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New “NWA Film Cycle” Initiative Gives Students Professional Filmmaking Experience

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Behind the scenes of the NWA Film Cycle production of the short film “Angle of Attack”.

A multidisciplinary team of U of A faculty and students recently completed production of their first short film as part of the NWA Film Cycle, an innovative new program funded by the Chancellor’s Fund for the Humanities and Performing Arts.

The film, titled Angle of attackis a collaboration between the School of Art and the Theater and Communication Departments, drawing on the talents of current and former faculty to provide invaluable hands-on experience for students in all areas of filmmaking.

Angle of attackcurrently in post-production, is the first in a series of NWA Film Cycle projects designed to provide students with the opportunity to work with veteran film professionals in key team positions and lay the foundation for credited and uncredited programs. credited in film writing and making in college.

“Film is a truly community-based art form, and the value of students working alongside industry professionals is extraordinary,” said Adam Hogan, the film’s cinematographer, as well as assistant professor and program manager. of experimental media at the School of Art. .

NWA Film Cycle has its roots in a short film, Animalproduced in 2019 by Russell Sharman, then Professor of Practice in the Department of Communication, in collaboration with Kris Katrosh, Head of Multimedia Production at U of A’s Global Campus, and Rockhill Studios, a Northwestern production company Arkansas.

Animal employed a dozen students under the supervision of professional filmmakers in key positions and was subsequently screened at festivals in the United States and around the world.

“The whole experience was an unqualified success,” Sharman said. “Watching these students experience the thrill of filmmaking, learning all aspects of the craft, and getting a vision of what a career in the industry might look like, was incredibly rewarding.”

The success of Animal led to a multidisciplinary scholarship written by Sharman and John Walch, assistant professor and director of the master’s program in playwriting in the U of A’s theater department. The team received one of the first-ever funds from the U of A Chancellor’s Fund for the Humanities and Performing Arts in early 2020 to create the NWA Film Cycle program, but the project was put on hold with the onset of the COVID pandemic.

Two years later, Angle of attack marked the first in the series of films set to be produced by the NWA Film Cycle program. The film brought back Sharman, now an independent filmmaker in Baltimore, to direct alongside Walch as screenwriter and Hogan as cinematographer.

“I don’t think there’s anything else like this program anywhere in the country,” Sharman said.

The initial trio were later joined by Dan Robinson of New Harvest Creative as producer, Kris Katrosh as producer and gaffer, Luke Gramlich as key handle, Hannah Whitney as first assistant director, Lon Keith as sound engineer, Brandon Roye as production designer and Laura Stayton as assistant camera and editor.

This team of seasoned professionals supervised more than a dozen students in all departments, from camera, grip and electrical to set design, makeup and wardrobe, including a cast of actors professionals from across the country working side-by-side with students in the MFA theater program. at the U of A to create Angle of attack.

Students Arden Carlson, Jordan Eldridge, Keaton Grimmett, Sarah Long and Madeline Young worked on camera, grip and as part of the electric team. Student Morgan McInnis and alumnus Brandon Roye worked on set design, and students Heidi DeCaluwe and Braedon Ulrich were on hair, makeup, and wardrobe. In addition, Angle of attackThe cast of included students Edwin Green, Jordan Williams and Ana Miramontes, as well as alumni Trey Smith and NaTosha Devon.

Angle of attack is the story of a group of friends attending a poetry night and discussing the meaning of artistic expression, from poetry to tattoos. The film was shot at multiple locations in Fayetteville Square. Angle of attack will enter post-production this summer and hit the festival circuit this fall.

“This experience proved to be much more than a learning opportunity,” said Keaton Grimmett, one of the students who worked on Angle of attack. “I got to see the value in every crew member and gained a greater respect and pride in who they are and what they do. I couldn’t be more excited to the idea of ​​getting into this field. This opportunity only made me want to get to work more.

Robinson, the producer of New Harvest Creative, agrees and adds, “There is no better way to integrate someone into the ecosystem than to give them the opportunity to work with a seasoned professional. This template is the optimal opportunity for budding filmmakers.

Hogan also noted that “students could see how quickly ideas moved from a conversation about a character’s current state of mind between Russell, the director, and myself, to seeing how effectively Kris, the gaffer, and I could sculpt light and shadow to realize this vision, bringing it to life on screen.

Theatre’s Walch, who wrote the Angle of attack screenplay, said, “The arts are a generative force, and it was great to see students, faculty, and community professionals working together on a creative project.”

While Walch said Angle of attack is a micro-project, the goal is to plant the seeds for the future development of larger projects through the NWA Film Cycle program.

“You never know what’s going to happen,” Walch said, “but in my experience, cultivating the ground beneath your feet provides both the immediate rewards of creative collaboration with students and enhances the potential for future growth.”

Sharman agreed and added that he also hopes some of that future growth will be tied to the booming movie industry in northwest Arkansas and across the state.

“The goal of the NWA Film Cycle program is to connect the demand for well-trained crews in the region with the supply of students who are passionate and committed to the film arts,” said Sharman. “We want to seed a real film community that could eventually sustain a local film industry to rival the prestige and productivity of cities like Austin, Texas; Wilmington, North Carolina; and even Atlanta, Georgia.

Todd Shields, Dean of Fulbright College, praised Sharman, Walch, Hogan and their team for these efforts and said the NWA Film Cycle program is a great example of what can happen when the arts, humanities and technology come together. combine.

“Just think about what a starting point the NWA Film Cycle program will be for our community as well as our students who aspire to become professional filmmakers,” Shields said. “When multidisciplinary projects like this are funded, there are no limits to what can be accomplished or created. I can’t wait to see what the NWA Film Cycle team does next.

About the University of Arkansas: As Arkansas’ flagship institution, the U of A offers an internationally competitive education in more than 200 academic programs. Founded in 1871, the U of A contributes more than $2.2 billion to the Arkansas economy through the teaching of new knowledge and skills, entrepreneurship and employment development, discovery through research and creative activity while providing training in professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation ranks the U of A among the few American colleges and universities with the highest level of research activity. US News and World Report ranks the U of A among the top public universities in the nation. Learn how the U of A is working to build a better world at Arkansas Research News.