Film Students on Set Learn 'Reel' World Skills

by Rebekah Bruckner

“The idea just came to me,” said Lauren Meyering, ’17, cinematic arts production major and director/writer of Foolish Smarts and How to Lose Them, a student film produced as one of APU’s senior capstone projects in the Department of Cinematic Arts, which serves as the culmination of film students’ educational experience at APU.

“My wisdom teeth had just been removed, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how terrible it would be if someone's wisdom would actually be taken along with their teeth,” said Meyering. From this one thought, Meyering and her team of fellow APU cinematic arts students created, developed, filmed, and produced a short film about a group of teens stranded in a post-apocalyptic world without adults.

The plot centers around Mack, a girl terrified of having her wisdom teeth extracted, for fear that her wisdom will be taken along with them. To calm her, Mack’s band of friends take her to a waterpark that she used to visit with her parents when she was young only to find that, just like the rest of the world, this nostalgic place is dried up and abandoned. Meanwhile, one of her friends, Noah, pre-occupied with fantasies of a better place called, “The Someday,” fights constant urges to leave the group in order to find the escape she longs for.

Rather than hoping for an idealized future, as Noah does, the film team faced each obstacle head on, learning to persevere even when things didn't turn out as expected.The desire to create a film that evokes emotion and inspires its viewers motivated them to work together, striving for each piece to fall into place. “We were constantly pushing the limits when on set,” said Stephen Remich,’17, cinematic arts production major and director of photography. “Each experience gave me a chance to develop a new skill. From this, I found how important it is to be flexible, especially in the independent film world where plans change frequently.”

“This journey has not been easy, but the challenges are well worth it. In the face of discouraging road blocks, we stood for what we envisioned and for what we believed in and were able to create this amazing work of art,” said Meyering. Just as the film presents strong themes of friendship, this group reflects an ethos of togetherness. “The opportunity to produce Foolish Smarts brought together incredibly talented students with a passion to tell an important story. Through this entire experience we have become like a family.”

“One of the characters in the film, Signs, is deaf,” said Meyering. “We never expected to have the actor Joshua Castille in our small, student-produced film as he’s been in much larger, professional productions like the Deaf West production of Spring Awakening, which performed on Broadway.” Most of the students on set learned conversational sign language to communicate with him. “Working with Josh was the most rewarding part of this experience. He taught each of us about deaf culture and we were able to incorporate these elements into the film. We are advocates for the #WithCaptions movement, begun by a group of YouTubers frustrated with the lack of captioning on videos, and we are adding captions to our film.”

Even without the added step to caption the film, the process took an entire year. The first semester of class focused on pitching a film idea. From there, the department faculty decided which films would be produced and teams formed. The next semester, teams produced the film and went through post-production, making final edits and corrections in order to ensure the best sound and picture possible.

“This is a chance for students to bring their various specialties together in an integrative environment,” said Warren Koch, Ph.D., interim chair, Department of Cinematic Arts. “Each capstone project has about eight students who work as ‘department heads’ and specialize in a certain aspect of production. The challenge, of course, is to find a way to work as a team.”

APU cinematic arts students are given the opportunity to make multiple films. They take at least one major production class each year. “We encourage students to hold top leadership roles on short films rather than concentrating our efforts on placing them as production assistants on a professional film,” said Koch.

Many schools with well-known film programs are so impacted that students must compete for the opportunity to produce something. “Working on set is absolutely the best way to learn and succeed. Students at APU are fortunate to come out of college with a well-rounded reel that includes multiple films to show future employers,” said Meyering.

Watch the behind the scenes trailer.

Rebekah Bruckner '18 is a public relations intern in the Office of University Relations. She is a English major and a graphic design minor.