Of all the low-budget, high-concept ideas an independent filmmaker could take on — the chamber play, the boxing film, the cabin in the woods — the war film can be the most challenging because of the immense amount of resources — costumes, sets, props, special and visual effects, sound design and on-screen action — needed to bring such a story believably to life. With Foxhole, independent feature director Jack Fessenden achieves a significant level of believability thanks to the contributions of the aforementioned departments and cinematographer Collin Brazie.
Foxhole is composed of three stories, each set during a different conflict: the American Civil War, in 1864; World War I, in 1917; and the Iraq War, in 2004. Each takes place in a confined space — a foxhole in the first two segments and a Humvee in the last — where a different group of American soldiers (all with one exception played by the same actors) must navigate the tenebrous moral issues around killing the complete strangers who are trying to kill them. By constraining almost all of the action to one small location for each segment, the filmmakers were able to extend more of their modest budget toward other departments, including camera.
According to Fessenden, Brazie joined the production a mere 10 days before the shoot and hit the ground running. “We quickly found our rapport as we made our way through the script,” says the director. “On set, Collin was always two steps ahead, plotting how we would make our days, which sometimes called for as many as 25 setups. A highlight of our collaboration was the pass-off: a camera move that would be impossible to make with a single operator; Collin would start the shot, then he’d pass me the camera and I’d finish it off.”
“With indie films there are always budget, time and crew constraints,” says Brazie, who met with AC in New York City to discuss the lenses, lighting and visual language of Foxhole. “But our constraints led to interesting ideas.”
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