‘Forever changed by this experience’: Collaborations bring 3 student films to life
Writer and director Angelo Pizzo — best known for the films “Hoosiers” and “Rudy” — oversaw a film production on campus earlier this month. But he wasn’t calling any of the shots.
“Ask Abby, she’s the director,” Pizzo said in response to a question from a cast member.
Two Media School students — junior Abby Welch and doctoral candidate Caleb Allison — will see their screenplays come to life this summer, with the help of Pizzo, senior lecturer Craig Erpelding’s Advanced Motion Picture Production class, local businesses, donors and other faculty and community members.
Welch wrote the screenplay for a winter intersession screenwriting course Pizzo taught this year, and Pizzo selected it as the best script of the class — meaning she’d have the opportunity to direct and film the short film under his mentorship.
“Watching this come to life has been the most rewarding experience,” Welch said on set.
Her screenplay, filmed at IU’s Kappa Kappa Gamma and Acacia houses, is a love story. Welch wrote, directed and cast the film, “Quadreynnial.”
The filming and directing process, Welch said, is both exhausting and rewarding.
Since filmmaking is a highly collaborative process, Welch worked in tandem with Erpelding’s Advanced Motion Picture Production summer class to produce the film. The class is also creating two more films — “Rover” and “Black Ghost” — directed by Allison.
Advanced Motion Picture Production is composed of 18 students. The students are responsible for roles from assistant director to being in charge of lighting, equipment and postproduction, Erpelding said.
Pizzo said he believes the most effective way to learn is by doing, a sentiment echoed by Erpelding.
“There’s no way to properly prepare,” Pizzo said. “Things pop up all the time where you have to be constantly making adjustments and rethinking and learning to collaborate.”
Some scenes require dozens of takes, and as the director, Welch instructed extras to walk more slowly, actors to emphasize different syllables and cameras to adjust to ideal angles.
Welch was surrounded by great mentors, she said, but she called the shots for an experiential learning experience.
The community at large contributed to the productions, Erpelding said. Businesses such as Malibu Grill donated space. Prop donations included a 1967 Chevy Chevelle convertible. Midwest Grip Lighting donated $18,000 worth of gear. IU faculty and alumni offered their time and expertise.
“It’s such a humbling experience to see all the support from donors and alumni across campus to support this high-level filmmaking,” Erpelding said. “The whole community chipped in to make this work.”
The course bore partnerships that support both students and the local filmmaking industry. Blue Ace Media, owned by Media School adjunct Jo Throckmorton; the Bloomington Academy of Film and Theatre, directed by Eric Shelley, BA’99; and Pigasus Productions — operated by John Armstrong, BA’02, MFA’07, and Zachary Spicer, BA’06 — have contributed to the projects, alongside faculty from The Media School and the Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance.
“We couldn’t do this without their support,” Erpelding said.
Funded in part by the Kaili and Ed Myerson Summer Short Film Production Class Fund — which was gifted to provide students a real-world, hands-on experience in filmmaking — the productions will create products that will be used in future Media School classes ranging from post-production, editing, color correction and sound design courses, Erpelding said.
“I am forever changed by this experience,” Welch said.
She said this opportunity has contributed to her professional and personal growth. While she and Pizzo butt heads creatively in the best way possible, she said, the experience has pushed her to be better.
“It’s also impacted the way I write,” she said. “As a director, you have to think about, ‘Is this action line achievable in practice, and can I actually pull this off, and would my character actually say this, and how would this look on camera,’ so I loved writing it and being able to direct both.”
Welch wrote between five and seven drafts, she said, with the finished product winning her the chance to professionally bring her vision to reality.
“To see her learn and grow in this way is very gratifying,” Pizzo said.
Erpelding’s favorite part of the summer course is the ability to connect with students in a deeper way when compared to usual academic structure.
“You become a family,” he said, speaking to the regular 12-hour days the team puts in.
Allison’s work is focused on horror, so the production requires filming overnight in between sunset and sunrise. That time and intensive teamwork creates shared experiences students and staff wouldn’t typically have access to during a normal school year, Erpelding said.
“I’m all the wiser for this experience,” Welch said. “And I know a little bit of what to expect of what’s to come because I’m really just getting started.”