UAT's Film Talent
UAT's Digital Video (DV) curriculum will be in full force at the annual Phoenix Film Festival, April 12-19 in Phoenix.
This year, UAT has four short films at the event, as well as major contributions to a motion picture. The shorts—Peephole, Pirate Booty, Stabbing Stupidity and The Long Shot are in the Arizona Short Selections A and B categories. Showcase feature film Netherbeast Incorporated includes work from UAT students and staff.
Romantic comedy Peephole was the brainchild of graduate Daniel Martinez (a senior while creating the film), centered on a lonely guy hiding from the world, until a cute sandwich girl forces him to come out of his self-imposed prison.
"It's a romantic comedy on the surface, and while I hope people enjoy it on that level, I also hope they can get the underlying message of facing your fears and embracing life," said
A DVA441 class project for fall semester,
"[It was] a real change of pace for our students. You usually see them doing visual effects-laden adventure-epic [movies]," said DeNigris. "It's really neat."
Pirate Booty, a plundering adventure- comedy, previously screened at the 2006 48-Hour Film Challenge. Chronicling treasure-hungry pirates scouring the desert, Director Erin Frisbie and Director of Photography Todd Anderson anchored a devoted crew of undergrads to create the film in a two-day span.
"It was a collective process, really," said Frisbie of the experience. "I really learned how to just be on the ball and really know where we needed to go, know what we needed to get, and speak up and make sure everybody is doing what they're supposed to."
Stabbing Stupidity was directed by DeNigris, and he helmed writing and directing duties on The Long Shot: the former, a dark comedy starring a charismatic and creative woman dealing with a boorish co-worker; the latter, a mob-noir about a football star deep in gambling debt, trying to survive by betting on a big game.
The Long Shot was a test bed of UAT's high definition (HD) video resources: it was the first film done by the DV students on HD cameras, cut entirely in the University's DV editing lab. It also brought together current and alumni DV students, working together with the new technology under tight deadlines.
Student Ryan Whitten cut his teeth on The Long Shot, his first foray into working on a film. A visual effects supervisor, Whitten learned the hard way about working long hours on a set and challenges that arose.
"I learned to fear a couple of words on the set of The Long Shot. Paul's favorite words: 'We'll fix it in post.' There were some days where I'd hear that said on set five, six times, and I'd start to moan and groan, and give him a hard time about it. But in the end, it's all stuff I love."
"It was a very ambitious project," said DeNigris. "I mean, it was almost like a miniature feature film. I think we had 20 shooting days, and we shot on 25-26 different locations—real…all over the place."
"All over the place" would be a good way to describe the full-length Netherbeast Incorporated, an undead comedy by Arizonian filmmakers Dean and Michael Rolands. Described by DeNigris as Office Space with "sort of the sensibility like Buffy the Vampire Slayer," he, LaMont (credited as producer) and assorted students worked on the star-studded production. (Cast members included Dave Foley, Jason Mewes, Judd Nelson and Robert Wagner.)
Whitten pulled double duty on the film, both as a special effects intern under Michael Peterson (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, The Passion of the Christ) and post-production visual effects—including animation, motion graphics and Photoshop—work, turning out 3-4 minutes of footage.
"I got to build the prop that killed off Judd Nelson in the film. It was really nice," he said. "[Peterson]…taught me different blood effects, and just onset stuff that I never knew how to do because most of my experience is with digital."
With Netherbeast being his second stint on a film production, Whitten was better prepared for the rigors of a movie schedule.
"Working on set underneath [DeNigris] just taught me a lot, and if I hadn't have done that, I think I would have floundered quite a bit on the Netherbeast set, just because I wasn't used to the hours."
DeNigris was brought in by the Rolands' brothers as an unofficial technical advisor, using their past experience—they worked together on Screen Wars and IFP Phoenix—as a guide. He assisted with some visual effects, including digitally adding gun and blood particle effects, painting out others and photo editing.
He was also asked to do a title sequence. Visualizing a cross between South Park and the beginning credits of Catch Me If You Can, his pessimism of his drawing talents—"I'm a computer guy; I do editing and compositing, but I don't draw"—led him to recruit adjunct art instructor Linda LaGalia for her expertise. She created caricatures of the main characters, for which DeNigris rigged the animation and completed the sequence.
Kevin Mason, an art department intern on the movie, constructed various sets and assisted with disposing of "the great big mess at the studio" at the end. Though his job didn't stress creativity—"I was working for someone [else's] vision," he said—he was proud of his contributions to the whole.
"All the sets look amazing and I'm glad I got to work on the film because I learned so much about the real industry; my work was not in vain."
(For a complete schedule of the 2007 Phoenix Film Festival, check out http://www.phoenixfilmfestival.com/2007%20Festival%20Schedule.pdf. A cut of Stabbing Stupidity is online at http://films.thelot.com/films/7668.)
Story by Trevor Green