Arts & Culture

Not just Shakespeare and show tunes – Wichita State shoots movies, too

Wichita State actors train for Hollywood

The theater program at Wichita State started making films and TV episodes two years ago to better train its students to be professional actors. (Video by Oliver Morrison / The Wichita Eagle)
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The theater program at Wichita State started making films and TV episodes two years ago to better train its students to be professional actors. (Video by Oliver Morrison / The Wichita Eagle)

NARRATOR: This script is based on actual events. The words were spoken by the people portrayed, but slight changes in the order have been taken for dramatic effect.

SCENE 1

Bret Jones, the theater director at Wichita State, sits in his office when a reporter calls.

Jones: I kept hearing alumni say, “I did nothing but stage work but now I’m having to audition for films and commercials and I didn’t know how to behave on the set. I didn’t know what to do when the camera was shoved in my face, I didn’t know what to do with a microphone.”

Reporter: So you’ve started to make films and TV shows the past two years, entering them in film festivals and publishing them on YouTube. What’s the newest movie about?

Jones: The movie is about an aimless girl, about 21 years old, who doesn’t know what to do with her life. The girl and her friend go on a road trip with four friends to deliver a car across the country, discovers a missing relative along the way and finds out she is interested in a young man along the way.

Reporter: Could I come watch?

Jones: Monday we’re actually going to do something that we’ve never done before: We’re going to do some pretty extensive green screen work. I know other people are doing it all the time; for us, it’s new. We have a green screen, we know how to do it, so I just decided we’re going to do it, we’re going to give it a try.

FADE TO INERVIEW

(Camera pans to each actor, reality-TV-style, as they describe their adjustments to film acting. Each of the actors was cast in this film, in lieu of another stage production, many for the first time.)

Madi White: (Acting for film) is a difficult adjustment. I’ve always done stage, so I have to work on quieting down all of my facial expressions.

Alexis Shetley: The other day Bret was like, “Stop acting with your left eyebrow.”

Naaman Williams: Film is so minimal, it’s driving me crazy.

Jessica Curtis: You have more time for process in theater.

Kristen Bock: In film, you have to have your character down on Day One. In theater, you have a month.

Shetley: I prefer film. I feel like it’s more direct and it’s less waiting for something to actually happen. In theater, you work so hard and it only lasts three days. But with film, you can go back to it over and over.

SCENE 2

(It’s Monday, and the actors start entering the front door into Bret Jones’ living room in Goddard without knocking and start getting changed for the car scenes they are shooting. This will be their first time shooting with a green screen. Some didn’t realize they couldn’t wear green or else the green parts of their body will disappear when they edit in the scenery.)

Curtis: (Panicking) I bought this shirt specifically for this role – please let me wear it!

Jones: You’re killing me over here.

Williams: Bret, you know what the problem is: You never specified we were working on a green screen. Maybe they thought it was going to be a blue screen?

Bock: What about this shade of green?

Jones: It’s kind of green. If you are a floating head, I am going to kill somebody.

Williams: Isn’t this a genie movie?

Bock: I brought options.

Jones: We may have to green screen in your clothes if you disappear.

INTERVIEW

Jones: Scheduling is probably the worst part. Doing theater, you can say “Every night, Monday through Friday 7 to 10.” You can’t do that with film. Because in film, you may need a daytime shot, you may need a nighttime shot, and that’s very hard when everybody has very busy schedules; people work and may need to go to class.

SCENE 3

Clothes are scattered all over the living room. They are about to head to the garage to film but realize an actor is missing.

Bock: (On phone) We may not have an actor.

Curtis: Can you imagine?

Jones: (As he re-enters from the garage) I can. Those are the things that keep me up at night.

Bock: I’m worried about my lines.

White: There’s a couple scenes I don’t say anything.

Bock: In one, all I say, “The truth is gonna hurt.” (Holding up outfits) Should I wear this? Or this? Or THIS?

Curtis: I like the white.

Jones: (Entering again) Just don’t eat while you’re wearing that. Let’s go. We coulda had three scenes shot by now.

Curtis: Okaaay. I’m going to the bathroom.

Jones: Where is the other actor?

Williams: Alexis is on her way. She got lost.

Jones: Oh, man – actors.

Williams: I don’t really care, but you seem aggravated.

INTERVIEW

Bret Jones’ wife: We’ve had people over to the house on Saturday morning and in the evenings shooting different scenes. They might do five scenes one night. We hear “Quiet on the set!” or “Rolling!” So we’ve gotten used to that. I watched the film they did last fall; it was kind of a darker film. I didn’t care for the darkness. This one is more lighthearted.

SCENE 4

(All the actors besides Williams are in the bathroom changing.)

Williams: I honestly think I could be a little louder, not a whole lot.

Jones: I didn’t adjust any of the audio. That can make it louder.

Williams: Are you planning on it?

Jones: The neat thing is I can modulate the volume and put it where I want it. So I wasn’t concerned about the volume at all.

Williams: I think I could work on making it more natural.

Jones: You probably aren’t going to hit a groove for a week. You probably didn’t know Megan, but she did a web series for a week, was stiff for a whole week, then as loosey-goosey as you can imagine.

Williams: (To Bret’s wife) By the way, I love the sweet tea.

Wife: Oooh, good.

Jones: My goodness, how many gallons did you make?

(Supper is nearly ready. Chili is the main course, but the tables and counters are covered with cupcakes, cake, Rice Krispie treats, spinach dip, bowls of grapes, etc. They sit down to dinner together after a couple of hours of work.)

SCENE 5

(The garage is packed with normal items like ladders and bikes. But several lights are set up facing a van. A green sheet hangs from the tool shelves behind the van. Opposite the sheet, Jones fiddles with an expensive-looking camera. They are filming the latest scene on the road trip.)

Jones: Jessica, cheat your head to the right. Drop your chin. Beautiful. Rolling. Wait, I can definitely see you two in the backseat. OK. Scene 39. Angle B. Take 1. Action.

Everyone: (Singing.) Alllll by my-seeeelf. I don’t want to be, allll by my-seeelf.

Shetley: (Pointing) Dog in the road!

(Jones sneaks behind the car and shakes it up and down, then sneaks back to the camera.)

Shetley: At least you didn’t hit the dog.

Curtis: Oh, yeah, chalk that up to a victory.

Williams: I’m guessing there is no spare.

White: That’s where you would would be wrong.

Jones: Cut.

Shetley: I had to sneeze the whole time and I was holding it in.

(The actors erupt into giggling, as they do after most scenes.)

INTERVIEW

Jones: I cut together some of the old footage (during last year’s film) and showed it to them. It backfired; it was hard for people to watch themselves.

Curtis: I remember thinking, “I look so fat. I’m standing in the doorway, and I have a huge stomach.”

Bock: I get so frustrated with how I look and then I think, “We’re just playing some college kids on a road trip.”

Curtis: You look at (your body on screen) and think: That’s what I’m working with.

Oliver Morrison: 316-268-6499, @ORMorrison

‘Dramedy’

What: Wichita State University Theatre’s new film, “Dramedy,” written by Bret Jones; rated PG

Where: Welsbacher Theatre, Hughes Metroplex, 29th and Oliver, Entrance F

When: 7:30 p.m. April 21-22

How much: $15 adults, $12 seniors/military/faculty/staff, $10 child/students; one free ticket for WSU students with ID

Cast: Madeleine White, Kristen Bock, Jessica Curtis, Alexis Shetley, Naaman Williams, Jamie Urban and Christian James

Tickets: Call 316-978-3233 or order online at www.wichita.edu/fineartsboxoffice.

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