Le Moyne Gets Cast In The Zeno Question

This summer Le Moyne  was used as the backdrop for the film, The Zeno Question. The screenplay was written by Le Moyne’s own Patrick Lawler, who teaches in the Creative Writing department. Alongside Lawler throughout the process was director and co-writer Ted Schaefer, who helped him bring the script to life.

The Zeno Question according to Schaefer is “an abstract view of college and the existential angst we all encounter.” Lawler on the other hand feels the film is an honest take on the college experience.

“I don’t feel there are many honest movies about the college experience,” said Lawler. “Capturing the confusion and the exhilaration. The many paradoxes discovered in finding oneself in a bigger world.”

The dramatic comedy is based on true stories of students and professors at Le Moyne and elsewhere. Schaefer and Lawler both said the film aims to keep the audience laughing while also thinking.

“It’s a philosophical comedy,” said Schaefer. “[It] intertwines ancient greek philosophy and playwriting with modern day escapism and dread.”

Campus proved to be a realistic setting for the script, as Professor Lawler found inspiration for the screenplay from his own experiences as a college student here him at Le Moyne.

“Le Moyne was the perfect setting for the film, for many reasons,” said Schaefer. “Not the least of which is that Patrick Lawler, my co-writer, went to Le Moyne and some of the stories in the film occurred there.”

Lawler explained there were three highlights from shooting the film on campus.

“One was having the film shot in the old Nelligan dorm room that I resided in during my sophomore year,” said Lawler.

Aside from writing the story, Professor Lawler was heavily involved in the organization and coordination of filming, and also had a role as an actor.

“The second [highlight] was performing the role of a philosophy professor with dementia who was teaching my former self,” said Lawler. “He needed to be performed with dignity, and, though a minor character, in some ways he becomes central to the meaning of the script.”

The Zeno Question was filmed over the period of only one week, as it took three days to plan and prepare for filming and three days to actually film. Schaefer described the experience of shooting at Le Moyne as one that he is grateful for having.

“I couldn’t have enjoyed [the experience] any more,” said Schaefer. “They were incredibly accommodating and the campus and facilities are beautiful. More than we could ever have asked for.”

Other members of Schaefer’s team included a number of professional individuals from New York City with whom Schaefer had worked with on previous projects. The casting was done separately, with the help of the filmmaker Dustin Guy Defa, who put the actors and actresses in touch with the director. Some current Le Moyne students even appear in the film as extras.

While working on the film, 13 actors and members of the crew were accommodated with places to stay, and places to work.

The script for The Zeno Question was awarded a grant from the David Ross Fetzer Foundation after being selected from a short film competition. The foundation was created to provide filmmakers and playwrights 35 years or younger, with opportunity and funds to support and mentor their innovative ideas.

“They’ve been incredibly helpful,” said Schaefer.  “The grant was for a camera package and assistance with some of our lighting needs.”

The foundation will also provide a platform for the film to be shown. The Zeno Question will premiere on December 15, at the David Ross Fetzer Foundation Showcase in Salt Lake City.