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Going behind the scenes with the students producing 'Odds'

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Written by Sara Pintilie, The Shorthorn staff TUESDAY, 04 MAY 2010 06:28 PM 0

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“Quiet on set!”

film/video senior Patrick McKinley said to the film crew. tweet

“Roll sound!” “Rolling!” film/video junior Alex Fuerst said as he slipped on headphones. Film/video junior Vlad “Roll Camera!” McKinley said to the three-person camera crew, film/video seniors Bongani Mlambo and Tiffany Spencer and film/video junior Vlad Alexander.

Alexander and senior Bongani Mlambo finish putting a camera together while on location.

“Speed,” Spencer said as the film clicked through the camera. A brief moment passed, like the collective was taking a deep breath. “Action!”


Day two of an eight-day stretch of filming was under way for the narrative film class during spring break. “Once you embark outside this university, you have a bunch of things to deal with that you didn’t think about before,” art professor and writer-in-residence Andy Anderson said on the second day of class back in February. Ten weeks of pre-production have passed, and lessons about pre-production, money and the paperwork in making a film have been learned. At this point, the crew is on location during spring break filming its first short, Odds. Odds is about a bank heist where two inexperienced bank robbers step on each other’s toes. “I realized how important pre-production is,” film/video junior Amanda Poore said. “But I like shooting more than pre-production — it’s in the moment.” The first day of filming, March 13, was mainly a training day where the students got the feel of the equipment and the crew. “It’s like an old car,” Odds producer and film/video graduate student Lawrence Gise said while they were waiting for the next shot to be set up.


“Once you get them together it won’t turn over, but after awhile, it works great,” he said. “The crew had esprit de corps.” By day two, the crew worked through logistical problems they encountered — like forgetting to bring sunscreen. “People were thinking about a million other things, and the sun was the last on the list,” grip and film/video senior James Gibke said. On the bright and beautiful day, the crew set up shop in a Film/video junior Alex Fuerst listens to a scene at the sound station while on location for 'Odds'.

desolate field hidden next to Tandy Hills Park in Fort Worth. From the forgotten property, past the battered sign, the crew

can see downtown and a lot of sky. A bathroom break requires a car ride to the nearest gas station. Spencer, Odds camera operator, parked her truck right in the middle of the cracked, overgrown pavement so they can use the added height for a complicated moving shot. Next to the truck, Fuerst sat at the sound station, checking levels and his logs. “This is such a hostile environment for sound,” he said, slightly frustrated after one take.


The dead trees. The bright, uncomfortable lighting. The sense of isolation. But they were only about 50 yards away from Interstate 30. One take was postponed because a Harley-Davidson motorcycle blew by, Fuerst said. After the shot was completed, key and dolly grip and film/video sophomore Elliott Gilbert II stood in the bed of a truck where the J.L. Fisher camera dolly, a piece of equipment to allow smooth movement of the camera, sat. He called for grips, crew members who deal with lighting, and seven rushed over to help him move the dolly. “Thanks for the fast response,” he said as they helped him move the $150,000 dolly. The three camera crew members — the director of photography, camera operator and first assistant — pulled out the cases holding parts of the Panavision Panaflex Gold — a $400,000 camera. “It was something special,” said Mlambo, director of photography. “A lot of people, for the most part, never will shoot on 35mm film, ever. That camera is an industry standard.” Both the dolly and camera were donated for 10 days, along with other technical equipment, film and eight days of food, enough to feed about 40 people. Film/video freshman Haley Hinshaw said she had to call restaurant general managers and sweet talk them into giving her and the crew 40 cups of coffee. The camera assembling took about 20 minutes as the camera crew carefully made sure they did everything Panavision trained them to do the Friday before shooting.


Director and film/video senior D.J. Mele worked with professional actors hired for the film, Julia Woodfin and David Emerson, as Mlambo figured out the lighting. Every time a shot was being framed, the crew jumped to attention and organized chaos ensued. Everyone put all their energy into setting up reflectors, fixing actors’ makeup, making sure the car prop is in the right place and accomplishing other tasks needed to make the next shot perfect. Once everything clicked into place, the shot was ready. The film rolled and the take was written down as a good one. Then, everything started over. New shot. New camera movements. New light setups. New frame. New take. And repeat. “Every single position matters,” grip and slate holder Reema Patel said. “Whether you’re a production assistant, grip or director, each and every job is important to make a production.” Most of the students, on both academic and personal projects, usually work with about five people. This crew, however, has about 30 members on set.

Film/video seniors D.J. Mele and Tiffany Spencer watch as film/video senior Bongani Mlambo frames a shot.

“In a small crew, you are wearing like, five hats,” production designer Chris Crowell said. “But as of here, you have one job and you can focus on that one job.” Everyone had a job to do, one for each short film, instead of having


many like they would usually have on smaller productions. “It feels like a proper set,” second assistant director Kaitlin Scott said. “And what you’re producing is a good product and something you can put your name on it with pride.” As the sun set, the last shot of the day was finally up, and the crew worked toward wrapping up the long day. The camera was positioned, the reflectors were placed to bounce the right amount of light onto the right amount of actor, and the shot was framed. The crew stopped moving around and watched. “Ready?” McKinley asked Mele. Mele double checked the shot. “Yeah,” he said. “Quiet on set!” McKinley yelled to the film crew.

RELATED STORIES The life of two film festival entries starts with a pen and paper May 3, 2010

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 18 August 2010 02:49 PM )

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