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April 2, 2009 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Stop-motion animation with vegetables and a man yearning to escape in his homemade spaceship are just two of the subjects for final projects directed by senior film students at Stephens College. At the Stephens Senior Film Showcase, these films will show on the big screen for the first time in front of friends, family and a professional jury.
A year immersed in creating their movies has the nine young women in this class ready to crash. They produced and directed, designed posters, wrote press releases and created Web sites. They had a full-on film production experience.
Being at a smaller school such as Stephens has its advantages because film undergrads acquire an experience more closely to that of graduate students, according to Stephens film professor Kerri Yost, who teaches this group of seniors. With a faculty of four full-time professors and a town that so warmly opens its arms to film, Stephens film students experience a particularly keen environment to test their work.
This class is one of two film classes students take their senior year. “A lot of this class exercises the ability to try new things: figuring out your voice, taking risks,” Yost says. “Senior year they’re really trying to do something that showcases what they’re interested in but is also very polished and will have a life outside of college.”
To make the films as professional as possible, Yost talks up the value of pre-production. “Film students today are used to grabbing a camera and shooting because it’s really accessible,” Yost says. “In the past, you would plan way in advance because time was valuable. Now it’s the opposite; students tend to not think ahead of time.”
Ideas for films came from the most unlikely places. The idea for Laura Wilson’s film, Pieces, came to her in a dream. Pieces is about a reclusive young man who can see other people’s memories. Wilson used a group of friends instead of experienced actors to achieve a more natural feel in her 20-minute film.
LeeAllie Buchanan took a stab at reality with her hybrid fiction and documentary film, Routine. The movie covers a night in the life of a stripper. Buchanan met the main character last year and was inspired to recreate a short story the woman wrote. The film delves into the stripper’s thoughts. “This was a world I hadn’t been introduced to before,” Buchanan says. “My perspectives of a stripper were really challenged.”
All nine films, most of which are about 10 minutes long, will show back-to-back April 3. A jury of professionals, including True/False Film Festival co-founder David Wilson and Brock Williams, owner of Boxcar Films, will attend and come to the students’ next class to give feedback. A question-and-answer session with the students will follow the screening. “They have to learn to talk about their work: explaining things, defending things, having that engagement,” Yost says.
Ragtag Cinema will hold a screening April 17 at 10 p.m. to give the films another opportunity to show. Tickets will be $7. The students also plan to submit their films to a host of festivals including Aspen Shorts, Florida Film Festival and an assortment of online festivals.
Film is in the future for these Stephens seniors. Wilson has applied for the Directors Guild of America program in New York. Buchanan hopes to make commercials or short films. “They’ve all been so supportive of each other’s work,” Yost says. “Sometimes the stress can have the opposite effect. I’m really impressed by this year’s group.”
What: Senior Film Showcase
When: April 3, 7 – 9 p.m.
Where: Windsor Auditorium, Helis Communication Center, Stephens College Campus