Roll Sound, Roll Camera … and Avalanche! (The story behind Fantasy Film Once One)

Raphaela Wagner
Jul 23, 2018 · 5 min read

When I first told my friends about wanting to make a low budget fantasy short film, everyone would look at me with puzzled eyes, shake their heads and walk off. Not only was I always talking about becoming a doctor but also had no experience in film making at all.

Until I decided to flip the page completely:

Eight months later, I’m in the final phase of making my fantasy film, Once One.

So how was it possible to create a fantasy film with no experience beforehand? Find the answer in this short article about my trial and errors on the path of bringing Once One to live.

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Every story starts with and idea, an inspiration, a though or just a little spark in your head. When you wake up in the morning with a strange word in your head that no dictionary has a definition for, it’s certainly a sign to write a story for that word. That’s how I dreamt about the world “Laegrit” and it became the name of magical people, who lived in the 17th century European Alps.

The story of Once One follows a young chalk-woodworker’s daughter. The peacefulness of alpine landscape is deceiving, as a new wave of witch trials erupts. Provoked by a tragic event, 17yo Zina has to find her place amongst the magical Laegrit people but escape the looming stakes.

In a bigger scale, Once One follows the theme of “Together we are stronger” but gives it a unique twist. (No sorry, I’m not giving away anymore spoilers :P)

Most filmmakers start with the story, but I went for the locations first. Finding two amazing historical locations nestled in the Swiss and Austrian Mountains, I discovered that my own personal ancestors lived there many hundred years ago.

Whether it’s Zina, the story or the film locations, a lot of my own personality flows into creating this fantasy epic and it’s one of the reasons why Once One is such a passion project.

You can find inspiration anywhere, the importance is to stick with it even if that idea doesn’t become a story straight away. Ideas can come easily but the writing is hard work and it’s all about not giving up!

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I always say Once One would not have been possible without all the amazing people working on it.

If you manage to offer everyone on your team a great experience, that will show it the work you create, together! Throughout the whole experience of filming this fantasy short, my goal was to create an atmosphere where everyone could show they’re talent.

You might have heard of the Camera Team hating people touching their camera equipment. This was an important rule of filmmaking that I had to learn: Trust the respective people in their abilities. If you trust them, they will trust you.

Even I often struggled with this rule and sometimes still do, trust is a high value on a film set. Films don’t get made alone, they are made in a team!

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Sound Rolling, Camera Rolling …. and avalanche!

Believing in your project and working non-stop, that’s how you will eventually reach the production stage and start filming.

I can remember walking through Heathrow Airport with a box full of camera lenses, an incredible team of talented people and multiple suitcases filled with historical costumes.

We flew twenty crew and cast members over from London and had more creative talent joining us from Switzerland. Arriving at our accommodation late evening we were set for 3 days of extensive filming and a lot of fun.

Filmsets however are destined to evoke problems. Whether it’s a sudden pour of rain, a costume rip or you simply run out of time, there’s too many things to count that could go wrong on a filmset. But I’m very sure no one ever thought of our unique experience:

An Avalanche!!

We were just about to shoot a scene on our 2nd day, when the world started to rumble. The opposite site of the valley was hulled in a cloud of white dust as the complete amount of snow came rolling down the mountain side.

And what would a film crew do in that situation? Ask if we need to run?

Nope, everyone just asked if we got it on camera — of course we did!

(Safety disclaimer: Even though unexpected, Avalanches were frequent in that area and safety structures enabled save passage for everyone)

See the an extract of the Avalanche Video:

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What now?

Filming is over but what now?

Easy answer is Editing, Sound Design, Composing the Soundtrack, VFX and Colour Grading. But Post-Production can often feel like making the whole film all over again.

In terms of Once One, we are now in the stage of creating all the VFX. All I can say is, it’s maagic!! Because Laegrits of course need their unique VFX, right? So while we are working on finishing off the final stages, be sure to find more Post Production information on our social media account, our website or our Post-Production Kickstarter.

Speaking of which, even though we successfully funded our Production Phase and had an amazing time filming this unique project, were still in dire need of funding for our Post Production. Any help is greatly appreciated and goodies such as the final film await our helpers!

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5 Things to keep in Mind:

And because I don’t want to end on a kickstarter note. Here are my top 5 golden rules of filmmaking, and actually life in general. Have a great day!

  • Believe in you!
  • Aim high!
  • Work hard!
  • Teamwork makes the Dreamwork!
  • Every problem has a solution!

Haven’t had enough?

Find the Teaser on our website and more info on Social Media @onceoneseries

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Picture & Poster Credits to the wonderful Once One Team (Sam Parsons. Rafael Rolim, Fahim Fadzlishah, Matilde Brandt, Steph Woodward, Joanne Garnet, and many more)

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