At the end of each spring, several short films are s hown at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Seniors in the film production option of the Cinema and Television Arts program here at CSUN produce these films as their senior project, and the film festival is the grand finale to an intense year of hard work and dedication.
Every senior in the film production option of the CTVA program must take part in a senior project in order to receive a bachelor’s degree. Drawing on experiences from earlier CTVA classes, the seniors team up to create a film that will leave their mark on the CSUN community. Each film must have a full crew, including a director, producer, two editors, a cinematographer, and two sound technicians. Each of these positions is filled based on what each student specialized in during their previous classes.
“The senior project is supposed to be the culmination of everything you have learned throughout your time in the CTVA program,” said senior Chris Chestnut, the producer for his senior project crew. Chestnut is the self-described “coordinator” for his crew, and his job is to “bring all the elements together” on the project. It is his responsibility to obtain permits for shoots, write business proposals, and manage the group’s finances.
Before a senior film can even be made, each crew must submit a proposal to Nate Thomas, the head of the program. The proposal must state the intent to make the film, what it will be about, how the crew will be able to create it, and how they will raise the funds necessary to produce the film. Thomas then reads the proposals and decides which films he would like the students to produce.
“(The proposals are) very competitive. Only five films out of 15 or 20 were chosen last year,” said student sound technician Scott Zugnoni. Once a film has been chosen, the crew must get together and begin fundraising. Some groups ask local businesses to sponsor them or donate items needed for the films. Additionally, each student in the program is expected to contribute some money to the project, usually around $250.
The senior projects require a serious time commitment. Each senior is required to enroll in CTVA 452, the senior project class. For many of these graduating seniors, this is their only class for the entire semester. Kate Ryan, the director of a documentary about dogs, provides an example of how much hard work these students put into their projects.
As a director, Ryan is responsible for making her vision come to life.
“It’s all about guiding people to do what you want,” she said.
Due to her documentary’s subject, she is faced with the additional responsibility of directing animals as well as people. Although the responsibilities of being a director can be overwhelming at times, Ryan seems to enjoy it immensely, as the documentary was her idea. She and her crew are currently working on shooting the footage for their film.
Capturing the raw footage for these films is only the beginning. Once the entire film is shot, the editing process begins. According to Zugnoni, the editing process is much more intensive and lengthy than the actual shooting.
“Shooting usually takes only a week or so, but post-production can take much longer,” he said.
One student in the senior project class recalled working for eight hours to edit a single minute of raw footage. The editing process is used to mold the film into the director’s vision.
As Chestnut explains, “A good film is all about the story and how well you tell it.” With careful editing, hours of raw footage are expertly crafted into 15-minute short films.
At the end of each spring semester, several of the best films are selected to play in a film festival at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The students who produced the films in the festival are truly some of the best and brightest filmmakers here at CSUN.
“It is truly an honor to have your film selected for the film festival,” Chestnut said. There is no prize awarded to the creators of the chosen films, but “having your film in the festival is the true prize,” he said.