Film Focus

With fewer than 200 students remaining at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, the Film School—still the largest department on campus—is struggling to meet the number of people needed to produce student films.  

Previously, the Film School had several hundred students enrolled and student films often had an average crew size of 50. With only 45 students remaining during the current teach-out, students will need to find ways to make their films with significantly fewer resources.

Terry Borst, the Film School’s lead faculty, describes the shift as one that has turned SFUAD into a “senior school,” —a boot camp toward professionalism. The community has shrunk, but grown closer, he says. “What that means is, I think, the students are really focused because they see the finish line.” Even in that sense, it is a more resolute finish line now that SFUAD will be closing in June, 2018. Students do not have second chances if they fail a class. “Focus,” which Borst believes is key this school year, is the difference he has seen in film students this semester so far.  

La Charles Trask. Photo by Jason Stilgebouer.

Student La’ Charles Trask, who will be producing a psychological thriller film this semester, speaks on the shortages he thinks his crew will face in producing the film. Though the film is still in early phases of pre-production, he expects there will be a team of only 12 to 13, actors included, because resources are so limited.  

The solution, Trask believes, is leaving no room for excuses. “Yeah, we went from having 300 people to work with to 45, so I’m either going to bitch about it or I’m going to make something great because this is what I love to do and this is my passion,” he says.  

Whether that success depends on downsizing, spending more time in pre-production, or quickly learning how to do more with less, Trask believes “anything can work” and it’s just a matter of how bad a person wants it. 

Brendan Boyle, a student who will be producing an atompunk film on a post-apocalyptic world that runs on nuclear energy, says normally at least 40 people would be needed to create the film;  downsizing will mean a skeleton crew of 10 to 15 people, not including actors.  

Brendan Boyle. Photo via Facebook.

Boyle says he has noticed students giving up, saying things like, ‘I had this project but now I can’t do it because [of] this.’” he says. He, however, hopes producing films this semester and next will just take a little more hard work on the part of the crews, now that they have fewer people available to meet their needs.  

“For instance, say there aren’t any people to do props, or there’s nobody that’s interested in being a prop master. We’d probably have to make them ourselves. So just take a little bit more of the workload on in the process,” he says.   

Both Trask and Boyle say they see positives to having fewer students in the Film School, however. For instance, film students are now forced to work with people they’ve never worked with before and, as Borst notes, might actually improve the quality of their film by causing students to look beyond their friendship pool when picking a crew.  

Another positive mentioned by both Trask and Boyle is that a smaller Film School allows for more close-knit connections between students, and that actually is the case for the entire school. 

“So teamwork right now is crucial. This isn’t an individual sport,” Trask says. 

Trask and Boyle both have plans to move to L.A. after their graduations, in December and May respectively. Trask hopes to involve himself in acting and creating music videos once there, as he acts in five TV shows already. Meanwhile, Boyle will be moving to L.A. with a group of students and friends to “jump into the open water and see how that goes,” hopefully finding work in the film industry.