Students create horror web-series


Created and produced by students, “Tales of Phantasmagoria” will release Oct. 10 with new episodes coming out each week throughout the month.

Kyle Chitwood

A group of film students is releasing “Tales of Phantasmagoria” to draw Halloween season to a close. The horror anthology was created with hopes to produce an exciting show and further students’ cinema experience.

In total, four 10-to-15-minute episodes will be released weekly, beginning Oct. 10. The final episode will air on Halloween. Each live-action episode in the series has its own storyline and gives a unique spin on popular horror monsters seen throughout cinema.

The show will be released by Moon St., a production company the students started during summer 2019 to release films. “Tales of Phantasmagoria” will be the first project released by the company and will be available on YouTube under the Moon St. page.

Students plan to screen all four episodes at the Theater Center, located at 430 Moon St., after the finale is released. The production company is aptly named after the location of the center.

Theatre senior and showrunner Duncan Smith said the original goal was to make each film have a different feel. Various student directors worked on each episode to create their own unique vision. He said the tone and genre of each episode tie the series together.

“The actual feeling of each episode is unique to the individual heading it up,” Smith said. “We like to give the director as much freedom as possible to see their vision.”

Smith conceived the idea October 2018 after working on a Halloween fan film set. Smith’s appreciation of social commentary in horror films inspired him to create the series. He hopes the audience will be able to see the layers underneath each episode rather than a surface-level horror film.

“I think horror, as a genre, has the ability to say some of the most profound things as compared to any other genre,” Smith said.

Smith said the ultimate takeaway he wants is for the show to inspire other students to tell their stories and create work all their own.

“There are thousands of people with stories to tell,” Smith said. “I would like to think a student might see (‘Tales of Phantasmagoria’) and be inspired to tell their story in some capacity.”

After the conception of the series, Smith and Matt Schlandt, theatre junior and co-showrunner, assembled a team and began the production process April 2019. The final edits are set to be complete as each episode is released, making the production a year-long endeavor.

Schlandt said although horror was never his preferred genre, the work that goes into creating a film is worth the long and arduous process.

“It’s a lot of fun to make these kinds of movies,” Schlandt said. “It really does take a village.”

Films are produced by a three-level process: pre-production, production and post-production. Pre-production involves gathering every resource necessary prior to filming, including all props, crew members, film locations and funding. The production stage refers to the actual filming process and post-production consists of the editing needed to perfect the film.

A consistent team of 12 individuals contributed to every episode, with each team member providing input to create a collaborative environment. Additional student actors and makeup artists assisted in the production. The entire series was written, directed, filmed and funded by students.

Theatre senior and executive producer Sophie Misercola said having various people direct and produce each episode helps students discover their voice and find new perspectives in the art.

“It’s great as students so we can get together and learn from each other in a professional way,” Misercola said.

Smith said being a film student offers various opportunities to create work, but school projects often have limiting factors regarding creativity and timeliness. The students wanted to create something less restrictive.

“A big part of (‘Tales of Phantasmagoria’) was how we wanted to make something that had less restraint around it,” Smith said.

Fall 2019 is the first semester Texas State theatre majors have had the option to pursue a film concentration. Smith said having a smaller film program has its advantages in contrast to a larger entity like the University of Texas at Austin.

“The cool thing about our film program (at Texas State) is it’s so small, so everyone is on the same team,” Smith said.

Theatre and dance lecturer Susan Busa said the faculty aims to provide opportunities for students to discover their voice in the art. She is thrilled students are putting their own time and effort into the series; she is proud to see them applying classroom knowledge to real-world work.

“This is exactly what you hope students will do: they’ll be self-starters,” Busa said. “It’s very validating for us as teachers to see students go out and do this.”

Misercola said faculty in the theatre and dance department are supportive and she is grateful for the encouragement.

“They’re all really good at supporting us and helping with whatever we need,” Misercola said.

The majority of the equipment used in the series was loaned courtesy of the Texas State theatre and dance department. Schlandt said he is appreciative of the opportunities provided by the faculty and staff.

“We could not have done (‘Tales of Phantasmagoria’) without them,” Schlandt said.

A trailer is available on YouTube for the first episode titled “The Last of the Coven.”

For updates on the release of each episode and the screening date, follow the series on Instagram @talesofphantasmagoria.

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