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  • Writer's pictureAshley Wenger

Deep Structure Productions

Great stories bring people together, spark conversations, push ideas, and grow our minds.

Deep Structure Productions, in Staunton, VA, is an “indie film studio dedicated to telling great stories, generating dialogue, and fostering fun.” The production company began in 2014, led by a team of three- Lysandra Petersson, Zach Laliberte, and Zan Gillies, and is now a full-spectrum production house. Between the three of them, Lysandra, Zach, and Zan have decades of industry experience. Lysandra, a Shenandoah Valley native, has a degree in creative writing from Hampshire College. She wrote and directed Deep Structure’s second feature film, “Bell Canyon,” and several other short films and series. She and her husband Zach were both part of the Monday Night Writers Group, in Los Angeles. Zach, originally from Tennessee, graduated with a degree in acting from Columbia College in Chicago. Zan, Lysandra’s brother, was the director of photography on Deep Structure’s first two features and has written, directed, and produced more than a dozen short films and music videos as an independent filmmaker.

Today, Deep Structure Productions services a wide variety of clients and projects. They’ve produced everything from music videos and short films to commercials, documentaries, and feature films, “We believe that all forms of video, from corporate commercials to fictional narratives, can be innovative, important, and captivating.” The team takes a holistic approach to filmmaking and covers the entire process from concept to final edit, “We’re dedicated to producing engaging content by applying the principles of visual storytelling to all types of video projects. From scripting and storyboarding to post-production and graphics, we work with clients to make their vision come to life.” They also offer various workshops on all aspects of film production to share their craft with their community.

Lysandra, Zach, and Zan balance client projects with their creative projects. “Right now, the client projects are what pays the bills,” says Lysandra, “Our goal is to build our own sound stage and sets so we can produce more movies, but I still want to continue doing client projects because there are a lot of people with really great missions who I think we can help.” One of their latest projects, VPM’s Life in the Heart Land series, is a harmonious blend of client work and creativity. The docuseries, which airs on VPM PBS, explores the innovative solutions that people in rural Virginia are using to solve problems in their communities. “The rural parts of our country are often left out of important community-based decisions, and that can result in limited access to critical resources. Life in the Heart Land offers a look into these obstacles, and how members of these communities are working to clear them,” said Lysandra (VPM PBS). “One of the goals of Life in the Heart Land is to lift up the voices in these rural communities and share the progress that’s been made and what still needs to be done,” said VPM executive producer Mason Mills (VPM PBS).

In season one, episode three, the docuseries focuses on the issue of recycling and sustainability in Staunton, VA, and highlights local entrepreneur, Scott Tiernan. Scott is the founder of POP Plastic which fabricates furniture, home goods, and accessories out of broken-down, recycled plastic. Lysandra met Scott during one of his plastic collection events at Refill Renew, “I thought what he was doing was really cool, and I was inspired by his grassroots solution to the problem of sustainability.” POP Plastic and Deep Structure Productions are both SCCF clients; Scott went through two cohorts of SCCF’s Startup Shenandoah Valley accelerator with POP Plastic (Read more about POP Plastic on our blog), and Deep Structure went through VIDA (SCCF’s former match savings and financial education program), “We were able to make Life in the Heart Land because of the support we received through SCCF. If we hadn't done the VIDA savings program, which got us our second camera, we could not have produced this show when VPM approached us about it.” Lysandra also went through SCCF’s Business Bootcamp program to strengthen her business skills, “I have some background in business but the bootcamp program helped give me tools for things like cash flow projections and business plans.”

During that Bootcamp session, Lysandra met Jason and Danielle LaRose, the founders of Queen City Silviculture, a local tree service in Staunton. Now, almost six years later, the two are looking to reconnect for this project, “At some point, I want to do an episode on forestry and, if we do, I hope to feature Queen City Silviculture. I'm inspired by the people in our community and the way that QCS thinks of forestry in terms of the whole ecosystem,” says Lysandra. There’s something that feels almost magical about entrepreneurs, who are in completely separate industries, coming together to work with and support each other.

In addition to collaborating with those outside of the film/production industry, the team is also making an effort to build their community within their industry. Although the Shenandoah Valley is not the booming Hollywood where Lysandra began her career, there is a developing community of filmmakers and producers popping up. “There’s certainly less competition in Staunton than in Los Angelos, but there’s a feeling of communal prosperity that’s unique to small towns. We’ve become friends with other producers in the area, and we rely on each other’s expertise since everyone has their niche,” says Lysandra as she describes the ecosystem for filmmakers. “We’ve made connections through SCCF’s Bootcamp, attending community events like Creative Mornings, and hosting film get-togethers to bring people together.”

Deep Structure Productions' first movie, 500 Fireflies, is projected to be done by the end of 2023. You can watch Life in the Heart Land online at VPM PBS. If you’re interested in SCCF’s business support or funding options, check out our programs and microloan fund.

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