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The Story Behind Starting Film in a Year – Part 1: Small Seeds

Film in a Year has an interesting origin story.

We started from one small, seemingly casual conversation and blossomed into an organization that produced its first feature film in just over a year, has a fantastic network of passionate filmmakers and has vision and mission with true heart behind it.

But before I get into the details of how we got started, let me introduce myself. My name is Ali Parnell and I am (officially) the Music Supervisor, Communications Manager and one of the four Producers for Film in a Year. I am also (unofficially) the caterer, set designer, assistant director, PA, content writer and much more, on top of all that, the wife of the director – which is really where this story begins. So now that you have a better idea of who I am, let me get on with the story.

One afternoon in December my husband (the director/ producer), Paul and I were driving to the music studio in Raleigh where I worked. As per usual we were chatting about our dreams, the future and what it could look like if we attained those dreams, yet also reflected on the huge gap between where we were and where we wanted to be (the story of most people’s life right?).

The motivator and risk taker inside of me came out of hiding long enough to say, “well why don’t you just make a movie this year? What’s stopping you? If it’s money, just make the best thing you can with whatever resources we already have. If you want to write, then write. If you want to direct, then direct. Create your own opportunity. It doesn’t have to be the best thing ever, but just do it. You will be much further ahead than most in your shoes and one step closer to what you truly desire.”

He was inspired and deeply encouraged by my support of his dreams and it was one of those moments when something clicked and we both took that statement seriously, locked arms and decided “let’s do this for real!”. The reality of our decision started to sink in over the next 20 min and waves of curiosity, excitement, questions and concerns crashed around us, but we were all in, ready to get serious about our dreams and goals.

And as fate would have it,  that very same day, just hours later, while Paul was hanging out in the lobby waiting for me to finish teaching piano he met a local film director who just finished directing his first feature film. They had a great connection and Paul got to hear all about his experience writing and directing a feature film for the first time. Coincidence? I think not. And that is only the first of many to come.

So with the new year dawning on us and a feature film on the agenda for 2014, we knew we would need help. Paul decided to reach out to two local friends and business owners – Jason and Alex (who are also in the media/ video world) – to get support and help in producing this film. At this point we didn’t know what it was going to be about, who would star in it, where we would film or if we would even have any money to invest in it. It was just an idea with a whole lotta passion and commitment behind it. But we knew we wanted to make a film and that is what united us all to move forward. And to make sure we followed through we gave ourselves a deadline – to make a Film in a Year.

Now I know this sounds all peaches and roses, easy as pie, but making a film in one year is a huuuuge undertaking and to say that Alex and Jason were all gung-ho about the idea from the get-go would be a massive over-statement. They were interested and intrigued, but needed to see some proof of ability and commitment before they fully jumped on board. As anyone knows, it’s one thing to talk the talk, but it’s a whole other ball game when someone actually walks the walk. For them, it meant having a completed script with a story that was worth producing. This was not an easy first step and I will share next time about how we settled on an idea that stuck and how Paul was able to finish the script in just under 2 months, but not without 1 scary productivity hack.

But now I want to hear your story! What’s a gutsy thing you stepped out to do in the past year or two? What was the outcome? What did you learn from your experience.

Until next time,



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Attend the HARKER: THE AWAKENING Premiere

Buy Premiere Tickets Now (1)

Harker: The Awakening Premiere

Saturday, July 18th, 2015

6:00pm – 10:00pm

Cary Performing Arts Center, Cary, NC


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 [button link=”″ type=”big” color=”blue” newwindow=”yes”] Click HERE to Purchase Your Tickets[/button]

We may be an indie movie, but we know how to throw a good party! (remember, we did set up and tear down a prom 3 times!! – that has got to count for something!)

This is an fancy event, so get out your fancy suits and dresses because we are going to make this night memorable.

