "So not only are we not getting paid, we have to pay for the credits. And to be honest, more than half the crew doesn't need the credits, and a good portion of them have already graduated."
Heslinga spent the last five months planning and working on "April's Last." He raised funds, held casting calls, budgeted and even organized a trip to Los Angeles for workshops and equipment pick-up. After the actual filming is over, the movie will go through post-production through 2007.
Heslinga said Nogales is a good location to film because many of the buildings do not showcase Southwestern architecture. Since the regional flavor isn't as apparent, the set looks like it could be anywhere. Most of the filming was actually done in Dunbar School, Tucson's only segregated school in the 1920s.
Shut down and abandoned in the 1970s for not following anti-segregation laws, it is finally being used again as the location for the "basement scene" in the movie. Much of this is due to the aesthetics on the walls.
"We're not trying to literally interpret that as specifically trying to portray Bosnia in the 1990s and the Bosnian war, but it's being based off of that," Heslinga said. "So we wanted to keep true to that but still be ambiguous enough for where it could basically be anywhere. Not particularly Bosnia, but it could be anywhere in Europe, it could be in the United States. It could be anywhere."
The script was written by Hamdija Ajanovic, a man who was living in Bosnia at the time of the conflict, for a screenwriting class. The story is partly about his experiences, but has universal applications.
"It was in a sense attached with Bosnia, but I wrote it in English," Ajanovic said. "And once we discussed it with all the details and everything we realized it's really something that can happen anywhere and to anyone."
Ajanovic describes the plot in a little more detail, saying the characters trapped in the basement draw cards to see who must go out and get the water. When a young girl is chosen, the protagonist feels it's his moral duty to protect this girl and get the water himself.
His task is dangerous, and he must deal with snipers and enemy combatants when he risks everything for the safety of his colleagues.
"You know sometimes in the bigger picture about certain events in the world, these little stories of little people get lost," Ajanovic said. "They never get there. A heroic act of a little small individual is something that we would read about or hear about, and that's basically the theme that I was envisioning."
The movie has no political affiliations, and it is not meant to be a comment on the situation in Iraq. Both the director and screenwriter stress that it is a more personal story about people.
Because of the Kodak grant the students have a rare opportunity to work with the newest and finest 35-millimeter equipment. According to Heslinga, this is typically unheard of for undergraduate students.
Every year, Kodak gives out less than 10 grants to select students at film schools across the country. Kodak sought out the UA, and the school chose the producers. After that, it was up to the students to create a final project.
When they are finally done with everything, "April's Last" will be screened during a special Kodak festival in Los Angeles. After that, it will be submitted to various film festivals throughout Arizona and the country.
Even then, the students must raise more money to pay for festival entrance fees. They get nothing for their efforts, except for the recognition and excitement of making a 35-millimeter film. But most everyone has his own individual motivations.
"The reason it's actually being made is partially based because it was our decision to use this as a script for the project," Heslinga said. "I'm sure the script would have been made eventually just because of its strength and its visual aesthetics that were written into it. It's a really good story."
The five-day shoot began May 22 at locations near the UA campus with a full production crew made up of students and faculty mentors. Assistance with locations, props, and permits was provided by the Tucson Film Office as well as local professionals in the film industry.
On the surface, “April’s Last” is a film about personal sacrifice for the greater good in the face of great adversity. It becomes an ambiguously allegorical tale that allows people to explore what it means to be a non-combatant in the middle of a grand, impersonal conflict, which forces strangers to form community in order to survive. Primarily, the war in Bosnia- Herzegovina will be used as a springboard for production design and setting of the film.
Hamdija Ajanovic, scriptwriter, was born in 1973 in Derventa, Bosnia and Herzegovina. At an early age, Hamdija demonstrated an exceptional musical talent, attending classical musical school and studying guitar and music theory. Upon high school graduation, he left the country due to the war in the country, and proclaimed himself a cultural dissident.
Producer Joey Heslinga is a senior majoring in both creative writing and Media Arts. He has written numerous short fiction stories and produced several short films. He has a strong background in 35mm photography and is fluent in the darkroom. “The Kodak 35mm Project was the perfect opportunity for me as an aspiring producer to get experience collaborating with other classmates, hiring and managing a crew, and going through every detailed step in the production process,” he says. Throughout the Kodak sponsorship, noted cinematographer Byron Shah will conduct workshops with Media Arts students and give expert advice is conceptualizing the script, camera angles, lighting and location choices. Shaw brings cinematography experience from his work on television programs such as “Arrested Development,” and numerous projects with NBC, FOX, the Sci-Fi Channel and Bravo. The Hanson Film Institute and the College of Fine Arts helped fund student travel expenses to L.A., and have sponsored various festival fees and craft services. Director Joe Odea is a senior in the UA’s Media Arts program, and is working toward his goal of professionally writing and directing feature films.