From campus to the silver screen

Philip Shippy — Staff Writer

As the old saying goes, “Practice makes perfect,” and the students of Short Film Production, or COMM 350, are getting practice during their college careers. Mark Volkers teaches the class and has a maximum of six students growing as storytellers by making a professional short film to be shown at various film festivals.

This year, five students are creating the film: Jonah Hofmeyer is the director and screenwriter, Nathan Hopkins is the producer and assistant director, Johnathon Carlo is the editor and animation director, Jess Brander is the cinematographer, set designer, and costume designer, and Ellie Runia is the production sound mixer, assistant editor, and script supervisor.

The film has been in the works since the end of last school year, with Hofmeyer writing the screenplay over the summer.

“I am, by nature, a writer,” Hofmeyer said. “So, the whole script-building and story-building was huge for me, and I think that was a huge step for me in growth.”

The film will be about a podcaster who goes to a small town to help solve some local murders.

Once Hofmeyer completed the script and school started, the five filmmakers defined their roles on the production team and began calling for actors. Set up in the Theatre Arts Building, they called for potential actors to read lines from the script so the team could discover the best people for the roles. After the casting call and some discussion, they chose Clayton Baas and Lindsay Kuiper to play the lead roles.

The team will start shooting scenes on Saturday, Oct. 1. From then on, it will be a race against the changing seasons.

“We typically start with our exterior shoots first, because in the fall we have gorgeous weather that quickly changes to snow, which changes to cold and bitter,” Volkers said. “If we start with green leaves on trees, we want to finish when the green leaves are still on the trees.”

The team will have to learn to shoot their video fast and well, because they only have a short period of time before the weather shifts. Then they can shoot all their indoor scenes, where the cold hand of time does not affect the image.

Once finished shooting, the students will move to post-production, where they will need to sand down and smooth all the audio and video. Then they will assemble all the pieces of the film into a coherent story.

The film must be finished by the end of the school year. Sometime in December, the crew and actors will dress up and host a World Premier of the movie in the Grille area, followed by a Q&A session with those in attendance.

The assignment’s goal is to give the students experience in the art of crafting a movie. They are all digital media production majors, and this project serves as a first step into the world of film making.

However, making the film is only part of the journey. Once the movie is finished, Volkers and Hofmeyer will market it to film festivals across the world to attempt to win some awards and build the students’ resumes.

“One thing that looks really good on student resumes is being an award-winning film-maker,” Volkers said. “So, one of our goals for this is not only to learn the process of film making and to have a lot of fun with it, but also to win awards. So, everything we’re doing, from the choosing of the script to ‘Did we get the right take on that scene?’ is thinking, ‘Okay, is this professional?’”

This type of short film does stand a chance at winning. Last year’s film, Hitchhiker, won the Upper Midwest Emmy Student Production Award, and could still win more.

“We’re actually still waiting to hear on a couple festivals,” Volkers said. “A year later, we’re still working on the previous year’s film.”

Whether the film lands well or not, the students who helped to create this short film will come away with a valuable experience.

“Eventually, when everyone at Dordt is able to see it, I hope it’s entertaining,” Hofmeyer said. “When you’re ingrained in something for so long, you’re either going to say, ‘Okay, this is really good,’ or, ‘Okay, this is really bad,’ in your opinion, but someone who sees it with fresh eyes is going to have a different perspective. So, it will be interesting come December when it’s finished to see how it lands.”

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