BOWLING GREEN - Several Bowling Green State University students transformed University Hall into a makeshift stage yesterday, and brought a little piece of Hollywood to northwest Ohio.
After setting up a camera, light and sound equipment, and placing two gold-trimmed wooden thrones in the center of the set, the steps in front of the Eva Marie Saint Theatre slowly began to resemble a castle in Denmark.
The students then started preparing to film the final scenes of William Shakespeare's play Hamlet with 17th-century costumes and equipment used by professional filmmakers in Calif., N.Y., and Toronto.
"This is something they read about," said Jose Cardenas, a BGSU film and telecommunications instructor. "Film production is a craft. It's like any other craft. You have to experience it, you have to practice it, and you get better each time you do it."
Mr. Cardenas is leading a group of 24 students through an intensive, three-week telecommunications class called Narratives in Film and Television Production. Instead of sitting in a classroom listening to Mr. Cardenas lecture about what it's like to be part of a production crew, he's making it a reality with this four-year-old course.
When the course ends early next week, the students will have produced a short film and a 10-minute, behind-the-scenes documentary.
Students arrive at the set around 9 a.m. each weekday, set up the equipment and often film for 13 hours. They rotate jobs every two days, each getting a chance to operate the camera, work on lighting and sound, or direct the entire production.
Being responsible for different aspects of a production crew provides students with a glimpse into the world they'll enter after graduation, said Jay Woelfel, a friend of Mr. Cardenas who is directing the production and co-authored the script.
With little support for the film industry in Ohio, many graduates will start out as independent filmmakers and be responsible for the entire operation.
"If you want to do it, you have to do everything yourself," Mr. Woelfel said.
Allie Toman, a senior film major at BGSU, wants to direct films in Hollywood. But realistically, she knows she has to make a name for herself by first producing independent films.
"I won't have any type of studio backing me, so I'll have to be my own producer, I'll have to have all of my own gear, find my own crew, and pay for all of my films and equipment," she said.
Taking the class has helped Ms. Toman grasp the essential aspects of becoming an independent filmmaker. "I'm going to take away hands-on knowledge you can't get from a textbook," she said.
"This gives you the production feel - like figuring out how long it takes to set up a shot, and what you actually have to look at and how many people you have to correlate with. I don't think that can be taught in a classroom."
For Mr. Cardenas, the students' ambition and dedication to the project feeds his own passion for filmmaking.
"It's 100 percent worthwhile doing when they get behind it," he said. "This is their dream."
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