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Walkup Films up to 1,000 subscribers
Bryce Willis, Jon Walkup, and Kyle Freeman look over the footage they shot for an upcoming full-length feature film. The three high school juniors have built up more than 1,000 subscribers to their YouTube channel – - photo by JASON CAMPBELL
What started out as just a gag for Jon Walkup and a few of his buddies has turned into the real deal.

At first having Walkup film the antics of himself and his two best friends – Bryce Willis and Kyle Freeman – became sort of a way for the trio to later laugh at the outlandish things that they caught on tape, and maybe share the footage with friends.

But as they got older – and as technology evolved – the movie missions started turning into short films that Walkup posted on the popular video site where he has his own channel showcasing the dozen or so shorts that they created.

Now they’ve got more than 1,000 subscribers and are setting their sights on something even bigger – producing a full-length feature film about the experiences that high school students have with foreign exchange students.

And they’re shooting for the moon with this one. Once they wrap it up later this year, Walkup wants to submit it for consideration at the Sundance Film Festival.

“It’s definitely a long shot, but it would be something that would be so cool,” Walkup said. “Just a week of movies and snowboarding and everything that goes with it.

“We’re planning on entering it into other film festivals as well and hopefully we’ll get selected at one of them.”

Entitled The Exchange, the movie centers on the awkward experiences that foreign exchange students have with the host students they’re staying with – evolving from standoffish in the beginning to true friendship before it’s all said and done.

Walkup said that he stayed up until 4 a.m. writing the script for the movie, and both Willis and Freeman dove right in to the story as soon as they got their hands on it.

And the rest, as they say, was history.

The group made the editing jump to the industry-standard Final Cut program, and began coming up with constructive ways to save money but still get the same quality effect – like attaching a light to the extension portion of a pool skimmer.

Filming is already underway with locations like Ripon’s bike bridge over the Stanislaus River and the Stockton Metropolitan Airport making early appearances, and while the movie will have several heartfelt moments, the trio says they’re still sticking to their roots and keeping things comedic.

Local musician Taylor Vick has also lent the use of her music to score the film.

Once everything is completed, Walkup plans on releasing a trailer on You Tube and holding an event at a local theater – most likely the Marketplace Stadium 10 Cinemas where the guys said spent a large portion of their youth – to premiere the movie that will be filmed locally.

It’s not a bad gig for a group of kids that can’t even get in to see the movies that they want to watch.

“You have to be creative about how you do it,” said Willis – the only 17-year-old in the group and the only one technically legal to purchase tickets to an R-rated movie. “Some places won’t ask, but others are brutal about making sure that you’re old enough – and that makes it hard when there are so many great movies out like there are right now.”

Freeman – who harbors an ambition for still photography and plays leading roles in the majority of Walkup’s films – says that he just enjoys the ability to share the time he spends with his friends with other people and have them respond positively to it.

“It’s pretty cool to be making something and having everybody appreciate it,” he said. “You get to be creative and have fun, and when people enjoy watching that it makes it even better.”

To view the productions of Walkup Films, visit More information can also be found on the group’s regularly updated blog at NOTE: Some of the videos contain adult language.