Emi Stewart — Staff Writer
While most Dordt students are wrapping up term papers, cramming for exams, or preparing presentations for their classes, a gaggle of digital media majors are putting the final touches on something a bit more dramatic.
Each fall, Short Film Production (COMM-350) brings together a small group — usually no larger than 6 students — of digital media majors to bring an original story to life on the big screen. The dramatic thriller Airwaves is the latest product of the course. From inception to script writing, casting, shooting, reshooting, editing, and the premiere, this group is responsible for the entire process.
Although he teaches the class, Professor Mark Volkers likens his contribution to that of executive producer.
“I’m behind the scenes,” said Volkers. “Pushing and prodding and poking and encouraging.”
One standout element of the class in respect to other digital media courses is specialization; instead of having to juggle multiple roles at once, the participating students are assigned one major crew position, such as director or editor.
“That specialization is really big,” said Volkers. “It’s like a big orchestra, and you get to play one instrument instead of trying to play them all.”
Daniel Kwantes, senior digital media major, worked as the director for this semester’s production. According to Kwantes, leading the pack was quite the feat. Getting six different minds to rally together around a singular creative vision is no small task.
“As a director, I wanted to make sure that people felt safe, even with criticism,” said Kwantes. He understands that personal feelings cannot be swept aside with artistic endeavors. “You want to be separate from the work you do, but there are a lot of emotions mixed into the work you do.”
Cinematographer Nicholas Schell, a junior in the Digital Media Program, says that perfectionism was a particularly taxing struggle of his throughout this experience. The first shoot was a nerve-wracking event for him.
“Of course, I’m nervous that day,” said Schnell. “But then you get to that point where something, either by accident or by some Godsend, it just works out and it’s this beautiful thing… like, by turning on a light that you didn’t think you’d need, all of a sudden this shot has 10 times more meaning than it did before.”
Even though this process had all the members of the group working overtime to get the finished product out, they all banded together to make it happen.
Extended hours in the digital media lab are to be expected for an intense, production-heavy class like COMM-350. Caffeine now runs through the veins of this crew. One of the lab lockers now serves as home to a shrine of empty Mountain Dew cans.
“I used to have a love/hate relationship with coffee,” said Kwantes. “I’m all-in now. I’m dedicated.”