Attire: Cocktail and/or formal attire
Food: Light appetizers & drinks (non-alcoholic) – eat dinner before you come

Order of Events:

6pm – Doors open, appetizers are served, mingle and take stroll through our Film in a Year displays.
We will have props set up, photos of behind the scenes and other fun set-ups to give you a taste of the Film in a Year experience. In addition we will have raffles set up.
7pm – doors to movie open, everyone finds seats, a greetings and introduction.
7:15pm – The Screening of “Harker: The Awakening”
9:15pm – The movie ends and we share wrap-up comments and acknowledgments.
Everyone is ushered back into the hall for a celebration cake!!
pictures with cast are available for guests.
10pm – everyone is kindly ushered out except for clean up crew.

[button link=”″ type=”big” color=”blue” newwindow=”yes”] Click HERE to Purchase Your Tickets[/button]

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General Admission Ticket Price Schedule:
April 18th – May 17th: Adult – $22 Child – $18
May 18th – June 17th: Adult – $25 Child – $21
June 18th – July 17th: Adult – $28 Child – $24
Door Price: Adult – $32 Child $28


[button link=”″ type=”big” color=”blue” newwindow=”yes”] Click HERE to Purchase Your Tickets[/button]

or go to the Cary Arts Center to purchase.

We can’t wait to see you there.

let @filminayear  #harkerpremiere know when you have your ticket!!

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What Does Making a Film in 1 Year Look Like? (a Snapshot into our CRAZY year!)

This past year has been CRAZY!

Literally 1 year ago, almost to the day, we had one of our first meet-ups to do a script read through of Harker: The Awakening (at that time we called it “The Crystal Parasite” – oh how far we have come!). This was before we did any casting, made a single prop, planned any shots or even had a single penny to work with. This was the beginning of Film in a Year before we knew what Film in a Year was. 

And today, April 17th, 2015 we stand a stones throw away from the premiere of this movie, which I will announce TOMORROW!!! And before I get into all the fun details about the premiere in tomorrow’s post (which I know you will want to hear all about) let me give you a quick snapshot into what we accomplished this past year, so you can understand why this premiere is Such. A. Big. Deal.

Our Film in a Year Snapshot

April – June 2014

  • We hosted a meet-up of 20+ people to read through the final draft of the script. (See behind the scenes here!)
  • decided to produce this movie.
  • put out casting calls, held auditions (video) & chose cast.
  • Contacted dozens and dozens of locations. Some worked out. Many didn’t 🙁
  • Came up with prop & costume ideas.
  • Ran Rehearsals (video).

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July – September 2014

  • Became an official LLC
  • Got a 10K budget to work with. (So grateful, but as any movie person knows, this is tiny)
  • Had an Aussie Director of Photography fly over to be involved.
  • Filmed our very first day on July 16th, 2014 (WATCH OUR FIRST DAY!!!)
  • Filmed for 32 days total, averaging 16hrs each. (not including pick-ups)
  • Set up and tore down a prom 3 times!!!
  • Had many huge successes.
  • Had many huge failures.
  • Got Stressed. Got happy. Got frustrated. Got to laugh.
  • Built friendships with amazing people. (Goofy Video here.)

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October  – December 2014

  • We were tired. Burnt out.
  • We struggled to figure out how to organize post-production.
  • It was hard to stay motivated.
  • Money was out.
  • Things took so much longer to do than we possibly imagined.
  • We were over ambitious with goals.

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January – March 2015

  • We got our focus and motivation back.
  • We got a solid sound team on board.
  • Edit locks started happening much faster.
  • VFX are in progress (though still slower than expected)
  • Systems are in place and we got organized.
  • Released our first teaser trailer.

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The Plan for April – June 2015

  • Finish all sound including ADR & mixing.
  • Finish as many VFX as possible (400+ is kind of ambitious)
  • Complete color correction and color grading.
  • Finish the Movie by Mid June.
  • Plan the PREMIERE!!


So that’s a wrap! Our Film in 1 Year (almost)

Now we would love to hear from you – what is the craziest thing you have done this past year? Is it something you are proud of?