Academics and Research

Film project unites alumni, current students

Alumni Michael Keys Hughes, Roma Sur, Jeremy Dehn, Angela Forester, Aidan McCarthy and Frazer Lockhart shoot a scene from XX. Photo courtesy of Sheila Schroeder

Alumni Michael Keys Hughes, Roma Sur, Jeremy Dehn, Angela Forester, Aidan McCarthy and Frazer Lockhart shoot a scene from “Happy F#ing Valentine’s Day.” Photo courtesy of Sheila Schroeder

Sheila Schroeder knew there were alumni of the DU film program working in Denver who were not always creatively inspired by their work. And she knew those alumni would make great mentors for current film students working toward careers of their own.

So, armed with a CAMF (creative arts and materials fund) grant from DU, Schroeder — a film professor in DU’s media, film and journalism studies program — united 11 alumni and eight students for a project she dubbed Project DU F.I.L.M. (Filmmaking Initiative Linking Mentors). The team spent four days over winter break in Nederland, Colo., shooting “Happy F#ing Valentine’s Day,” a comedic short film scripted by Schroeder and her partner, Kate Burns.

“I wanted it to be an experience where we were away, where we were all together, so students would really have that experience of being on location,” Schroeder says. “What I kept hearing over the years from our alumni is that, while they’re doing really cool stuff, they weren’t always getting that experience of making film as art, as opposed to film as a corporate production or work for hire. This project allowed those alumni to be part of something that they’re not part of on an everyday basis.”

Working with local actors and state-of-the-art equipment, the DU F.I.LM. team created a fair approximation of a professional movie set, says Schroeder, who also served as the film’s producer. Alumni filled the roles of director, director of photography, script supervisor, assistant camera operator and boom operator. Current students worked on the crew, developing their skills and their professional relationships.

“Everyone was really into it, wanting to learn the ins and outs of what goes into making a film,” says Frazer Lockhart (BA ’08), a DU film program graduate who served as director of photography on the project. “There’s a lot of theory that goes into filmmaking, and DU does a great job teaching that, but a lot of what I’ve learned since graduation is more of the technical stuff and what goes into working on a big crew. A project like this is a great way for these students to gain some of those skills and get a leg up when they’re ready to go out into the real world.”

Already, Schroeder says, she knows of alumni and current students making plans to work on projects together outside of the DU sphere. Once “Happy F#ing Valentine’s Day” has gone through the editing, sound sweetening and color correction phases, Schroeder plans to work with students to submit it to festivals in Colorado and elsewhere.

“We want students involved in the distribution process — going to festivals and seeing why festivals are important, especially as up-and-coming filmmakers,” Schroeder says. “That’s where you meet others and you collaborate and find out how to tell a good story.”

“Happy F#ing Valentine’s Day” already has won an award for best short screenplay at L.A.’s Broad Humor Film Festival, which is dedicated to humorous films by women.

“That gave us some momentum and some encouragement that we were on the right track,” Schroeder says. “One of my goals as a professor, and certainly with Project DU F.I.L.M., is to reach out to our communities of color and our female filmmaking community and making sure that we are trying to bring along and have opportunities for the next generation of filmmakers.”

Once the current cycle is complete, Schroeder plans to start the next DU F.I.LM. project — perhaps this time with an alumni or alumnus working in the film industry in L.A. who would appreciate the opportunity to direct their own project with a crew of DU’s finest.

“I think the project accomplished — and continues to accomplish — the things that I set out to do,” she says. “To give alumni the chance to give back to their alma mater, to give them an opportunity to enhance their own skills, to stretch themselves, and to bring students into the process in a way where they’re working alongside professionals.”




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