CLEMSON — Clemson University senior Horace Priester is getting a head start on his career and he hopes his latest creative project inspires new course offerings at Clemson.

Horace Priester at Clemson Broadcast Productions in the Madren Conference Center

Horace Priester during interview at Clemson Broadcast Productions in the Madren Conference Center

Priester fed and developed a passion for the arts throughout his formative years and brought that drive to Clemson.

He grew up creating his own line of comic books.

“It was called ‘Mohawk Man’ and there are multiple seasons of it,” Priester said. “I recently pulled them out to just kind of look back at them. I would actually rent ‘Mohawk Man’ comics to kids in my classes to read.”

Priester’s mother, Rita, held on to the scripts and publications. Some of his work, like “A Tac in Space,” which he spelled “spase,” dates back to kindergarten. He later scripted “The Pirates,”  “A Hamburger and a Movie,”  “The Amazing Can Man” and others.

Priester’s creativity now has extended to the big screen.

In May 2017, Priester went home for summer break. He interviewed for multiple internships, but they didn’t pan out.

Some of Priester's childhood comics.

Some of Priester’s childhood comics.

“So I was kind of stuck at home, and I was like, ‘This was the summer to advance myself.’ So I just started with a circle, any hero’s story and began plotting it out,” Priester said.

The result was a screenplay for a film that led to the creation of a new student organization at Clemson.

“I began writing the piece and got a friend of mine involved to help co-write it. We really were just writing the screenplay for the purpose of just writing it,” Priester said.

After he and his friend, Aleks Kapetanovic (who also plays the main character in the film), wrote the script, Priester sought funding for the project through Clemson’s Undergraduate Student Government funding board.

“They informed me only student organizations had projects that were funded, and that is when Tiger Scratch Productions was born,” Priester said.

The new Tiger Scratch Productions student organization made it possible for Priester to get the funds to produce the film “The Letters that Guided Us.

“It really is three story lines of our protagonist’s life and it’s set in the 1970s Vietnam War era right after the United States exited the war,” Priester said. “That’s what the film is about, generally, but what it’s truly about is forgiveness, making things right with people and it’s something I think a lot of people can apply to their lives and need to hear.”

It is no small feat to complete a film from concept to big screen in less than a year, but Priester and his team did it, working from May 2017 to February 2018.

“We shot probably 10 weekends over the fall, and it was tough in the fall because of Clemson football, so everyone’s schedule is a lot harder,” Priester said.

Some cast members left because of scheduling conflicts, forcing him to recast in the middle of production, but he chalked the entire process up as a learning experience.

“You just have to adjust. You’ve got to keep going. You’ve got to make it work,” Priester said. “When things don’t go your way, you’ve got to fix it. You have to just make it happen.”

The premier showing of “The Letters That Guided Us” in Clemson University’s Hendrix Center, Feb. 10, 2018. Image Credit: University Relations

The premier showing of “The Letters That Guided Us” in Clemson University’s Hendrix Center, Feb. 10, 2018. Image Credit: University Relations

Priester stayed motivated by envisioning himself seated in a packed house in the Hendrix Center’s McKissick Theatre as the lights went down for the movie.

That vision came true.

Priester held a black-tie affair to premiere “The Letters That Guided Us,” and the lobby outside McKissick Theatre looked like a scene from a Hollywood red carpet event as the movie’s cast, production team, friends and family gathered for the showing, all dressed to the nines.

Invitees left the premiere giving Priester two thumbs up for the movie.

“Each scene was pretty ambitious,” Priester said. “When you see the film, you’re at a house, but you have to go find the house. You have to go knocking on doors to convince someone to let you use that house and then when you finally get the house, it doesn’t look like what you want so you’ve got to pull everything out of it and rebuild the interior. Or say the scene calls for a bus with a whole lot of people on it. How do you get a bus and a whole lot of people?”

Priester recalls thinking, “Comparatively, writing the script was easy; making the film, not so much.”

“I feel like everybody who wants to create anything has to think about it and really want it, and that will get them through any of the tough parts of the process,” Priester said.

Priester is entering “The Letters That Guided Us” in the College Television Awards, also known as the Student Emmy Awards, the Student Academy Awards and several film festivals.

Priester is a communication and business major. A real “go-to” guy on campus for all things video, he started networking with like-minded creative people and started building his portfolio.

“I was originally just a business major and the closest thing Clemson has to media or anything like that is communication,” Priester said. “In high school, I did a lot of sports videos and that took me into doing sports videos here.

Director Horace Priester and two of his stars walk the red carpet at the premiere of his movie, “The Letters That Guided Us,” in Clemson University’s Hendrix Center, Feb. 10, 2018.

Director Horace Priester and cast members Aleks Kapetanovic, and Justin Burrell walk the red carpet. Image Credit: University Relations

“Video production is huge, social media and marketing are massive and Clemson has a lot of athletic video productions,” he said.

Clemson’s department of communication offers two video production courses, but Priester hopes the department can add more classes in the future as employer demands rise for videographers and multimedia journalists.

Priester graduates in May, but he secured funding to begin shooting a second movie this spring so members of Tiger Scratch Productions can continue working on films as a student organization.

“Clemson students have the opportunity to do anything they want, even if the courses aren’t there. If it’s not there, you create it. That’s what I did,” Priester said.

The filmmaker plans to make “The Letters That Guided Us” public on his website later this spring.