SPSCC Student Filmmakers: Forging New Ground with First Public Screening

olympia film class
The students in Introduction to Film Production learned to collaborate effectively to produce high-quality, engaging short films. Photo courtesy of Riley Gibson


By Gale Hemmann

olympia film class
The students in Introduction to Film Production learned to collaborate effectively to produce high-quality, engaging short films. Photo courtesy of Riley Gibson

The excitement in the room was palpable. As I sat down to interview several students in the Introduction to Film Production class at South Puget Sound Community College, they were clearly enthusiastic about their upcoming film screening.

And the students have a lot to be proud of. Over the course of a quarter, they have learned the fundamentals of filmmaking, from operating equipment to editing to marketing their work. They’ve each had a chance to write, direct, or produce a short film. The culmination of the class will be a film screening, open to the public, at SPSCC’s Minnaert Center for the Arts.

The four students I met with were excited to tell me about their films and what they’ve gained from the course. Their work runs the gamut of subject matter, from comedy to sci-fi to drama. Aleycia Higgins is a full-time student at SPSCC. She directed the 8-minute film Last Call, filmed at her workplace, South Bay Pub and Eatery. She says the class has helped solidify her interest in filmmaking as the path she wants to pursue in her studies.

Classmate Harrison Hannon, also a full-time student, found that the class sparked a long-term interest in film as well. He served as Deputy Producer for The Dew, a humorous short which incorporates visual effects like fog machines. Says Hannon, “This class taught me the fundamentals and also how to translate stories through film.”

olympia film class
Student Harrison Hannon served as deputy producer for the short comedy film The Dew. Photo courtesy of Riley Gibson

I also talked with two Running Start students who are taking the class. Marena Teixeira, a high school junior, is tackling serious subject matter with In Session. And Alek Beers has created a sci-fi tale complete with special effects in The Voices in Their Head. As we talked, I was struck both by the students’ genuine excitement about their work and their camaraderie with each other.

The students noted that one great thing about the upcoming film screening has been how so many different departments of the college have collaborated to help make it a success. The theater department provided actors for the casting process. The culinary students are catering the food for the event. River Miller from e-Learning provided audio support and helped set up a sound recording booth during the films’ production. The administration and marketing departments have also been very supportive.

The students all agreed that instructor Riley Gibson is an encouraging and dynamic teacher, who brings both his extensive knowledge and connections within the local film community to the course. This is Gibson’s second class at SPSCC – he previously taught film editing, and will be teaching two classes next quarter. A founding member of the Olympia Film Collective, Gibson is an award-winning short film director. He has traveled the world as a teacher and videographer. He’s also worked as a videographer for a number of local groups, including the Thurston Economic Development Council. Gibson began self-teaching and independently producing films during college. He then went on to earn a Master’s of Fine Arts in Film from Ohio University.

Gibson says, “Learning how to work cohesively as a team, to perform tasks quickly – these skills are as much a part of making a film as knowing how to use a camera. Seeing the students learn to function within an organized group in a productive manner has been the most rewarding part of this course. I knew as long as they could pull together, they could make films, and through that group process be able to overcome any of the inevitable obstacles that arise on all film sets…Some of them have even started working on projects together outside the classroom, and integrating themselves within the local film community.”

olympia film class
The students learn all aspects of film production, including equipment operation. Photo courtesy of Riley Gibson

Filmmakers from the Olympia Film Collective (read more about them here) have donated their time to help support the students. Gibson says, “Several of the OFC members have worked with the students outside of the classroom to help improve their skills. Brandon Cartwright and his brother, Trevor, have been invaluable.”

Gibson is dedicated to giving students a well-rounded introduction to the film industry. As part of their project, they went into the community to find sponsors for their films. Businesses from across Thurston County contributed to the project by donating either filming locations or food for the screening. Sponsors include South Bay Pub and Eatery, Method Coffee Bar, Univera, Forever Knights Gaming, BioSmart Solutions, Bonneville Power Administration, Jimmy John’s, ADTranscribe, Yelm Country Outlet, Kathy Peterson, and Deanna Price of the Washington State Department of Enterprise Services.

We can all remember classes we’ve taken that have been much more than a class – they’ve helped define our lives in some way. In talking with the students, it’s clear the class has had several amazing outcomes for them: they’ve gained skills, confidence, and a lasting passion for filmmaking. They’ve created a vibrant community of filmmakers amongst themselves. And they’ve become part of the larger film community of Olympia. (Check out the SPSCC Film Production Facebook page they’ve created.)

olympia film class
The class gave students a real-world, hands-on experience in working together to express their creative ideas. Photo courtesy of Riley Gibson

When I asked the students if they plan to continue making films, the answer was a resounding yes. Beers says, “This was a great class experience. I am proud of what I’ve made, but I already want to make more – to keep making something new.”

The students are very proud of their films. They’ve helped create posters and promoted the screening within the community, and they are working hard to make sure it’s a professional and engaging evening.

Upcoming Screening: A Night of Film and Community

The student filmmakers would be thrilled for you to come view their work. You can attend their film screening on Tuesday, December 16, 2014 at 7:00 p.m. in the Gallery of the Minnaert Center for the Arts. Free and open to the public, the event will also give the students a chance to speak about their films. Complimentary refreshments will be served. The event is expected to fill up early – get there ahead of time to make sure you snag a seat. Some content is “PG-13” and most suitable for older teens and adults. The building is ADA-accessible.

This is the first-ever public film screening of student works at SPSCC. Given the excitement of the students in the film program, I’m expecting lots more great local films to come.

Registration for winter classes at SPSCC is currently underway. For a listing of class options (including Film and Film Production classes), community events, and more, check out their website. You can also follow SPSCC on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

olympia film class
The students’ short film projects give them a chance to show the skills they’ve learned. Photo courtesy of Riley Gibson

SPSCC Student Film Screening

The Gallery at Minnaert Center for the Arts

South Puget Sound Community College

2011 Mottman Road Southwest

Olympia, WA 98512

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Screening begins at 7:00 p.m.

Find event details here and here.

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