Creating short films with zero budget, low-tech equipment and roughly three months to put it all together presented a challenge to the core capstone film and literature class at the beginning of this semester.
Last Sunday three films from three groups of students came together to premiere at the Fargo Theatre downtown. The three films were “Contrition,” “The Birthmark” and “Techtonic Fates” based on the three short stories chosen by the groups.
Professor Dawn Duncan of the English Department taught this course for the second year and hopes it will stick around.
“I’ve never had a course before that takes students from the beginning theory to actually producing ‘that thing,’ you know?” Duncan said. “It does exactly what a core capstone is supposed to do.”
The students in the film and literature class start on the first day by talking about their strengths and are then split up into three teams in a way where each team has a diverse amount of talent. Once the teams are set, everyone on the team must find a story to pitch to the whole class picked from short stories that are in the public domain. The choice is limited to public domain because these stories are free to use, but the students found many winners to turn into films.
The short story “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allen Poe was transformed into “Contrition” produced by Matt Calvert, Marisa Jackels, Cady Mittlestadt, Sam Moheban and Kyle Thiele.
“The Birthmark” by Nathaniel Hawthorne was produced, keeping the same name by Soren Poffenberger, Kayla Shanda, Christine Sommer, Niki Wagner and Tara Wegner.
Finally, an adaptation of Alan Cogan’s “In the Cards” was renamed “Techtonic Fates” for the group Brittni Hagberg, Nicole Lindor, Killashandra Link, Jessica Nanik, Tiffany Petru and Kablia Vang.
These groups worked all semester together to make films that will be stored in the library archives for anyone to see. The teams could also choose to put their films on YouTube or other online sources. Duncan wants the hype around these films to keep building over the years.
“Hopefully this will become something someday that goes on Concordia’s calendar and that students will know about,” Duncan said.
Although she thinks she herself could learn more about editing film, Duncan wants to always invite professionals to come into class and help the students learn.
“I really believed if I gave the students the opportunity and all the help I could that they would meet me there,” Duncan said. “Well, they go beyond.”
After the films’ debuts at the Fargo Theatre, there was a question and answer session for the audience to participate. The students were asked about what the hardest and most rewarding components of this project were. They all had their personal hurdles to get over throughout the semester, but one common theme occurred.
“The hardest thing was scheduling,” Calvert from “Contrition” said.
Petru from “Techtonic Fates” stressed how valuable that made the time her group had together.
“We did a lot of talking then so if someone had a problem we could try and work it out right away,” she said.
Both Jackles and Lindor noted how much they learned from this experience and how it has affected the way they see film.
“When I’m watching TV or movies now,” said Jackels, “I’m really hyperaware of the cuts and the angles and the lighting and everything you have to think about as an editor.”
Lindor now appreciates the skills it takes to become an editor.
“I watched a movie the other day with a friend and sat there thinking ‘Wow that was a seamless cut’ and ‘Oh wow, look at that angle,’” she said. “It takes an amazing amount of effort to make something that we can just enjoy at face-value.”