The Keene State College film seniors are currently wrapping up the first semester of a year-long class by starting fundraising for their individual capstone projects.
This semester-based course is called Production Capstone 1 and 2 and is a requirement for all film production majors. The first semester, or Production Capstone 1 is focused mainly on the preproduction and production portion.
The spring semester, the second half of the capstone, tackles the area of technical and conceptual points to filmmaking.
One of the professors teaching the course is Professor Jo Dery. Dery said, “The Capstone course has existed in a variety of forms since the Film Production track began in Film Studies. Students have always been responsible for the cost of their films.” Dery added, “My colleague Tom Cook teaches the other section of this same course. This year-long class asks students to synthesize their learning through the creation of a short film. Students can work independently or as a group, and they can use any approach to filmmaking: Narrative, documentary, experimental or animation. I instruct students on using our advanced level film equipment, coach them through pre-production, production, and post-production, and organize the year-end screening at the Colonial Theater on Main Street.”
In terms of the fundraiser, everyone was asked whether or not they thought that their films should be a school-funded activity.
However, Dery and two students from the class, seniors Donovan Sweeney and Zachary Rioux were quite similar in their disagreement of school funding. Everyone agreed with Rioux when he said that it helps to gain experience with the “important skill to learn to sell one’s projects to others to get backing.”
Professor Dery also wanted to add that she believes that after having the students fundraise, they have truly benefited from the experience, as opposed to them simply receiving funding.
Sweeney said, “The biggest expense we’re using the fundraising for will likely be travel or catering [and] food services. Initially, we thought a lot of our budget would go to special effects or something like that, but the more we plan the more we realize that travel and food will take up a lot of our budget.”
Rioux said, “The main reason I am fundraising is so I can have a budget going into the shoot.”
The two seniors have different approaches to their capstones, and the projects themselves vary greatly. Rioux described his film as “a mockumentary that follows the lives of a vampire, invisible man, a college student and a vampire huntress as they try to live in a world where people have discovered monsters exist.”
Sweeney described the overall working process behind his capstone project, mentioning, “My friends and I have been planning out this project since last year, and we’ve put a ton of creative effort into it. To see it finally coming together is insane and I can’t imagine where we would be without this course.”
“I am really proud of my students when they complete the fundraising for their film,” Dery said,” I can see how proud they are of themselves, too. All of a sudden, the film project is ‘really happening.’ The other moment students feel this sense is when they begin the casting process. When a group matches an actor to a role, they begin to see the film coming to life. It moves from their imagination, onto the page, and then onto film. The fundraising is what makes that last leap possible.”
Joseph Guzman can be contacted at