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It’s a wrap for senior filmmakers


As senior film and media arts majors and minors inch closer towards the end of their college experience, they have one final project to worry about: the senior thesis creation for their Film and Digital Production course. This semester, eight film students are working on their last film before graduation. Their productions will be shown at the Senior Thesis Showcase on April 30 at 7 p.m. at Reeves Theater.

Each film must be at least seven minutes long, but cannot exceed 15. The filmmakers are not restricted to a narrative prompt, and are allowed to create an experimental, narrative, or documentary production.

“A part of my role is to give students creative freedom to develop the films as they want to make them, while providing a structure of pre-production and production assignments that guides them through the process,” said Dana Plays, professor of Film, Animation and New Media.

Plays came to UT in 2005 and introduced a senior seminar course which hadn’t existed before her arrival. This four-hour Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) inquiry class allows students to summarize what they have learned about filmmaking with a final production.

“We have these production classes so we can learn the trade of filmmaking and the collaborative nature of it,” said senior film and media arts major Luke Branin. The course focuses on writing a story and directing the film, sound and light, according to Branin.

Each student is provided high-end equipment to work on their production, such as green screens, quality cameras, microphones and editing softwares. During class time, the students can utilize their resources and bounce their ideas off of one another. They sit at a round table, giving feedback on film pitches and stories.

Throughout the semester, the students are given the chance to plan and communicate with each other. Deadlines are split to where each piece a student turns in is a work-in-progress. One due date is a rough draft of a manuscript, the next a final draft; the following week they turn in a single completed scene of their film.

The most important assignment next to the final cut is the rough draft, because of their role in the FMX Filmmaker Series Branin said.

On April 9, Plays hosted the FMX Filmmaker Series in Reeves Theater. She presents the series every semester in conjunction with the senior seminar course and shows her own productions. When it is time for the Filmmaker Series, rough drafts are due, and students, alongside guest filmmakers, give their critiques on the students’ films.

Actors for films are hard to come by, according to senior advertising and public relations major Gabi Beyer. Beyer minors in film and plans to integrate her advertising and production knowledge to visually communicate her ideas. Though there are struggles in finding actors, having connections and networking is a large part of the film industry, Beyer said.

“Film, in nature, is very collaborative,” Branin said. “You need a lot of people to help out, so it’s a pretty tight-knit community.”

Professor Plays said throughout the semester, she is able to see her students evolve, both in their craft and creativity. Sometimes students may completely change their ideas for the thesis mid-semester.

“The process may lead them to more developed ideas, or more realistic goals,” Plays said.

This situation held true to Beyer, who said she had an entire film planned out, but after being told that her concept didn’t hold enough potential as a thesis, she scrapped the idea and started over. She had done all the paperwork and written all the scripts. It was hard to set the idea aside, but Beyer said hearing constant critiques and revising is something filmmakers have to accept throughout their careers.

Whether it is throwing away a film idea or being unable to bypass certain barriers, producing motion pictures can be roadblock after roadblock, Branin said.

“It’s tough, but you can easily navigate [roadblocks] by surrounding yourself with people that are motivated,” Branin said. “You can get past them; you have to believe in your vision and just push.”

Plays and the students agree that the senior seminar course gives them an opportunity to create productions they are proud to showcase. Branin said the final product is a stepping stone to a larger pursuit in filmmaking.

“This is the biggest project I’ve done, so it’s definitely a good cap off of my years here,” Beyer said. “It’s a nice representation of what I’ve done, and it’s something I’m proud of.”

Demi Manglona can be reached deminicole.manglona@spartans.ut.edu

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