Southern Methodist University Summer Feature

 

The Selection Process

The SMU Summer Film Production is an entirely student-run production of a feature length film. It originated from a one-off production shot in 2010, but developed into an official program that occurs in two-year cycles. The previous summer features include All the Wrong Friends, Legacy, and most recently Elsewhere, Texas.

For this cycle of the Southern Methodist University summer feature selection, roughly a dozen feature length scripts and pilots were submitted. Applicants were analyzed by the selection committee, and three scripts were selected for further review. Those writers were then given revision notes from the committee and had a month to submit their updated scripts. Of the three, two were selected as finalists. The applicants then began to assemble director/producer teams and underwent a thorough interview process. After pitching their scripts and treatments to the chair of film and media arts, The Book of Job was selected. The team then set milestones with faculty sponsor Troy Perkins who will ensure that the film is on track for production come May.

The Summer Film Production is by far the largest project within the Division of Film & Media Arts. On the most immediate level, it fosters a community within the film department, allowing students, regardless of year or experience, to get involved in the production. There’s an emphasis on apprenticeship, where upperclassmen help guide and educate younger filmmakers, so they are better equipped to tackle their own projects.

 

The vision

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The Book of Job is, first and foremost, a comedy and consequently, its aesthetic should be both vibrant and varied. Every creative aspect of the film should work toward telling the story in a humorous and endearing way. One of the themes of the film is the contrast between realism and romanticism. Job romanticizes Alice to a fault and dramatizes his other relationships. He acts in the best of interest of his own “narrative” and neglects the real-world consequences of his actions. To convey this dichotomy visually, there will be two stylistic approaches. For fantastical sequences that showcase Job’s romantic side, it will use longer lenses, soft focus, smooth camera movement, and exaggerated color. For the more realistic scenes, it will rely on wider lenses, deep focus, and longer takes. The romantic style will emulate Golden Age Hollywood, with its use of close-ups and three-point lighting. The realistic style will more closely mirror the documentary-like approach in Italian neorealism.

 

Inspiration

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One of the advantages of this script is its feasibility. It’s set in a modern-day high school with realistic characters. As a result, this allows more time for creative experimentation. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl excels in this regard. It similarly focuses on the relationships between three high school characters, but it constantly takes risks. It switches from live-action to stop-motion. It constantly tries new camera techniques, such as using long takes, rotating the camera ninety-degrees, and exaggerating depth with a wide angle lens. Its colorful and detailed production design is another aspect that we would like to follow.

More recently, Lady Bird demonstrated the power of editing through efficiency. The film has rapid sequences that are often abrupt - but not jarring. Some scenes last for mere seconds, but convey all the necessary information the audience needs. This is contrasted with highly emotional moments where often a single camera angle lingers on an actor’s performance. The Book of Job relies heavily on montage and takes place over a period of months. We will take a similar strategy as Lady Bird to maintain narrative flow while moving at a brisk pace.