Movies from Marlboro: providing students with film set experience

By Lisa Nault

Staff Writer

During the spring of 2015, Simmons College held an International Women’s Film Forum. One guest at the event was Director Jay Craven. Craven was presenting his film “Peter and John,” with a crew that was made up of mainly female students. This is unique for the film industry, in which crews are predominantly made up of men.

After the film screening, Craven discussed the Movies From Marlboro (MFM) program that made the film possible. MFM offers

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Credit: Audrey Stevens

college students the chance to work on a professional film set and gain experience they can put towards their future careers. Students apply to the program through a rigorous application process, and in the end roughly 20 to 30 hopefuls are accepted. With the support of Marlboro College, Craven, and various Kickstarter backers, students are able to work side by side with experienced professionals on a feature film.

The program is open to students all across the nation. This past semester MFM received students from California to Minnesota and even New England states. Similar to a study abroad program, MFM students take a semester away from their schools and receive credits from Marlboro College instead.

In the spring semester of 2016, the program began work on a new film called “Wetware.” Students got to work hands-on with professional equipment alongside experienced filmmakers. They worked side by side a professional gaffer, best boy, props manager, director of photography, and more. They also got to work with professional equipment such as a Red Dragon camera, kino lights, and boom microphone.

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Credit: Lisa Nault

Students begin the semester by taking a variety of film production classes and starting on pre-production work for their feature film. Students are given the freedom to choose what role they will take on in the film’s production, and in turn take courses within their chosen field. For example, students who wanted to create sets and props took classes within Marlboro’s Art Department.

Students also had the opportunity to work in different departments on different production days. One student from Minnesota started out as a production assistant, moved on to the electrical team, assisted post-production behind-the-scenes filming, worked with the Red Dragon camera next, and then finished the film in the art department. Other students who wanted to hone their specific skills stayed in one department for the entire production. For example, a student from Massachusetts only worked as a production assistant.

The MFM program also offered students the opportunity to attend the world famous Sundance Film Festival in Utah. While at Sundance, students immersed themselves in film culture, attended Q&As, and watched independent films. Attending Sundance also provided students the opportunity to network with professionals in the movie-making business.

After experiencing Sundance and attending classes, students began production on their feature film. “Wetware” was filmed in Brattleboro (VT), Burlington (VT), and Nantucket (MA). Different filming locations offered students the opportunity to travel as if they were on a real film set. Film production took a little over a month, with two weeks spent in Vermont and four spent in Massachusetts.

During production, students worked 12 hours a day, five days a week. Students huddled around portable propane heaters during cold Vermont nights, woke up to breakfast burritos at 7 in Nantucket, and there were times when they would go to bed as the sun was rising. Their weekends were Wednesdays and Thursdays, which they used to relax, sleep in, do laundry, and/or explore the towns they were in. In this way, students got to experience the trials and tribulations of working on a real-life film set.

The Movies From Marlboro program gave students a rare opportunity that not many film students have. They were able to work on a film set with professionals who understood this was a learning opportunity for them. In the end they also received a feature film credit while still enrolled in college.

The Movies From Marlboro film “Wetware” is still in post-production and is scheduled to be released in 2017. “Wetware” is the third movie the MFM program has created; however, it was the first film crew that featured a Simmons College student.

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