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Film class breaks a sweat collaborating on short film projects

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Written by Sara Pintilie, The Shorthorn staff THURSDAY, 06 MAY 2010 04:40 PM 0

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collaborative art than a film production, Corrie Slater said.

Slater, a film/video senior, is one of 28 students spending their entire semester working on two film shorts in art professor and Film/video seniors Nicholas Cormier III; Bongani Mlambo;

writer in residence Andy Anderson’s narrative film/video

James Gibke and Andrew Hoverson work with film/video junior Vlad Alexander and sophomore Elliott Gilbert II to complete a shot.

class. During the spring break shoot, they shot Odds first and then Erase for the remainder of spring break.

Though the sets were real sets, the paperwork was real paperwork and the equipment was real amazing, but at the end of the day, it was still a class. They spent their spring break, eight days in total, shooting two films with at least 30 people on set. Each shooting day started early and ended late for the students. The call times started around 10 a.m. and the crew wouldn’t usually leave


until 10 p.m. This was the first time most of the students worked with a crew this large. Thirty or so students equaled 30 things being done at any given moment during shooting. “At first it was frantic, but then we gelled more,” film/video senior D.J. Mele said. “Then it went frantic again. Then gelled. And then we were done.” After each day of the rigorous shooting schedule, 30 students sat around and told the collective three things: What worked, what didn’t and what was a reasonable way to correct it. “There was always screwups,” Anderson said. “But never twice.” On the sixth day of the 8-day shooting schedule, the Architecture Building’s second floor glowed red and green as they shot the second short film, Erase. The film is set in a futuristic world where a father and daughter deal with the repercussions of a shrinking land mass. “If you don’t get this shot in two minutes. We’re not getting it!” film/video junior and first assistant director Jeff Walker said to the camera crew perched on the stairs of the Architecture Building floor. Film/video seniors James Gibke and Bongani Mlambo set the camera in the right spot, while director and film/video senior Nick Cormier III and film/video junior and director of photography Vlad Alexander decided how to frame the shot. “If you left the director of photography to their own devices, he’ll take as much time to get the most beautiful shot,” Walker said. “His job is not to care about the schedule. My job is.” The rest of the crew moved items out of the camera’s view, manned lights, became extras and waited for the take.


The film ran through the camera and all the steps were checked. Then the students rushed to set up their next shot. Though the time to set up a shot varies, they had to keep to a 12-hour shooting schedule and Screen Actors Guild rules where an actor can only work for nine hours a day. Walker made sure Alexander and Cormier stayed on schedule as they worked on the complicated hallway scene that incorporated the use of a lot of black-clothed extras, light setups and dolly work to illustrate a tone of the film. The students even dressed in black and were used as extras as needed “Vlad really did a good job with his lighting scheme,” said John Gomez, film/video senior and key grip. “Though it took a long time, I can appreciate that he didn’t compromise. He got it exactly how he wanted it.”

Film/video junior Vlad Alexander discuss with Patty Newton, film/video graduate student and producer of 'Erase' while film/video senior Bongani Mlambo frames a shot.

Cormier and Alexander worked together on a number of films and were lucky enough to get paired up for the film. In film, it comes down to whom is the last man standing, Cormier said. And Alexander will always be standing at the end.


But with a crew this large, the biggest issue was communication. A hierarchy of delegation was set in place, but if an issue arose, the department was informed and the information trickled down to the right person. “You have to communicate,” film/video senior and set decorator Pasia Torres said about making a film. “It’s a big social thing. Everyone collaborates and creates a big beautiful end.” But most of the students never worked with this communication set up and sometimes it caused problems. Some crew members placed unreal expectations on other members, Mlambo said. But at the end, things got better to the point they had a pretty good rhythm. The expectations on camera were unreal, he said, explaining that he was told to factor 20 minutes into a setting up a shot, but people wanted it done in five minutes. The students were given only one or two jobs per short film, and that was a change for most of the crew to adjust to. Lawrence Gise, Odds production and film/video graduate student, said the intent of giving students only a few jobs is to get them away from being the jack of all trades, wearing all hats on set. This gets students out of the mindset that the director is the only important job or the job to shoot for. “I got to learn,” said Jeff Badyna, film/video junior and best boy. “But I was frustrated a lot because I couldn’t say things that I wanted to say. I wasn’t in a position to be assertive.” But even with frustrations the students encountered on set or during the shoots, they didn’t snap at each other or complain publicly.


“They all had positive attitudes,” Gise said. “No arguments. Everybody’s attitude was ‘what can I do to help?’ ” Film/video sophomore and dolly grip Elliott Gilbert II jumped to help any time a grip was needed, he organized the movement of the camera dolly and was always ready with his gloves on. “Elliott just had this professional attitude the whole time.” said Alex Fuerst, film/video junior and grip. “And he worked hard all the time. He’s one of the people that I saw his work ethic and thought ‘I want him on one of my crews.’ ” By the time they had their last debrief, the students would pause after being asked what didn’t work, trying to think of something that needed to be corrected. The pauses got longer

Film/video seniors James Gibke, Bongani Mlambo and Nicholas Cormier III and film/video junior Jeff Walker work on completing a shot.

as the debriefs multiplied and the issues always changed because the students fixed yesterday’s errors.

“There wasn’t always something valid that everyone had to say,” said Amanda Poore, film/video junior and grip. “But it was good to hear everyone’s thoughts and points of view.” The students had praises for their fellow crew members and none of them hesitated to compliment on a job well done. “It’s a great opportunity to work with so many fellow students on one great project,” Mele said.


The pleases and thank yous go a long way, which helps to see everybody going for the same goals with the same passion, said Arturo Lopez Jr., film/video senior and grip. “Gomez took his time and showed me how to use different equipment,” said Haley Hinshaw, film/video freshman and coordinator. “And Bongani took his time to teach me about the camera.” The students helped each other, explaining different aspects of their jobs and making sure their colleagues understood. “There were times where there were disagreements,” Reema Patel said. “But at the end of the day, we were all a family and had a great time.” At least 12 hours a day for eight days with 30 or so people took its toll on the students, but they want to work in the film industry and their passion was apparent and every order was executed with tenacity as the days wore on. Their spirits never deterred. “You have to love it,” Lopez Jr. said, “because you have to give up your life for it.”

MOVIEMAKERS FILM SERIES SCHEDULE Tuesday — Get to know the students shooting the films and what needs to be done in pre-production. Wednesday — For the first days of shooting, the class is on location in Fort Worth filming Odds during spring break. Today — Now on location for the other film, Erase, the students learn to work with about 30 other crew members. Friday — After months of pre-production and long days of shooting, the students are getting a taste of what their finished product looks like.


RELATED STORIES The life of two film festival entries starts with a pen and paper May 3, 2010 Going behind the scenes with the students producing 'Odds' May 4, 2010

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