Shoot the Stars® Approaches
Three months ago, two student-written scripts were chosen for the fourth season of Shoot the Stars® , SFUAD’s annual student written and produced short film project. With just over a month until “Karkutong” and “Hate me Gently” hit the big screen, already participants claim that in vision, camaraderie and execution, this has been the greatest season as of yet in the history of this series.
Alec Brown, a senior post-production major, rifles through sequences of “Karkutong” while screenwriter Alvie Hurt looms over his shoulder, sneaking a peek. “Karkutong, by the film’s definition, means fate, and our inability change it,” Brown says. “It’s cool that we have this omnipotent word for this concept.” Brown was present for the two days of filming “Karkutong” and has worked on every Shoot the Stars® set since high school.
Hurt describes “Karkutong” as the evolution of the word, a definition of how life should be lived that transcends into something new as the story progresses. “It’s about overcoming oneself,” Hurt says. “Destiny. Insecurity.” Hurt worked with Zoe Dahmen, the Director of “Karkutong,” for weeks securing the vision of the film and even got to act as an on-screen extra. “I don’t enjoy writing in general,” Hurt says, “But when the outcome is as cool [as this], it’s great.” While Hurt spends his time writing and directing for his production company Thisisourfilm, he expresses an enjoyment of stepping back and letting Dahmen take charge.
The second film produced for this season of Shoot the Stars®, “Hate Me Gently,” was directed by Alejandra Castro with the help of first Assistant Director Riley Gardner, based on the screenplay by Michaela Rempel (who now goes by the name Mar). “While the story changed significantly, the thematic core stuck with every draft,” Gardner says. As the first assistant director, Gardner was directly involved with the first two of the three stages of filming, pre-production and production. While Castro worked with the actors and guided the creative aspect of the film, Gardner guided the crew. “Castro had a vision for the film. noir, but heartfelt.”
The production process of “Karkutong” and “Hate Me Gently” displayed SFUAD film students’ abilities to create in a professional environment. With the guidance of inside and outside mentorship, Brown claims, “this is the best year Shoot the Stars® has ever had.” According to Brown, previous years were less organized and lacked the level of communication needed to produce such a project.
The on-set experience served the students in many ways. “There’s nothing like learning while being on set,” Gardner says. In his work with the staff, including shots, scheduling and even set and costume detail, Gardner claims that the most important role he had was keeping up the morale. The professional environment provided an opportunity for students to make objective decisions about working with peers they may not have previously considered.
Terry Borst, a professor of screenwriting, refers to the staff as mentors of film and film experience. “All of the faculty serve as executive producers,” Borst says. His participation includes shepherding screenwriting and producing promotional material. Season four was also the first year for Shoot the Stars® to use outside mentorship from Claudio Ruben, a producer, assistant producer (“Longmire,” “A Bird of the Air”) and head of the production company Red Lotus Films.
“Claudio Ruben taught us so much,” Gardner says. “Maybe it’s just a good year. The staff took more of a step back, trusted the students.”
Borst agrees. “We definitely had exceptional teams this year,” he says. “Both staff and students proved able to collaborate, find each other’s strength and work through their differences. Both teams embraced a common vision. “I think the films will speak for themselves.”
Past Shoot the Stars® films have been selected for film festivals and even won category awards. These films are a way for viewers to experience a story and to witness the discipline and drive of the SFUAD Film School. “I don’t know it’s going to change anybody’s life,” Hurt says. “But it’s fun. It’s different.”
“Hate Me Gently” and “Karkutong” will premier at 6 p.m., March 7 at the Violet Crown Cinema.