Class Combines Forces

Rule: teaching a group of creative young people requires you yourself to be… well, creative.

One of the things I love about teaching is that it continually forces you to dream, invent, and design new methods and approaches for students to engage with their crafts. The students in this semester’s Production 2 course have lit frame recreations, produced a foley pit audio exercise, and edited a music video (shot by Music-Video-Director-in-Residence Jeremy Tremp). The bar has been set very high for all three projects, so for the class’s final project, I wanted us to do something big.

In the previous production classes I have taught, I have had the students write and shoot independent 2-minute projects called “scene studies.” These projects are shot by student crews within one class period, and they are often comedic, light-hearted, and a lot of fun to shoot. These scene studies are isolated pieces with no real connection to each other. So for this final project, I wanted to challenge the students to produce something that could be shot by multiple directors, with different student crews, and over many class periods, and still be connected by the characters and plot. So what did we come up with?

“Pitch Day” tells the story of two writers who have to formulate an amazing “calling card” scene for a hotshot student director headed for Hollywood. We start with a ‘writer’s room’ scenario where the characters sit around and say ‘what if?’ and pitch ideas. Those ideas are then, to use a film term, “Cut To:” as live action scenes. The scenes interact in a playful way…if a writer changes the location, our characters are suddenly shown in that new location. Near the end of the film, the team finally settles on a scene that they like…but Gandalf the intern spills coffee on all of the scripts. (Whoops). When he dries them with his magic, he inadvertently blends all of the scenes together into one final scene. The final scene is (hopefully) about as screwball as you can get, as it incorporates elements from past pitches such as low-budget Narnia, espionage, and terribly disjointed dialogue. Will the scene be a success? Will the actors hate it? Will our director use it to land his Hollywood dream job? You’ll have to keep an eye on our YouTube page to find out!

A number of writers have contributed to improving this project, including Maggie Nelson, Lisette Perez, Dexter Van Horn, Joe Stone, and our own Cinema Studies Professor Jeannie Berg.

Our film is Breakfast Club meets Groundhog Day meets Community. And hopefully, like many of our efforts here at HUAZ, sets a fine precedent for incoming Production 2 classes that embodies the “professional yet fun” approach we all have come to know and enjoy from our HU Pioneers.

article by Phil Wilson, Program Director and Lead Film Faculty. (Published in The Filmstrip, April 2017 edition.)