The Crew Experience: An Experience Like No Other

Photo by Digital Cinema Department

This year SOU launched its Digital Cinema major, offering visual storytellers the technical and creative skills to bring their ideas to life through film. In the spring, students will be leaving the classroom for an immersive and onset course called the Crew Experience. There, they will work in a professional environment creating a short film with faculty and industry mentors by their side. In order to make this as realistic as possible, students who were planning on enrolling in this class had to interview for their positions with the director and instructor Andrew Gay and were then assigned roles. When talking to him about why he felt it was important to add a course like this to the new DCIN program, he made the following statement:

“In most of our classes, students work in small groups to create a short film from scratch in a single term. That’s a wonderful model in which to learn creative problem-solving and develop skills in collaboration, but it is not so effective if your goal is to prepare students for careers in professional film and television production. In the Crew Experience, a crew of 30 students will be working together in assigned positions on a predetermined project — the way it will work after they graduate. This experience prepares them for their first set job like nothing we’ve ever done before.”

Photo by DCIN

Set in the beautiful Rogue Valley area (and a local train park) the short film “Eight and Sand” tells the story of two half-sisters, America and Sadie, who are trying to honor their mother’s last wish a year after her passing. The script was written specifically to give the student crew challenges that would make the experience more difficult, but also more rewarding. “‘Experience’ is the name of the game in the Crew Experience. There are so many things you only really understand when you’re in the middle of them. Students will be immersed and will learn on so many levels,” Courtney Williams, 1st Assistant Director, said.

A significant part of this experience is the professional relationships that the students get to make with industry mentors. This quarter, the DCIN program teamed up with television producer Randy Cordray (The Office) and television prop master Jim Falkenstein (Fuller House) for the new sitcom class and the dynamic duo will be back to help consult the students throughout the Crew Experience. Joining them will be a number of other professional filmmakers, including Green Book cinematographer Sean Porter, Agents of Shield Cinematographer Chris Nibley, and Portlandia producer David Allen Cress. One of the biggest contributors is local filmmaker Courtney Williams who will be acting as co-instructor and 1st Assistant Director on set. With her help, and the help of the rest of the industry mentors, this production and experience will truly be like no other for students here at SOU that want to pursue a career in film. When talking with the student producer Marjorie Miller, she referenced how this course was an opportunity to immerse themselves in the process and evaluate if it is really what they want to do. “It’s a unique opportunity to see students fully immersed in their future careers and instill the hope in them that they can succeed,” Miller said.

To prepare for this, and the finances that come with filmmaking, students learned about crowdfunding and started an IndieGogo campaign, which ends Thursday the 12th, to raise at least $6000 in their Entrepreneurial Producing class this term. This money goes towards things like props, costumes, location fees, talent, and food for the cast and crew. While they have already reached their initial goal, the campaign still goes on so that they have the resources to make their production the best that it can be.

When talking about why people should donate and support the DCIN students, Andrew Gay shared, “SOU serves a very different student population than the folks you’d usually find at the big film schools. Most of our students work multiple jobs to make ends meet. Through the Crew Experience, we’re able to offer them a big film school experience at a fraction of the cost, but only with community support. We hear more and more that universities need to do more workforce training and career preparation, and that’s exactly what the Crew Experience is designed to do. We believe the dollars contributed by our backers will have a direct impact on our students’ employment outcomes after graduation.”

Everything about The Crew Experience is innovative and exciting for all parties involved. Film is a medium that almost everyone enjoys in some way, whether it is the audience watching it or the artists making it. “Filmmaking is a harmony of opposites. People call it ordered chaos, but what does that really mean? The Crew Experience puts students right in the middle of it, from start to finish, so they can begin to internalize the big picture and a set of working principles with which to make decisions. Students won’t get that kind of perspective (while also skill-building) for a long time when they start working as PAs or working on three people crews. The Crew Experience is a crash course!” Williams said.

If you want to learn more about The Crew Experience and get involved check out their crowdfunding page and share it with your friends!

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