May 31, 2006
By Jayne Gest
Students taking Telecommunications 419: Narrative Production have a history of aspiring to increasingly higher standards, so it's no surprise that this year's efforts are bigger than ever.
From exotic locations and special effects to a glimpse of Appalachia and a look into the human psyche, viewers will be treated to a cornucopia of topics when all five groups' projects are screened on June 2 in Seigfred Hall.
Using their own initiative, one group of students flew out to North Hollywood this past April to film their video project "Turbulence" in an airplane mock-up, a special room replicating the inside of an airplane. The film depicts a man's experience on an airplane when he refuses to switch seats with his neighbor.
Patrick Norman, the team's director, said despite the problem of location, he knew he wanted to work on it after reading the script, which like all TCOM 419 projects was written by an Ohio University student.
"I knew I had to do it when I found myself laughing at the script," he says. "I don't normally do that."
Within 24 hours of selecting the project, crew members with the initial thought of building their own set had moved to the idea of having an airplane mock-up. It would have cost $17,000 in shipping to send the mock-up to Athens so students decided to go to it, Norman said.
Through benefit concerts, loans from parents and by selling baked goods on Thursday nights to Court Street passersby, students raised the $5,500 needed to rent the mock-up for 30 hours. They then cut extra costs in any way possible with a group flight discount and by staying at the homes of Ohio University alumni who had also worked on TCOM 419 projects during their undergraduate days.
Norman says it was an indescribable experience that taught him the value of planning and gave him a better idea of how things work in Los Angeles.
Giving students a real-life look at how movies actually are made is the main goal behind the class, which was redesigned six years ago by Frederick Lewis, an assistant professor of telecommunications.
"It's very intense and hands-on, as close as we can get to the real deal," Lewis says, adding that the class is the centerpiece of TCOM and has taken on a life of its own.
The two-quarter course enrollment is only by application and accepts 20 to 25 students, although more than 100 students actually work on the productions. During winter quarter, student select scripts, form small production companies, hold casting calls and recruit additional crew. The production and post-production phases take place the following quarter.
As the class has grown, students have given more and more of their time and talents. This degree of effort is something that struck home for Layla Halfhill, writer and producer of "The Barbeque," a dark comedy about givers and takers in which a meek suburbanite gets pushed to his limit and stops internalizing his emotions.
"The most rewarding experience for me is watching people step up and give so much of themselves to make it all come together," she says.
Halfhill also found herself relearning the meaning of the word patience, something with which some of the other teams can commiserate.
Thomas Rosprim, producer of the film "Jump Cuts," found himself remaking the schedule about seven times because the main actor was involved in many other projects, but in the end the shooting was finished in plenty of time - thanks in part to the hard work of the crew.
"Jump Cuts" focuses on the struggles of a hit man and how closely the process of creation in art resembles destruction.
The crew of "In Passing' also had several challenges to overcome. Their film, which takes places in Appalachia and is a story about a man coming home after his brother's suicide, reuniting with his best friend from high school and rediscovering Appalachian culture.
Producer L.M. Harter says the challenges included dealing with the private and secluded nature of Appalachia and its people. He also had trouble finding props like shotguns and a rowboat that could be removed from a national park.
The teams also found that patience certainly goes along with compromise. Linton Lewis, producer of "I Troubles," says the crew definitely had to compromise, especially with the type of science fiction special effects film they made.
"We all have different beliefs of how to do something. You have to get on the same page and see what works best for the movie," he says.
He describes their movie as "Alice in Wonderland meets end of the world with the main character waking up and finding someone missing, which causes his world to crumble, literally."
Jayne Gest is a student writer for Communications and Marketing.