15 Film Grads Work on Indie Feature 'The Sleeping Bear'

Film graduates Cameron White and Ryan Bradley brought in 13 classmates to make the film a reality.

Ryan Bradley and Eleanor Wilson in a scene from 'The Sleeping Bear'

The passion that independent filmmakers put into their work is always inspiring, especially when you consider the dedication it takes to produce an original film with limited resources. You’re quickly reminded of the drive these artists have when speaking with Full Sail Film graduates Cameron White and Ryan Bradley, who spent last summer in northern Michigan shooting their first feature, The Sleeping Bear, with 13 former classmates.

Cameron and Ryan began working on The Sleeping Bear over two years ago, while they were roommates in the Film program. Cameron had always wanted to write a story based in his home state of Michigan, and started bouncing different ideas off Ryan. It soon turned into a full partnership, and after graduation the pair moved to Los Angeles to finish developing their script. After a few months of writing they had a final draft they were happy with – a personal story that featured a careful blend of drama, light comedy, and romance.

“The story is about a guy named Michael who has lost his way in the world – then he meets this pastor and his daughter, and accompanies them on a road trip to their cabin in northern Michigan,” Cameron says. “It deals with falling in love, losing love, death in the family, and has a large religious umbrella over it. Everyone we showed it to found something they could connect with, and I think that’s why so many people were drawn to it.”

Despite receiving positive response from different production houses in Hollywood, the filmmakers decided to develop the film on their own – with Cameron as director, and Ryan as producer, as well as the lead actor. They put together a tight shooting schedule, secured their equipment, and began looking for help from friends. A few weeks later they had assembled a crew of 13 grads from their Full Sail class who had committed to a month of filming in Michigan.

“We had such a good group of people in our class, so when we reached out for help with our movie all these friends from different parts of the country came to give us a hand,” Ryan says. “We had people from New York, New Jersey, and California drop what they were doing to be a part of the film, all on their own dime. It was a pretty awesome feeling because they all believed in the project so much.”

The group set up base in a small house Cameron rented, which served as both their living quarters and shooting location for the next four weeks. Filming ran six days a week – about 14 hours a day – but as tough as the shoot was, the footage they captured doesn’t show typical signs of first-time filmmaking. The beautiful locations, ambitious script, and natural performances give The Sleeping Bear a broader sense of scope than a typical low-budget indie feature.

“We wanted there to be a lot of production value to it,” Cameron says. “Northern Michigan has all this built-in beauty, and it gave us these visual dynamics that you normally wouldn’t see. We tried to fit all of that beauty into our frame, and I know people are going to see that a lot of love went into this. I think we have a really compelling experience on our hands. It’s a true indie movie that we’re all proud of and I think it’s going to be really well-received.”

Cameron and Ryan are currently in post-production on The Sleeping Bear, and with the final edit expected in the coming months, the two will be soon submitting it to a number of national film festivals. Speaking to these grads about their two-year journey to complete the project, it’s obvious how much the experience has meant to them both personally and professionally, and they’re already using that inspiration as they start development on their next feature.

The Sleeping Bear helped me realize that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life,” Ryan says. “Once you get a taste of professional acting and producing, it’s really difficult to not be doing that all the time, and that’s my plan for the next year. We’ve got some really ambitious goals, and we’re hoping this next year will see us move on to bigger and better things.

“The fact that we did it has already advanced all of our careers,” Cameron adds. “Just being a 23-year old in the industry, you don’t always get these kinds of opportunities. I got to direct a feature, and all these other people we worked with got to show their skills in other areas – so it’s just the start for all of us. Ryan and I have a couple other projects in the works, and it’s already been a great stepping stone to get to the next level.”

For more information on The Sleeping Bear, visit thesleepingbearmovie.com.

Full Sail University
Full Sail graduates Cameron White and Ryan Bradley brought in 13 classmates to make the film a reality.
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