Every year the Film and Television Production program produces two student-made, narrative films. This year the seniors in the FTP program have been working hard to make these two films which, as Blair Hoyle, a producer on the spring thesis says, are two of “the most ambitious films to ever come out of WCU’s FTP program.”
The FTP program’s senior Thesis Films are written, directed, produced, filmed and edited entirely by students.
This is a huge endeavor for just one program to accomplish, so they bring in students from other programs who have specialized knowledge in other areas to help with some of the tasks that filmmakers are not typically in charge of.
As Rachel Barkow, a student in the FTP program and the writer and director for the spring Thesis Film explained, students in the acting program, which is also a part of the School of Stage and Screen, are pulled in to act in their films as well as to assist with makeup and costume design. They also enlist the assistance from the music program to help make and mix the music for the film and the graphic design program for help making the opening credits.
In addition to this, the entirety of the FTP program helps with the making of these films.
Emily Frances Maesar, who wrote the script for the fall thesis film and served as one of its producers, explains in a few words, “Generally the entire department works on thesis films. The seniors, of course, have the biggest roles.
Seniors, generally, fill all of the key crew positions, and the other important positions that are necessarily ‘key’ positions. All the other positions are filled in by the junior class, and then sophomores and freshmen.”
The making of this film gives students a chance to experience what working on a professional film set is like.
Jack Sholder, a mentor for the Thesis Film who has also written, directed and edited several feature films and television shows, commented that when you walk onto the set of the Film and Television Production’s thesis film, it looks just like a professional film set.
This gives the senior students the opportunity to apply the knowledge they have gathered during their time in college and apply it to the real world experience of making a film before they have to enter into their profession.
The fall 2013 thesis film was titled The Radical Notion of Gene Mutation. This film was directed by Andrew Dyson and written by Maesar.
Maesar said, “It’s a film set in contemporary times, but in an alternate history. It’s about a girl named Cailin Harper, played by Claire Vanderlinden, who has to make a choice to either fulfill her contract with the government and have her genes mutated as payment for college, or she can run away with a boy named Patrick Clemens, played by Drew Starkey.”
Filming for The Radical Notion of Gene Mutation began during fall break and is now in the editing stage.
The spring 2014 thesis film is titled “Black, White and Blue.” This film began shooting over the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend and wrapped up shooting just a few weeks ago. This film was produced by Blair Hoyle and Murphy Dillow. It was written and directed by Rachel Barkow.
When asked how she would describe her film, Barkow said, “This film is about a girl who is struggling with depression. It’s kind of a personal story because I went through something like that in high school. A lot of the film is a bit uncomfortable because there’s a real melancholy to it. But it kind of becomes a bit of a love story, and it has a pretty happy ending.”
Both of these films are unique because they are the first films to come out of the Film and Television Production that were filmed on campus. This could prove to be a benefit to the campus.
“Since it’s the first thesis film shot on campus, it brings campus to light in a non-promotive kind of way. Like, it’s campus on film not just to have campus on film. This is living and breathing campus, and it’s the first time we’ve ever been able to do that,” said Maesar.
The spring thesis film, “Black, White and Blue” also took some unprecedented risks in the making of their film.
Hoyle, a producer on this film, explains, “It is the first movie to ever feature underwater sequences, which is very cool. It was nothing short of an absolute nightmare in order to make said sequences a reality, but they’ve turned out so cool that I have no reservations with saying that all of the trouble was absolutely worth it.”
Barkow said, “Our main actress, Emily Peirce, and the camera operators had to get scuba certified to do it. So that was a lot.”
Even though making these films was a very tedious and tiring process, each key crew member that was interviewed made sure that it was known that they did not regret a thing. They were each sure that the filmmaking profession was for them, even after experiencing exactly how difficult it is to make a film.
Describing her initial experience with the FTP program, Maesar said, “I was going to be an English major, but I realized that we had a film department and that’s all I’d ever wanted to do. I always wanted to be writer, but it wasn’t until the film department was a conceivable thing, that I realized how badly I wanted to write for the screen.”
Hoyle said, “There’s nothing else I’ve ever really been interested in as a career. It always bugs me when people say, ‘I’m a filmmaker because I love movies,’ like there are people out there who don’t love movies. Everyone loves movies. There’s a more pretentious answer to this question, but it really boils down to the fact that I am simply not cut out to do anything else.”
The day after she finished filming, Barkow described her experience, “I’ve loved it, it’s really hard and it’s really stressful most of the time and it’s a really awful profession to try to put yourself in. It’s just tiring and exhausting and you don’t really ever have a steady job but I don’t think I could see myself doing anything else to be totally honest. The past few weeks have been so ridiculously stressful and like I was thinking the other day ‘I would do it again.’ I love it, it’s weird but I do.”
Both of the FTP program’s thesis films are in the editing stage right now. They will both be shown at the Controlled Chaos Film Festival on May 2 at 7:30 p.m. in the Bardo Arts Center, along with other student films that have come from the program this year.
For students who would like to come out and support these films and filmmakers admission is $10 at the door and must be paid in cash.