As Keene State College approaches the midway point of spring semester, students are looking forward to the home stretch of this academic year.
For some this spells the end of a semester’s hard work, but for upperclassmen film production students this May marks two semesters worth of time, energy and hard drive disc space.
Professor Johanna Dery’s Production 3/4 class of 10 students has been working on a film project since day one of the academic year.
According to the film major requirements listed on the Keene State College website, the class is a final requirement in order to attain a film studies major with a concentration in production and the ultimate end product is to make a short film.
In the case of Dery’s class, this film is a narrative experiment that past film students could say is a great undertaking. The film is called “Speakeasy.”
The plot follows three unlikely friends as they form an underground bar in the not-so-distant future when prohibition has been reinstated by the United States congress.
The story is a blend of drama and criminal intrigue, masking themes that deal with contemporary state of affairs and identity, both national and individual.
Co-director Nicole Albee revealed that the three main protagonists were written to test stereotypes and reflect the vice and virtue within audiences.
When discussing the project, the crew took pride in their ability to come together to create such a dynamic student film.
The 10 students were able to meet back in April of 2014 before the class began to discuss what kind of film they wanted to make.
“One of the first thoughts was, ‘gladiators!’” co-director Joe Fusco said, “But we realized the logistics of that were pretty hard.”
Despite this initial pipe dream, it was clear the group wanted to take on a period piece that would challenge them. When the plot was eventually decided, three of the students got to work writing the screenplay.
The final script was eventually penned by Nicole Albee along with Matt Hausmann and Uylssys Martinez.
Albee said she drew inspiration for one of the characters from her mother, while other elements of the film were accomplished through painstaking creative research.
Albee said she believes, “It’s the kind of story that appeals to a broader range of people.” She and the crew said they hope this comes through with their use of mature talent and the overall professional look of the film.
The “Speakeasy” crew spent months planning shoots, grabbing locations and casting both amateur and professional actors.
Director of Photography Tyler Crupa said, “Our biggest hope is to try and make this not look like a college film. I think that’s the ultimate goal.”
To start off their careers creating a project that has been carefully crafted is important to the crew, which is made up evenly between senior and junior film students.
For the seniors, this is their last chance to make something at KSC and, even for the juniors, this is a major component in career-building.
Assistant Director Amelia Gallup sounded off on the positive learning curve this class imprints on a film production major’s future beyond KSC.
Gallup said, “This has been a fantastic learning experience because this is as close as we can get to a real work environment.”
The open collaboration between students and their faculty breeds hope for future endeavors on professional film sets and production offices.
“This project really shows how much it takes to make a film and how it’s not something that everyone can do. I think it takes a rare breed of people to work on this. Filmmaking is not just filmmaking, it’s so much more than that,” Fusco said.
The process has not been without its contentions, but the crew has learned to work together to troubleshoot issues both personal and technical.
The goal is for there to be a complete film by the end of this term that can be shown publicly and hopefully go on to be seen in larger venues.
Many of the Production 3/4 classes hope to spread their resulting films to festivals and other planned public showings.
And so these films mean more than just a letter grade or pass/fail — they will stand as an introduction into the crazy industry that is film entertainment.
“It’s a lot but it always pays off,” Fusco said of his team’s pride and joy, “Speakeasy.”
“Speakeasy” can be seen at the end of the year film showcase scheduled for May 2. The time and on/off campus location is to be determined.
Check out “Speakeasy” on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SpeakeasyStudentFilm to stay updated.
Rebecca Costanzo can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org