This year’s changes to the Electronic Media emphasis of the Communication major at The Master’s College came to life Wednesday, April 28 as the department put on the First Annual Student Film Festival in Hotchkiss Hall. Starting at 7:00p.m., the two short films, Life of Death and Murder of Crowe, were screened, followed by a Q&A session with the cast and crew.
The first-of-its-kind festival was the world premiere of these short films, which will be submitted to other festivals this summer.
“I think the direction we’re going is super encouraging,” said Communication Department professor, Matt Green. “It’s going to open doors for these students.”
Students in the Directing II course got to work with professional film crews and Screen Actors Guild actors in the class’s new format. This is part of the communication department’s recent efforts to give its students a head start on building their résumés.
“They look like super expensive films, but they were made on a shoestring budget,” Green said.
Directing II students were split into groups, each pitching a concept to Green and professor Bob Dickson. Only two would be greenlit. The stories would then be adapted by Green and Anthony Tyler Quinn into a screenplay. Quinn is best known for his portrayal of Mr. Turner in the television series, Boy Meets World.
“The students are so passionate about what they’re doing,” Quinn said, who is also in the cast of both films. “Their mind set is, ‘I really love this… I want to do the best I can.’ So, it’s always great to work with people like that instead of people that are jaded.”
Murder of Crowe, directed by Cammy Ylo and Kelli Clark, as the name implies, is a murder mystery.
“Cammy and I sat together at Honu Coffee and just decided, ‘Okay, we know we want death’”, Clark said. “… So we just kind of came up with the concept of the wife coming home and seeing that her husband had been cheating. We came up with that basic concept… and they [Green and Quinn] ended up writing the script for us.”
Though it was not planned, both short films deal with the topic of death. Life of Death, which explores the concept of death as a line of work, takes a comedic approach. Rather than portraying death as ominous, Joe, the reaper-like protagonist, is ordinary. He is designed to be funny and relatable.
“Jeff and I have both had situations that have encountered death,” Kim Smither said. Smither directed Life of Death alongside Jeff Caparula. “…As Christians, we always look at it [death]… celebrating, because someone gets to go and see The Lord. And that’s exciting. That’s happy, while other people paint it as this gloomy, heartbreaking, terrible thing.”
While the films were under five minutes each, production took several hours. An outdoor scene for Life of Death took most of a day to capture involved a bench being repeatedly moved because of the lighting. Even with such setbacks, the cast and crew were proud of the end products.
“I’ve worked on several student films,” director of photography, Marcelo Colacilli said. “AFI, UCLA, USC, Arts Center, and they generally don’t reach this level of professionalism.”
For these students, Directing II is just the beginning, with both directors and crew planning to use their new connections and films to launch their careers in the film industry.
“We’re coming here and we’re learning this because we want to make a difference,” said communication major Caleb Donato, who took Directing II and served as stills photographer for Life of Death. “We want to make an impact where everybody else who studied film is going… That’s Hollywood. … It’s not just the church. It’s not just Christian organizations. … You have to know that you’re going into the world.”
By Caleb Chandler