The University of Arizona Film and Televison program hosts an annual film presentation and competition as a final project for their graduating students. It is the first opportunity to see the original films from the student filmmakers before they take their work to major film festivals all over the world.
The project includes 12 short films that compete for over $6000 in awards including cash prizes, gift certificates, software and studio credit that students can use to further their creative work.
The films have taken nine months to create, and we filmakers are preparing for its premiere at ‘I Dream in Widescreen’ this Saturday, April 28.
For the 14 Film & Television students pursuing bachelor of fine arts degrees, the process began back before the fall 2018 semester when the first script drafts were due on August 1. This kicked off pre-production, which consisted of script rewrites, extensive production planning, casting calls and assembling crew.
For some it took five or six drafts, for others more than fifteen, but somehow we finalized our scripts while planning for production and began shooting in October.
It’s a surreal feeling when camera and sound are rolling and you’re given the go-ahead from your assistant director to call action for the first time.
Watching the scene and characters that had been living in your head for so long come to life in front of your eyes, and knowing that so many dedicated friends and peers contributed to this moment is unforgettable.
Carolyn McKee, a senior studying Film & Television and philosophy, is one of the student filmmakers who will be showcasing her capstone this Saturday. McKee said the day before she began principle photography on her capstone film she was anxious, staying up all night to finish some production design and stressing out over the weekend ahead.
“The night before I direct I’m always a mess,” McKee said. “I’m like, ‘oh my god, nothing’s going to work at all and why do I even make movies…’ and then once you actually get on set and start directing you get your groove back.”
McKee’s film, “Snooze,” is about a teenager trying to navigate school, a father-son relationship and undiagnosed narcolepsy, and features several dream sequences with complex practical effects created by McKee and her production design team.
Sara Luu, a film and television senior also working on her capstone project for the BFA, was the production designer for “Snooze” as well as five other capstone films in order to fulfill her alternative thesis project with an emphasis in production design. Instead of creating her own film, Luu created sets to bring her classmates’ stories to life.
Other films in the program include “Runaways”, written and directed by Destiny Moreno, a film about a bride and her maid of honor escaping the bachelorette party to cruise the town, not knowing that the other is hodling a deep secret that could change their lives.
“Numb”, directed by Christina Close, a film about a woman’s encounter with and underwater world, “Delta Mu Mu”, written and directed by Catherine Hilbert about a documentary crew investigating the secret hiden by a sorority, and a handful of others.
Once production was completed, post-production began in full swing. First cuts of the short films were being completed before the end of the semester and some were going back to reshoot scenes and pick up new or unfinished sequences as early as December.
Picture editing comes first, which is when the story begins to come together. Shots are paired together to make scenes, scenes arranged to make a rough cut and the rough cut is refined over weeks off of feedback given by classmates, teachers and outside sources.
It’s an arduous, detailed process where decisions come down to literal frames of footage. Lines of dialogue and sometimes whole scenes are left on the cutting room floor in the effort to find the most compelling, tonally consistent way to tell the story buried among hours of footage.
Once the fine cut is reached, it’s time for sound and color. Sound designing a film is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated tasks in the film making process.
The sheer amount of time that goes into perfectly building and mixing a film’s dialogue, sound effects, music and background tracks is staggering, but makes all the difference in the final product. Coloring film is a similar process in that it takes extensive time and energy to craft something that immerses the audience effortlessly.
We lost track of how many cups of coffee, hours of sleep and moments of stress-induced insanity were sacrificed to these films, but in the end we all made it to the final submission. Now all there’s left to do is wait for the premiere this Saturday and prepare for the future, both for our films and ourselves.
“Everything that you learn in the program is suddenly applied to one single idea that you have,” said Alicia Farmer, a film and television senior and the writer and director of “James,” one of the capstone films. “This is how I put my degree to its finest extent [sic] and see that I’ve learned all of this… and seeing what I’m able to produce is a proud moment for me.”
As exciting as it is to be at the conclusion of this insane journey, it’s bittersweet. I’ve never worked so hard on any project in my life and there are times when you feel like you can’t possibly continue.
As an undergraduate capstone ought to be, it’s a representation of my four years here at the UA School of Theatre, Film & Television, complete with the skills I’ve learned and friends I’ve made over that time. It’s a culmination of everything we’ve learned, all we’ve persisted through and I can’t help but be incredibly proud, not only of my own work but the work of my classmates and every person involved in these 12 short films.
So as this semester winds down and some college careers come to an end, I invite you to celebrate the end of 14 film students’ undergraduate journeys at the Fox Theater on April 28. I assure you, it will be one incredible show.
For more information visit 'I Dream in Widescreen'
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