Vesuvius is Joshua Little's senior thesis project for Vanderbilt University's Cinema and Media Arts major. It is a short film on the 79 CE eruption of Mount Vesuvius that destroyed the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. It focuses on the story of Pliny the Elder, a Roman historian and scientist who lost his life trying to study the erupting volcano. It follows the narrative of the letter written by his nephew, Pliny the Younger, to a Roman historian, Tacitus. In this narrative, Pliny the Elder, upon seeing the erupting volcano from his home on the other side of the Bay of Naples, decides to sail to Vesuvius to study it up close. He is informed that some of his friends living in the town of Oplontis, at the base of the mountain, are in need of rescue. On the way, he passes the city of Herculaneum, whose residents are trapped and in need of aid. He decides to continue past them to Vesuvius, although rocks raining down on his ships prevent him from getting to the mountain. He diverts course to the town of Stabiae, to the south of Pompeii, where he stays with a friend, Pomponianus. When Vesuvius destroys Herculaneum and Oplontis, Pliny and his friend decide to evacuate Stabiae. Rather than depart with the inhabitants of Stabiae, Pliny stays behind, dying in the poisonous gases from the volcano.
Vesuvius was made using a combination of live action, miniature, and digital footage. Most of the live action scenes were filmed in front of a bluescreen with professional actors, although some physical sets were built as well. It was filmed over five separate days in the basement of the director's house, which was temporally converted into a studio of sorts. A miniature set was built for the mountain and the land surrounding the Bay of Naples as well as the house of Pomponianus. The miniature volcano measured 8 feet by 8 feet at the base and was a little over one foot tall at the summit. In order to get several of the camera angles, it was necessary to cut a hole in the base of the miniature. The volcano effects were made using a combination of stock footage and CGI, and digital models were used to make the ships as well as the towns of Pompeii, Herculaneum, Stabiae, and Oplontis. The music was composed by Spencer Channell, using percussion, string, and brass instuments.