New Albany News

Senior seminar project

Varney reimagines history in World War I short film


What if prominent European leaders had gathered on July 27, 1914, the night before World War I began, and tried to work out their differences?

That's what 17-year-old Justin Varney imagined when he wrote The Dogs of War, a 21-minute film he created for his senior seminar project at New Albany High School. The senior seminar project is a graduation requirement for which students document at least 80 hours of research and work on a project.

Varney, who has been involved in theater at New Albany High School for four years, said he spent six months writing the play, recruiting actors and filming and editing it.

"I wanted to do something that wasn't so conventional, something that had not been done here 1,000 times before," he said. "So I thought of a film."

Writing the story was the easy part, he said. Filming and editing were the most difficult.

"The story was based off of a confidential meeting that was supposed to happen on the eve of the first world war," he said.

Varney said he decided the meeting would have to take place in a mansion and decided to use the Ealy House at 6359 Dublin-Granville Road, a mid-19th-century building restored by the New Albany-Plain Township Historical Society.

Varney received permission from the historical society to film at the house and had one day to film the entire play.

Four hundred and thirty takes later, daylight was waning and there wasn't time to film his ending, he said.

So, he improvised.

"I think the impromptu ending worked better than what I had in my original story because it got the message across more than the original ending," Varney said.

Varney will screen the film at 7 p.m. today, March 7, at the historical society meeting at the Plain Township Fire Station, 9500 Johnstown Road.

Society member Marilyn Saveson said the members are excited to see it.

The cast features New Albany High School students and alumni:

* Brody Howell as German Emperor Wilhelm II

* Will Russell as Swiss Federal Councillor Arthur Hoffmann

* Trevor McInnes as King George V of the United Kingdom

* Alan Greinberg as Czar Nicholas II of Russia

* David Schaffer as Emperor Charles I of Austria

* Ryan Javery as King Peter I of Serbia

* Dan Luther and Parker Schopenhauer as servants

Varney said he is considering Heidelberg University and would like to develop his interests in history and theater.

"I definitely want to go into something with history, possibly continuing on with acting," he said.