North Texas Daily

Boxing story one of eight in short film premiere

Boxing story one of eight in short film premiere

Boxing story one of eight in short film premiere
April 14
00:14 2015

Samantha McDonald / Senior Staff Writer

No more than two minutes from the film’s start, a sequence shows a woman dressed in an official uniform walking down a hallway.

She approaches a larger, more crowded hallway where a door stands guarded by security. A small group of photographers crowd in front of the door, ready to take pictures of the athlete who sits behind it when the woman makes her way into the room.

The film, aptly titled “Down and Out,” follows two families prior to a boxing match and a bet on the supposedly fixed fight that affects their lives.

Throughout the making of the short film, it was this scene that took up the most space in the mind of director and film senior Colton Dobbs until the day he and his crew finally got the right shot.

“Waking up that morning, I was 90 percent sure we weren’t going to be able to get that shot, and then when we did it, it was the best feeling,” Dobbs said. “It was something I had never seen a film student try before on that scale, and just being able to say we did that is pretty great.”

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Media art senior Trevor Garza, center, and Pierre-Michael Montagon practice maneuvering the glidecam Sunday April 5, 2015 at the UNT colosseum.

As part of an advanced film production class, “Down and Out” and seven other student-produced short films will premiere May 16, or graduation day for seniors, with an audience of about 500 people to celebrate an accomplishment that has taken students more than a semester to complete.

“Spending a whole six months working on this and finally seeing what the reaction is to it is kind of the quintessential thing for me – graduating that day and coming to the screening, my family and friends being there, and hopefully getting a strong reaction to it,” Dobbs said.

Fitting the bill

For students, registering for the media arts’ advanced film production class is no easy task.

The department advertises its openings in the fall semester, which include the original scripts and key roles of director, producer, sound lead, editor and cinematographer. Students must then submit the requirements according to these categories, which can range from a resume to an actual film clip.

The faculty then requests around four weeks to consult with students, go through submissions and compile a slate of eight short films representative of student talent during the spring term.

But the work actually kicks off the previous fall semester when students start casting and finalizing their scripts so they can begin filming by early February. Within the 12 weeks of the term they film, edit and present the films to the public on top of being required to serve as a crew member on at least two additional films other than their own.

Advanced film production professor Eugene Martin said the 42 students have up to four days to shoot their script – one of several goals in the class.

“The first [goal] is that we discuss how to create a community that is collaborative and supportive,” he said. “Another outcome is that every student in the class creates a portfolio-quality film to showcase their artistic talents and skills to future employers, graduate programs and peers.”

At the end, Martin said the premiere provides professors with a solid deadline while giving students the opportunity to see the screening of their films.

“Our students really dedicate a lot of sweat equity into their projects,” he said. “For them, they are following their passion, so the hours they put in are rich with experiences and opportunities that they are actively seeking.”

Lights, camera, action

Behind the creation of “Down and Out” was a Kickstarter fund that covered $1,980 of the requested $1,500 toward production costs.

Producer and film senior Bryan Greene created the project to raise enough money for costumes and props, including authentic, professional boxing equipment and wardrobes, feeding its cast and crew during the shoot and submissions to as many film festivals as possible within the state and across the nation, such as the Texas Independent Film Festival and the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.

“Down and Out” recently finished filming after being in pre-production since November when Dobbs wrote the script and first approached Greene to become its producer.

“We like to brand it as “Magnolia” meets “Raging Bull”; it’s a boxing movie without any boxing,” Greene said, referring to the 1999 drama film with Tom Cruise and the 1980 memoir starring Robert de Niro. “Our film is very much grounded in a sense of realism. In terms of camera actions, set design and character motivations, it’s all very humanist.”

Cinematographer and film senior Trevor Garza, who primarily operated the camera for the film’s shooting, said he wanted the tracking shot where the woman walks down the hallway to resemble scenes featured in Martin Scorsese’s and Paul Thomas Anderson’s films.

“Those are the two biggest influences on our movie, so it felt appropriate that we have sort of that signature shot that these two directors use,” he said.

Although they had to stay on schedule, Garza said he was determined to get the creative shots he wanted, citing a scenario where he had 15 shots for a single scene with only three hours for filming. An average shot takes 20 minutes to compose.

“The thing about filming a movie, being a cinematographer, is that you have to think on your feet quickly and be ready for things to change,” he said. “The lighting team, the director and the producer all want different things, so you have to be able to be prepared for the whole film production to be this constantly evolving organism.”

Because no character in the script is college-age, (the actors were either adults or children), Greene said he and Dobbs reached out to talent agents in the Dallas area to look for cast members. Its making involved nearly 100 people in three casting calls and an equal number of callbacks, ending up with six cast members managed by an eight-member crew.

“It’s about getting the right people together at the right time to make the best possible product that you can have while having fun doing it, getting your name out there and eventually being able to share it with people, because that’s the best part,” Greene said.

Featured Image: Senior RTVF Major, Bradley Laird sets up the dolly along side Senior RTVF Major Arthur Strode Jr. Sunday April 5, 2015 at the UNT parking lot.

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