The Master’s University (TMU) has produced its first-ever musical film, “The Lunch Rush.” The plot is about a young widower reuniting with his late wife who mysteriously appears every day for an hour at a diner where they had their first date.
This is the university’s fourth short film, all of them student-led. Roughly 30-40 students were involved, most of them majoring in communication with an emphasis in Cinema and Digital Arts (CDA). They also were joined by about 20 industry professionals.
“It’s a big combination,” said professor Matt Green, who supervises the CDA emphasis. “These professionals have worked on big, $10-15 million feature films. That raises [the students’] game because they don’t want to be looked at as a student. They want to be looked at as a peer.”
Green and professor Bob Dickson, the department chair, created the concept. They handed it to students Ali Rae and Kyle Shannon to write, both of whom are enrolled in the university’s screenwriting course.
On April 29 at the final chapel of the school year at The Master’s College, a scientist will wake to find himself alone in space.
The science fiction short film, “DRIFT” was created by students of the college from multiple classes in the film branch of the school’s Communication Department. Scripted by a team taking professor Matt Green’s screenwriting course, the film is the largest and most ambitious production to come from the department since it began offering courses in film more than 15 years ago.
Master’s College Electronic Media majors enrolled in Directing II this semester will release two short films on April 19, with the help of a hired crew of film and television industry professionals.
Directing II is a capstone course that takes Electronic Media students through the entire process of producing a film, from pitching a storyboard to directing on set. At the end of the course, students possess material they can show perspective employers in the area of video production.
Matt Green, professor of Directing II, came to TMC in the fall of 2014 with a desire to give his students real-world experience.
“The whole idea is I want the students to be able to leave here with stuff they can immediately have on their resume,” Green said.
Bob Dickson, professor and Communications Department Chair, is always looking for ways to improve his students’ classroom experience with hands-on learning opportunities.
“That’s one of the things I love about Professor Green,” Dickson said. “His commitment to connecting students to the realities of what it means to be a professional in video production. He’s always thinking of how to bring that reality into the classroom.”
Eight teams of students from Directing II pitched storyboards to Green and Dickson in February.
“We had criteria,” Green explained. “We looked at how professional the presentation was, whether or not we wanted to embrace the subject matter and … whether or not we felt the students that presented it could pull it off.”
Green and Dickson selected two films to produce. Cammy Ylo, a communication major, was among the four directors chosen.
“My co-director is Kelli Clark,” she explained. “We spent about 20 hours preparing our pitch. We had five minutes to go to Professor Dickson and Professor Green and just tell them, ‘This is our story and this is why you should pick us to direct.’”
Ylo and Clark received the scripts for “Murder of Crowe,” their short film, on Feb. 17. Green worked alongside another screenwriter to develop the story. The next steps include auditioning actors from the Screen Actors Guild and scouting locations.
Jeff Caparula and Kimberly Smither, co-directors of “Life of Death,” also received the green light from Green and Dickson. The rest of the class will take crew positions, helping the directors shoot the films over the course of two days with a hired crew. Because both projects involve professional cast and crew members, all students will receive IMBd recognition for their work, and the films will be officially registered in that database.
“Murder of Crowe,” and “Life of Death” are set to premiere in the dorms spring semester, 2015. More details to follow.
The Communication Department of The Master’s College will be getting an upgrade next fall semester. Pending approval from the school’s Academic Affairs Council, students will be able to choose from a variety of new emphases within the program including creative writing and journalism, which will replace the broader print media emphasis.
While the spoken communication emphasis will remain untouched, this year’s reexamination of the major has led to specialization and updating of what is now the electronic media and print media branches of the major which will include altering old courses and the addition of new ones.
Starting next academic year, Department Chair and Professor Bob Dickson plans to offer creative writing students genre specific fiction workshops which would be able to be taken twice for credit. Rather than the traditional classroom format, these courses would be taken by students individually, creating a custom experience for each student. This will be replacing the more generic Novel Writing directed study as well as the Science Fiction Writing course.
Creative writing students will also learn the ropes of publishing in a market shifting away from print. Courses in graphic design and web publishing, formerly under the electronic media emphasis, will be available to this emphasis as the department evolves to match the increasing overlap of all media.
The journalism emphasis will also be overhauled to reflect advances in technology, with other electronic media courses finding a new home.
“The vision for the journalism [program]… and really the vision for the entire major is we want these emphases to be working together,” Dickson says. “They’re separate fields of study but there’s so much overlap… I want these things to be hand-in-hand.”
In addition to the journalism courses currently offered, such as Article Writing, the new emphasis will also feature classes that will teach students how to handle elements of broadcast journalism, including recording video interviews and reporting live in front of a camera.
Though many of its classes will be moved, the electronic media emphasis will not disappear. Video Production is the tentative new title for the largest portion of Electronic Media – film.
The scope of the video production emphasis will now expand beyond movies to encompass a variety of forms.
“I think electronic media should be more than just film,” Dickson says. “I think film is good… But I think electronic media can have a commercial video production component as well. Because someone may not want to be a film director. He or she may want to work for organizations that produce videos for their businesses – whether that’s marketing or it’s informative…”
In addition to these changes, the film courses will also be transformed. Students who take the directing classes in future will have a different experience than their predecessors. Starting next semester, those in Directing II will not all direct their own films as before. Rather than making a handful of amateur productions individually, students will work together to make a film worth showing employers. The best idea pitched will be chosen by the teacher and department chair.
“The thing I’m most excited about is the idea that they get to work with professionals,” says Matt Green, who started teaching within the department in the fall. “So it’s not that they’re just having to go and make their own stuff and hopefully it comes out okay… They get to be creative and, if you’re taking the directing class, you get to be creative and come up with a concept that then is not completely upon yourself to do everything.”
Students have already benefited as producer John Sullivan and writer/director Chris Dowling have been brought in on separate occasions to give seminars in the fall semester. Sullivan, who helped produce Dinesh D’Souza’s documentary “2016” as well as “Expelled,” gave insight into distribution and marketing while Dowling, creator of upcoming film “Produce: Where Hope Grows” spoke on directing and producing.
“That’s how you move in this industry is you network,” Green says.
Both Dickson and Green emphasize that these and the many other alterations are being made with the future careers of the Communication students in mind.
“…It’s not about the piece of paper,” Dickson says. “Can you do the job?”