This January, a group of Dodge student filmmakers transformed a 90-acre ranch into a world of witches, magic, and more in the making of the independent feature film Pretty Boy.
Led by co-writers and directors Skylar Schanen, a junior screenwriting major, and Camryn Tynan, a junior television writing and production major, a crew of 25 student filmmakers headed south to Schanen’s family property in Round Top, Texas to live and film on-site for three weeks over interterm.
The film, which follows the story of a group of young witches who sacrifice boys in order to gain eternal youth, came about after Tynan worked on the set of Angel, a short film directed by Schanen this fall. Eager to work together again, the two quickly began brainstorming ideas for their next project.
“We combined both of our tastes together,” said Tynan about the concept behind the script. “I’m really into sci-fi and fantasy, while Skylar really loves period pieces. We were bouncing ideas off each other, and they really came together with this script.”
And for Tynan, that sense of collaboration continued onto set while working with the actors.
“We made a lot of different changes to the script as we were going through. I wanted it to be collaborative. Each take if we had time I would let the actors do whatever they wanted and just see what happened,” said Tynan.
And one of those actors happened to be Schanen herself, who starred as the film’s protagonist Astrid in addition to co-directing. While on set, Schanen was tasked with balancing the role of both actor and director, going from checking frames with the DP to jumping right back into character for each scene.
“I really wanted to push myself on this,” said Schanen. “This character was the furthest from myself I’ve ever written. Astrid is very soft and naive throughout the whole thing, and I knew when playing her it was going to be interesting trying to balance that side of her, while still making her a character to root for. At the end that’s when I see her character arc. She’s a force of nature at the end.”
Alongside Schanen starred Presley Walker, a TikTok star with over 300,000 followers who played Cy, Astrid’s main love interest in the film. However, with no prior acting experience, Walker was not always the obvious choice for the part.
“I remember over Thanksgiving break during the casting process we were getting all these tapes, and I would watch them and just think that none of these people were right for the part,” said Schanen.
While struggling to find the right actor, Schanen ended up coming across one of Walker’s TikTok videos, and he was asked to submit an audition tape. Despite initial hesitation about his lack of acting experience, after an impressive table read Schanen and Tynan quickly knew they had found their Cy.
“From the instant he met everyone on set, everyone was in love with him,” said Schanen. “I couldn’t imagine anyone else in that role.”
Throughout the filming, that close knit dynamic between the cast and crew was a constant throughout the weeks on set together.
“I got close with so many people,” said Tynan. “I’ve been on sets where I’ve been the 2nd AC, and the director doesn’t even know my name. I wanted to talk to everybody, I wanted to get to know everybody, and I wanted to make sure everyone was having fun and enjoying their time there.”
And with the film being shot at Schanen’s family home, she made it a priority to make the space welcoming and inclusive for each and every person on the set.
“When we all got there, I said to everyone this isn’t my house, this is a set now. This doesn’t belong to me anymore, it’s everyone’s. I’m here just like any other person,” said Schanen.
The crew is currently in post production on the film and hope to sell Pretty Boy as a series in the future.
“We want people to fall in love with these characters,” said Schanen.