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April 30, 2014
Northwest Missouri State University students walked a red carpet and posed for photos to the sounds of memorable movie theme music Tuesday before the screenings of 36 short films at the University’s Ron Houston Center for the Performing Arts.
The scene played out during a film festival, sponsored by Northwest’s Department of Communication and Mass Media in collaboration with the Department of Fine and Performing Arts, celebrating the work of students in television production and cinematography courses.
“We had so many amazing short films that our students have been making this year that I felt the need to design some sort of a showcase to be able to share them, not just with each other but with the public,” said Justin Ross, who taught the courses at Northwest this spring. “It also provided us an opportunity to say thank you to the community, to Northwest and Maryville for all that they do to help get these short films made. Without individuals opening their homes to us for locations, leasing vehicles to us and the actors, none of these could have been made. This really was an opportunity to say thank you to the community for helping to bring these stories to life.”
The films, ranging from five to 15 minutes in length, spanned genres of comedy, horror and science fiction while exploring themes of love, loss, relationships and the supernatural.
In addition to directing and producing the films, the students were charged with writing scripts and casting as well as securing locations, props and equipment for the productions. Many of the films featured local locations and unknown actors, while some also included familiar locations on the Northwest campus and student actors.
They responded and delivered impressive results, Ross said.
“The students became excited about the process,” said Ross, a 2003 Northwest graduate who created many short films of his own as an undergraduate before earning a master’s degree from Florida State University’s Graduate Film Conservatory. Ross is now head of development for Main Line Pictures and will return to Los Angeles this summer.
“This is my life and I’m in love with the process, but to tell these stories, to make films is a very lengthy, stressful process and I fully expected some of the students to disengage or even drop out,” Ross said. “Almost all of them not only stuck with it but they became so engaged and excited about it that they never ceased to amaze me. That’s something I hope they’ll take with them and learn from how exciting it can be when they work together to tell stories.”
Awards were handed out at the film festival, too. Kellen Burgess received the Best Picture award, selected among films produced by television production students, for his film “Unspoken.” Burgess also received the Best Cinematography and Best Director awards for the film.
“Unspoken” told the story of a young man mourning the death of his brother and seeking to represent his brother in the school choir – a place he isn’t welcomed warmly. Burgess cast members of Northwest’s Tower choir in the film, and Tony Pulford, a senior theater major from Independence, received a Best Actor nod for his work in the lead role.
Burgess, a sophomore from Liberty majoring in mass media with a broadcasting emphasis, entered Northwest with some filmmaking experience, but said the television production course greatly enhanced his skills and knowledge of the field.
“As someone who’s wanting to get into the industry, filmmaking or just anything related to video production, it was huge to learn from Justin,” Burgess said. “The class is designed to take people, no matter what level they are – beginning, advanced, whatever – and see what they can create.”
Taking the Best Actress award in the category for films by television production students was Deborah Shirley, a sophomore theater performance and biology major from Kansas City, Kan. Shirley earned the recognition for her role in “Abandoned,” a horror film produced by Andy Campbell, a junior broadcast production and marketing major from Independence.
Shirley appeared in eight of the films shown at the festival and said the projects were as much a learning experience for the student actors as they were for the filmmakers.
“It was a really big learning experience for me because I’ve done stage acting but this was totally different,” she said. “Film acting is what I want to do so it was a really good opportunity.”
Chance Parsons, a senior broadcast production major from Independence, earned Best Picture and Best Director, among the films produced by cinematography students, for “The Journal.”
Additionally, the film’s cast members of Dana Masters, a senior theater and psychology/sociology major from Independence, and Bryce Davis, a higher education leadership graduate student from Raytown, received the Best Actress and Best Actor awards. Stephanie Crabtree, a junior video production student from Platte City, won Best Producer for “The Journal.”
The television production and cinematography courses are offered by Northwest’s Department of Communication and Mass Media, which provides students with numerous opportunities to gain real world experience by joining any one of Northwest’s nationally competitive student media organizations. Students learn skills in radio, television and print, through a converged print and online newspaper, a yearbook with a DVD supplement, online publications, and video and audio recording studios. For more information, visit www.nwmissouri.edu/communications/.
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
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