When it comes to quality filmmaking, a two-minute scene can take hours to record.
For students in Cinematic Process (ISLA 341) and Digital Video II (ART 483) classes, such quality filmmaking has taken an entire quarter to produce as they diligently worked to produce 15-minute films that will be featured in the SLO International Film Festival at Mission Cinemas on March 15 at 5 p.m.
“They’re telling stories in everything they do,” ISLA 341 professor and award-winning screenwriter Randi Barros said. “The possibilities are endless and I’m just a sucker for a great story.”
Barros said storytelling is the most important aspect of film production.
“You gotta start with a great script,” Barros said. “There has to be characters that we connect to.”
At the beginning of the quarter, ISLA 341 students wrote screenplays and pitched them to the ISLA 341 and ART 483 classes. The classes voted on their favorites and seven scripts were selected. Students were grouped according to their screenplay of choice.
While ART 483 focuses more on production, ISLA 341 is screenwriting-based. Because the two classes focus on different aspects of filmmaking, a variety of different skills are represented within the intermixed groups.
“It’s great to collaborate with [ART 483] because we bring stories and they bring tech and when it works, it’s a great collaboration,” Barros said. “We have to work in groups all the time in society. It’s good to do that and be creating something that you can share with the world.”
Last year’s ISLA 341 students screened their films at a festival at the Palm Theater. Because the event sold out last year, the venue changed to Mission Cinemas to accommodate more people.
“They work so hard on these films and for them to just sit on a shelf would be sad, so I like the idea of them being shown on a big screen with the SLO community,” Barros said. “It’s really fun for them to see the fruits of their labor on the big screen.
To get a better idea of what to expect from the films at the festival, Mustang News sat down with some of the producers.
ART 483 student and business administration senior Matthew Sauer | Film: “Thursday” | Job: Directed and filmed
Mustang News: How would you describe your experience producing a film?
Matthew Sauer: Because it’s the first time I’ve worked with another class, it’s been really cool because they wrote the script and had a vision for the script. I’ve been diving hard studying film, which in itself is a language. Working with their class was interesting because everyone has their own vision to take on film. It’s all about compromise. Everyone has to give in a little when pitching ideas.
MN: Tell me about your film.
MS: My film is called “Thursday.” The premise is that four guys in college want to get girls and it’s kind of a comedy in a way, mocking college guy culture. The main character is the nerdiest one of four guys and the other three guys are trying to get him to hook up with a girl he really likes. It’s a fun film — dialogue-focused, fast-paced and funny. I didn’t write the script. I got placed on this team. It was different for me because I’m used to making films that have more of a beginning, middle and end resolution, trying to convey a theme and this didn’t have that. It was just meant to be fun, so in a way it was easier to make because we didn’t have to worry about a lot of subtle things. We focused on dialogue and locations and scenes and stuff like that.
MN: What was the idea behind it?
MS: They wake up, they’re hanging out all Thursday. They go to bars and pregame and the party Thursday night fails and so they go bowling. They’re like “Aw man, we all failed tonight,” and they’re like “At least tomorrow’s Friday.” It’s saying that in college culture, weekends are overhyped. Everyone’s always trying to have a big successful weekend. The writer is Jack Fink and he’s a really funny guy. In a way he sees himself in some of the characters.
MN: Do you feel that your film is unique from others in the class?
MS: I think so in a couple of ways. Everybody has heavy topics and ours is lighthearted. It’s arguably offensive because it is vulgar and … is fast-paced and takes place in one day.
MN: What has been the most challenging part about producing a film?
MS: Half the battle is working with limitations. A lot of times there’s a limited time frame, limited room size, natural light, audio or camera equipment. Figuring how to work best with those limitations to make a good product is the biggest challenge. Everyone thought on their feet and came prepare.
MN: What are some things that ART 483 professor James Werner stressed about making a good film?
MS: James talked a lot about incorporating unique film elements, such as using different kinds of techniques like long-shots, which involves scenes without cuts.
MN: How do you feel about “Thursday” being screened at the SLO International Film Festival?
MS: It’s an awesome opportunity to show on a big screen and have an audience. It’s good exposure for Cal Poly and the classes that we offer. Who knows if someone’s there who likes it and enjoys it and wants to offer us a job or gig. I want to give a shoutout to the actors. All four of them came readily prepared and did a fantastic job. Shout out to Ryan Durante, Ethan Kusters, Jake Erickson and Liam Morrison.
ART 483 student and art and design junior Kiana Kraft | Film: “Vixens” |Job: Directed, produced, acted and edited
Mustang News: What’s it been like producing a film?
Kiana Kraft: Hard. So much more work goes into it than you would expect. It’s the things you don’t notice in the film that make or break it. Lighting and sound take a tremendous amount of time. If you do it well, you don’t notice it in the final film, but if you don’t, then it’s unbelievably obvious. You really work with a group like no other class I’ve had.
MN: What’s your film about?
KK: It’s called “Vixens.” It’s about a girl exploring her sexuality and realizing that she might not fit into the binary as well as she thought she did. It’s about breaking down the binary and what it means in this community – how it’s homogenous here. It takes place in SLO. It’s supposed to be a little quirky. It is a serious topic but we tried to make it lighthearted while driving the point home. We wanted it to be an approachable topic. It has funny and creative moments.
MN: How long did the film’s production take?
KK: We only had about two and a half weeks to finish the entire thing. We could have used a lot more time but we used it as much as we could. We all had our hands in everything — working on the script, storyboarding, editing, producing, directing, filming, lighting and sound. Every single part of production was down to the four of us.
MN: What has been the most challenging part of producing this film?
KK: Probably the time frame because, I mean, making a movie is extremely time consuming and especially when we’re all new to the filmmaking process, we’re not super fast. I mean, you could film a three minute scene and it could take five hours to film.
ISLA 341 student and sociology senior Daniel Porush | Film: “Last Call” | Job: Conducted light and sound
Mustang News: Tell me about your film.
Daniel Porush: It’s called “Last Call.” It’s six or seven minutes long. The entire thing is a phone conversation between a woman and a man. She is in a bed and seems nervous. It’s a little awkward at first, but then they get into their natural groove. They were in relationships for a few years and they’re reestablishing over this phone call. He keeps on trying to ask why she called and she keeps putting it off and at the end we find out she’s dying. She lays it on him, but we don’t see her telling him. We wanted to focus on the nature of their relationship — all the stuff they talk about it. They talk about the little things and nothing really consequential.
MN: How did you guys pick your actors?
DP: There was a casting session … Anyone from anywhere could audition. A lot of people lived in SLO. We had a three-hour class period dedicated to auditions. They would come in and read monologue[s] from scripts they chose. We’d ask some people to read lines from our script and took it from there. The two actors that we chose are both students. They’re meant to be in their late twenties in the film.
MN: What are some things that Randi [Barros ] stresses most about filmmaking?
DP: She’s very, very, very character focused, which I admire. She’s less focused on technical aspects. Randi focuses a lot on story and character development. She tries to get down to what you’re really trying to say. She makes sure that the tone stays the same and that you stay true to what the movie is supposed to be.
MN: Do you see yourself continuing with film production down the line?
DP: Yes. Definitely. I’m trying to do something in film. Whether it’s production or with a camera, some aspect at some point.