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Lights, camera, action: Students experience film-making process up close

Jun 14, 2024

Film Club meets with director Patty Jenkins Film Club meets with director Patty JenkinsA career in film takes more than just creativity. It’s also a business that thrives on connections. Five students in the film studies program at Indiana University South Bend can now say they have some of those connections after a trip to Los Angeles.

“We definitely wanted exposure for the film studies program here, but each student walked away with a different experience,” said Elaine Roth, professor of film studies at IU South Bend.

Students were able to meet people like “Wonder Woman” director Patty Jenkins, writer Nora Zuckerman, the showrunner and writer for “Poker Face”, and directors Jerome Gary and Mary Lambert. Roth used some personal connections to organize the trip. Students were able to translate what they’ve been learning in the classroom and compare it to real-life situations.

Film Club with writer Nora Zuckerman Film Club with writer Nora Zuckerman“In screen writing class I learned a lot. When I was there (Los Angeles), I was looking for more practical advice… how things flow and move,” said Amanda Jenkins, president of the IU South Bend film club and an incoming senior with a minor in film studies. “Being in the writers’ room, I got to see how they map things out. It’s more of a process than you think it is.”

Jenkins said the biggest benefit for her was connecting with a woman in the industry.

“She was the only woman in the room, so it was interesting to see how she speaks up to get her views and ideas out there,” she said.

The trip was initially overwhelming for Jackson Utterback, secretary of the film club and an incoming senior.

“I came out of the experience with a lot of new perspectives. I could never imagine that an Indiana student would be sitting in a room with a Hollywood producer or writer. I learned that people hold their ideas strongly and you need to be sure of yourself,” he said.

Utterback said he was surprised to see that people from different areas of the country and backgrounds were all part of the process.

“In LA it seems like everybody is somebody. I realize I need to take my passions and hobbies more seriously. These people cemented the idea for me that years of effort can become something,” he said.

Jenkins said it’s easier for her to see possibilities after the trip.

Film Club meets with directors Jerome Gary and Mary Lambert Film Club with directors Jerome Gary and Mary Lambert“When you meet those types of people, you’re expecting to be awestruck, but they are normal people. They have extreme talent and are great at what they do, but they are people just like us who had dreams and were able to pursue them,” she said.

Roth was impressed with how the students interacted with the industry professionals.

“They were a walking billboard for IU South Bend. Everyone who interacted with them was so impressed with how they carried themselves and their enthusiasm. Their talent was truly recognized by the folks there,” Roth said.

It’s not the first time students have taken a trip to see the film process up close. In 2018, a group from campus visited the set of “Wonder Woman 1984”in Washington, DC, and in 2019, several attended the International Film Festival in Chicago. Roth would like to make trips like this part of a class in the future so more students could participate.

Both Jenkins and Utterback said they’re energized by the trip and want to share the experience with others in the fall.

“When information comes from a person who is doing it and actually going through the process, it means more than getting an answer from Google,” Jenkins joked.

“I think we can show people that this is a serious program. There are passionate people behind you. It’s not just entertainment,” Utterback said.

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