SVAD's Feature Film

Southern’s School of Visual Arts and Design (SVAD) kicked off production this past July of its latest feature film, titled "Belly of the Whale." This feature is a joint venture between current film students, SVAD alumni, and their professors and features Mark Ashworth, a professional Atlanta-based actor. The release is scheduled for Summer 2018.

Although the film’s summary is kept in strict confidentiality, three facts emerge: (1) the story calls for a trojan horse; (2) every scene shot will be in and around Chattanooga; and (3) Southern’s associate film professor Nicholas Livanos, MFA, wrote and directs this feature. It is also important to note that SVAD produced the Adventist classic movie "Secret of the Cave," which received a Heartland Film Festival “Crystal Heart” award.

We interviewed recent SVAD alum David Mancao on his role in the feature film and any advice he has for aspiring filmmakers and actors.

  • Can you give a short synopsis of what this film is about?
    Not sure if I can really say...
  • Why is SVAD creating this feature film?
    It's been awhile since SVAD has produced a feature. I know it's something everyone has wanted to do for a while. There is something about being on set, working on a production, 12 hours a day, five days a week, where your primary focus is your job on the production. That's something that you can't learn from a text book. You need to learn by actually making a film.
  • How did you get involved with this? What is your role in the production?
    I told David George, our film professor, I wanted to be involved in the project. I have been an assistant director on many sets during my time in school and wanted to put my experience to the test on a bigger project.

    My role in production is the second assistant director (AD). The assistant director's unit does a lot of team management and logistics for the flow of the production. We break down the script and we schedule 84 pages full of action, scenes, dialogue, various locations and cast members, and stunts into three weeks of filming. It's a big job, but it's creative problem-solving. I enjoy it.

    Our first AD is from Cali, working in Hollywood, so it's been great to work alongside him and also receive mentorship from someone who is working in the industry.  
  • What has been the coolest thing to happen on set so far?
    Well, we had a five-car explosion the other day that was pretty cool... (Just kidding!)

    From my perspective, it's been incredible to see how we have meshed as a team. Comparing the first day to where we are now, the production is going smooth, and we're all working together well. Everyone is flexible, and we're hitting our benchmarks, and then some.

    It's also great to see words on paper come to life. The story calls for a trojan horse, and to see a trojan horse roll onto the set is pretty incredible.
  • What advice would you give to aspiring film majors?
    Be prepared for a lot of work. It's a lot. Call time is 7:00 a.m. at the location, carpool leaves campus at 6:30 a.m. You wake up early. Then you got 12 hours of onset, of moving heavy equipment and fighting the clock to get the shot just right. It's exciting, but it's not a cake walk.

    Although it's a lot of work, it's inspiring. If you're a creative, and you see the thing you create come to life, it's just indescribable. Don't lose that spark, even though it seems like it's so much work and it does not seem worth it. When you see the credits roll down, and you see your name, you'll realize the blood, sweat, and tears were worth it.

    Set your ego at the door. You're working with all sorts of people. Some might be better than you. Some might not know as much as you do. You don't want your ego to destroy your reputation. If it does, people won't want to work with you, and then you have to do everything yourself, and guess what? You can't do everything yourself.

If you are interested in being part of the "Belly of the Whale," extras are needed to form the audience in a scene this Thursday, August 10 from 6-8 p.m. in Chattanooga. For more information, shoot an email to

SVADFeatureFilmPictured: First Camera Assistant (left) David Bunzey and Cinematographer (right) Royce Pajela work on lining up the RED cinema camera for a shot.

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