(left to right) Autumn Dea, Ana Lucia Figueroa, Evan McLeod, Steven Spielberg, Eliot Hagen, Marlee Kamis
The city of Richmond hosted production for Stephen Spielberg’s upcoming historic biopic, Lincoln, during the fall semester of 2011. 9 alumni and 13 current VCU cinema students became involved as production assistants and paid crew members during the pre-production and principal photography stages of the Richmond leg of filming. Students had the opportunity to work in close proximity with the cast and crew of a full scale Hollywood motion picture, most of them for the first time, and gained a lot from the experience. We caught up with some of them, now that production has wrapped, and asked them to describe what it was like.
WHAT WAS YOUR ROLE ON LINCOLN?
AUTUMN DEA: Assistant Directors’ department intern.
ANDY KENNEDY-DERKAY: Assistant Directors’ department intern, featured extra.
JAMIE HARDESTY: Assistant Directors’ department intern, extra.
MARLEE KAMIS: Assistant Directors’ department intern.
CHANDLER HONEYCUTT: I was an assistant in the wardrobe department.
HOW DID THE VCU CINEMA PROGRAM PREPARE YOU FOR THIS JOB?
AD: The way our program is set up, especially the way we do stuff over the summer, is basically the same but on a smaller scale.
JH: Chain of command, learning the lingo, VCU Cinema will actually prepare you for a Hollywood production.
MK: Professionalism is a big thing. Cinema taught me how to act and present myself on a film set, and moreover who the important people are, who to talk to, who to not talk to, etc. Having good ‘set-iquette’ will set you apart from other industry newcomers.
CH: Having been on countless VCU Cinema productions I was pretty well practiced in working at the often demanding pace that’s natural to a film set. Things can get stressful quickly so being able to adapt to that is essential.
WHAT DID YOU TAKE AWAY FROM THE EXPERIENCE?
AD: Nothing beats the experience itself. You can learn, and study, and read about it but you don’t really know it until you’re on set doing it. It makes me more confident in what else I’m doing and I can refer back to my time on set.
AKD: If you’re able to do a good or adequate job in front of all of your heroes without getting distracted, then you’re able to do your job. Treat it like a job and in your quiet moments you’ll be fine. Also, learning that everyone is super brilliant, but they’re all just people.
MK: This experience reaffirmed for me that I’ve chosen the right career path. I can’t wait until I graduate and start working full time as a PA, then eventually as an AD. I’ve been pretty sure of this dream for a while, but working on this film made it seem so real. Everything I saw the AD’s do was exactly what I want to be doing in a few years.
CH: The simple answer- contacts. Aside from having my first major motion picture credit on my resume, I now have a few connections and pretty likely a job on another film to be shot later in the year.
WHAT DID YOU LEARN ABOUT THE FILM INDUSTRY WHILE ON SET?
AD: You’re kind of aware of how tough of an industry it is when you’re learning about it, but until you’re there and watching people, you can’t totally understand how tough it actually is.
JH: I learned that time management is crucial.
MK: It is completely unique from any other industry. One of my bosses likened it to a traveling Carnival. It’s dirty and hectic. There are all kinds of crazy people working together— the ‘carnies’. They move from town to town, set up tents, and put on a show. No two days are the same. It’s thrilling.
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF WORKING ON LINCOLN?
AD: Just being on set in general. Any time you’re on set you feel like you’re learning something.
MK: We got to meet so many amazing people. The most incredible thing was meeting people I’d never heard of before—whose names I know I’ll want to remember. So many amazing unsung heroes go into make films this big, and it was a privilege to get to know all the crew members.
Spielberg’s Lincoln, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, James Spader, Sally Field and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, will be released in theaters at the end of 2012.
The 20th French Film Festival will be held March 29th-April 1st! Co-academic sponsors, VCU and UR will kick off the celebration with 3-day symposium on French Film: Art, Science & Technology at Work for Humanity. Go to http://frenchfilmfestival.us/ for more info!
The VCU French Film Festival provides our students with access to the top filmmakers in France with master workshops and seminars.
This week students attended a workshop taught by VCU Cinema adjunct and working professional, Charlie Harris. Charlie Harris has been working in the industry since 1986 and has worked on projects including The Blindside, John Adams and Cold Mountain.
Students learned about camera movement, different positions on a set, tools, cranes and jibs.
It was a hands on workshop and students had the opportunity to gain hands on experience by practicing building jibs, laying track, operating the camera and using the dolly.
VCU Cinema alumni and working professional, Charlie Schneider visited students to give a lecture on what it is like to work in the film industry. Charlie has worked on many projects since graduating from the VCU Cinema program including Steven Spielberg’s upcoming film, Lincoln.
Schneider told students about the hierarchy of crews on a film set, safety, rigging cables, lighting unions, and working in the real world.
After the lecture, students worked on creating short scenes and applied what they learned in the lecture to light the scenes with VCU’s high-end lighting equipment.
Charlie then gave a workshop on operating VCU’s grip truck where a number of students were able to get certified.