Short film project gives students great skills for future in any career
Though Media Criticism is best known for being the bane of communication majors’ existence, the 50-page final thesis paper is not the end for those with their focus in cinema arts. For the seniors in this half of the communication department, spring semester also holds an additional project: the production and completion of their own short film.
Senior Aubree Vanderhoeven is one such student. With an emphasis in cinema arts and a focus on production, the final film project was inevitable for her.
“I did not want to do a film for my senior project,” Vanderhoeven said. “I tried to see if I could do a design thing, could I make a website, could I do anything, and the answer was always no.”
Vanderhoeven was eventually approached by another student, Scotty Maxwell, who had a script and a crew, but was missing a producer. Maxwell introduced her to “Jaden,” a short film he himself had written.
When Vanderhoeven agreed to work alongside of Maxwell, she became a part of a 25-person crew, made up of both students and professionals.
Vanderhoeven describes “Jaden” as an imaginative, post-apocolyptic tale, about a society that loses the sun and is forced to focus on their survival.
“It [is a] story of redemption, and finding light in darkness,” she said.
Vanderhoeven thrust herself into her new rule, despite not being sure of all it included. She relied heavily on Google “how to’s” and the wisdom of her old professors.
“If I agree to something, I’m not going to do it half-heartedly. I’m like, this is your project, this is now my project, so let’s go for it,” she said.
Vanderhoeven’s role covered a lot of territory, including providing food, taking care of location permits, providing actor release and liability forms, fundraising, paying vendors, renting spaces for casting, planning rehearsal dates, and more.
“We started in December and my job just ended this past Sunday,” Vanderhoeven said.
Fortunately, she was able to work very closely with Maxwell to produce this film.
“Of course, Scotty was by my side the whole time. We would meet every Tuesday night from 8:30 to however late we had to go. We were texting all the time,” Vanderhoeven said.
Vanderhoeven explained that past experiences on films really helped her in preparing for her role as Jaden’s producer.
“I helped on a lot of sets… I’ve usually just helped as a [Production Assistant], which really helped me [to be] in charge of PAs and production because I know how they feel…I knew how to treat the PAs, I knew what food people needed…it taught me a lot being on sets,” she said.
Vanderhoeven knows that the work she put into on this film helped to create and refine skills that will be beneficial for her in the future, even if she does not pursue a career into filmmaking.
“I want to be a creative director somewhere. Whether that be for graphic design, or social media, that is my big goal; I want to be a part of a company and I want to help their creativity flourish,” she said. “With this project, you had to be so creative with everything. What if the location didn’t allow fire? What are we gonna switch to?”
Vanderhoeven explained that being the head of production on this project taught her tangible skills that will follow her for the rest of her life.
“You learn strategy, you learn being flexible, you learn that you’re not just working for yourself, you’re working for a crew of people. It taught me a lot of just people management, time management, and just that life is gonna throw things at you, and whether you’re ready or not, they happen,” Vanderhoeven said.
Vanderhoeven appreciated the lessons she learned from this experience, including having to expect the unexpectable.
“These little steps that you don’t see coming happen. And I think with wanting to be a creative director and wanting to go into creative design, you’re gonna have clients that will want something want time and not want it the next time, so this process I think really taught me that the real world is not super nice, you know?” Vanderhoeven said. “People aren’t just going to be like, ‘you’re a student film? Of course you can film on my location for $200!’”
Despite any trials and issues, Vanderhoeven really appreciated the team she was able to work with.
“We had the most phenomenal actors; such genuine people and that’s not typical in [student] films,” Vanderhoeven said.
And even though she was not sure how it would go at first, Vanderhoeven thoroughly enjoyed her role in this project.
“l loved getting to be a producer, because you get a sense of ‘wow, I was there, and look at what working and trying has gotten me to,” Vanderhoeven said.