For the second year in a row, Tulane students are gaining valuable experience writing, directing, filming, acting in, and editing a short video series through a School of Liberal Arts collaboration between the Department of Theatre and Dance and the Digital Media Production program.
From the classroom to the quad and the chemistry lab, students are working with three SLA professors—Jenny Mercein, Mary Blue, and Duane Prefume—to create “Eye of Newt,” a comedy series about a group of witches at the fictional Newton University. Whether writing the script, operating the camera, or acting, each student involved learns firsthand what it means to create a short film series.
The collaboration is a continuation of Blue’s scriptwriting course last spring that focused on team writing for TV. During the scriptwriting course, the students created an entire series, from developing characters to creating story arcs and casting actors.
This semester, Blue, Mercein, and Prefume coordinated to offer complementary courses that allowed students to complete the film series. Mercein, an assistant professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance, teaches the students techniques in acting for the camera. As she explains, “the students spend the majority of the semester working on a real film set, learning not just about how to adjust their acting skills to the medium of film, but also mastering on-set etiquette and picking up key information about the various roles that comprise a film set.”
While Mercein focuses on instructing the actors throughout the fall, Blue offers a course called “Directing Actors,” and Prefume teaches “Lighting and Cinematography.” Blue, the director of the Digital Media Production program, explains, “What we ask the students to do is create intellectual, collaborative art.” She continues, “My goals for the students, in addition to learning what collaboration on an artistic project entails, are to become more comfortable and proficient with their technological tools, to make mistakes and learn how to correct them, all to the end of being better prepared for their capstone film project.”
In this year’s comedy, a series of events lead six students to learn they are witches. While the cast of “Eye of Newt” includes ten students from sophomores to seniors ranging in majors, the project involves approximately 50 student writers, directors, actors, cinematographers, and sound designers spanning two semesters. The group also collaborates with departments across the university, and received support from the Department of Chemistry, Housing and Residence Life, and the Office of the University Registrar in securing filming sites this semester.
As Mercein explains, after the course is complete, the students “emerge with great footage for an acting reel, but also a comfort-level working on a busy film set, which will give them a true advantage if they pursue this work on a professional level.”