First production filmed on WCU’s new motion picture stage

The recent filming of mask-and-music theater group Whimzik marked the first production on a Western Carolina University’s new motion picture stage in Ramsey Regional Activity Center.

“The Whimzik production allowed us to get a sense of the space and how to use the new equipment,” said Arledge Armenaki, associate professor of cinematography. 

Last year, an underutilized TV recording venue in Ramsey Center was retrofitted into a modern 30-by-30, 18-foot tall motion picture stage. Jack Sholder, director of the WCU Motion Picture and Television Production Program, said then-Chancellor John W. Bardo had first talked to him about adapting the studio in Ramsey seven years ago, and the project won approval for $160,000 in funding last year.

“In terms of square footage, it’s not a big stage – not a Hollywood stage – but it’s a real movie stage,” said Sholder. “It’s big enough for us to build a set, and has a separate classroom and tools students can learn to use. This fall, students will build a cabin in the woods on the stage for part of a movie filmed for a senior project. We are excited. It’s fantastic.”

The facility has more capabilities than the Killian Building teaching stage and features equipment and lighting systems more typical of today’s movie sets, said Armenaki.

“The stage truly offers a higher level of training for our students,” said Armenaki. “The lighting system alone enables us to do lighting effects on camera that were not possible on the Killian stage, such as changing levels quickly and having multiple lighting setups at one time.”

In June, three motion picture and television production students – senior Josh Hartigan from Cullowhee, senior Trey Campbell from Wilmington and junior Kevin Slamon from Winston-Salem – filmed Whimzik with Armenaki; David Brewin, who recently retired from WCU; and Del DeLorm, technical director with the School of Stage and Screen.

Slamon, who was operating one of the cameras, said he was eager to check out the new space and take part in the production.

“Aside from getting a chance to get a feel for the stage, it has just been a fun and creative project,” he said.