Focus on Film: URI students filming a scene

Filmmaking is the ultimate collaborative endeavor. Just watch the credits that roll by at the end of the next film you see.

The art of collaboration is something URI Film/Media students learn early on, according to Keith Brown, who has taught film production here since 2007. His students are in the Film/Media program at URI’s Harrington School of Media and Communications.

“The first day, we give them a camera and put them in groups,” says Brown. That’s where the collaboration starts, and it never stops. Students shoot and edit in class, and work together on projects throughout the program, which is interdisciplinary and loaded with hands-on experiences.

Ashton Avila ’13 is a great example. The recent grad wrote and directed eight films and held crew positions for many others at URI. Her film If Only I had a Bicycle won the University’s Fred Joyal Prize, and her film Needless Wait was accepted into the Los Angeles Women’s International Film Festival 2013.

They are so motivated, and they inspire each other,” says Keith Brown. “The work binds them together.

Ashton’s final student film, Shotgun Wedding, is the story of a young couple facing the challenges of adulthood—whether they are ready or not. When Ashton talks about her film, it’s clear that the project is both a labor of love and a group effort. “Like the characters in the story, we are on our way to growing up. This film is our final step and the gateway to our careers in the film industry. This project is our baby, and our chance to tell you a story, to entertain you, to make you laugh, and to show you that we are ready to show the world what we can do.”

Recent grad Matt DiGennaro’s film This is a Love Story is another success story. The quirky romance premiered as an official selection at the 2012 Rhode Island International Film Festival and was screened this spring in London at the 2013 International “Let’s All Be Free” Film Festival. It will be featured at the Hyart Film Festival in Lovell, Wyoming, June 20-22.

There are many success stories like Ashton’s and Matt’s, says Brown of his students who work with passion both to make their films—and to make sure their films get noticed. “The work they are doing gets better and better. I’m so proud of all of them for creating such great work and being able to exhibit their films and share them outside the URI community.”

A number of URI student filmmakers have used Kickstarter with great success, including Ashton Avila, who surpassed her goal and raised over $5,000 for Shotgun Wedding. This popular fundraising tool for creative projects helps student filmmakers raise money for necessities. “Everything costs,” says Brown. “Working with actors from New York, working with professional sound people, festival fees—and, of course, you have to feed everyone.” Learning this aspect of filmmaking also gives students real world experience in the business side of making films.

Filmmakers are storytellers, and URI’s student filmmakers are a lively, enthusiastic group who work together to tell the stories that are important to them.

“They have formed a tight-knit community and you can often find them working together in the Hub (on the third floor of Swan) or hanging out in the lobby of Swan, gathered around a laptop looking at footage that was just shot,” says Brown. “The work binds them together. They are so motivated, and they inspire each other.”


Photos: Still shots from the filming of Shotgun Wedding, directed by Ashton Avila.