The Crew Experience

Southern Oregon University Film Students Learn Real-Life Crew Skills via Innovative Full-Term Course

Professor Andrew Gay’s vision for an immersive course that simulates real life on a professional film production crew finally came together in Spring 2022, as Digital Cinema majors and other aspiring filmmakers committed a full term to produce a multi-faceted student film.

Originally planned for Spring 2021, production of Eight & Sand entailed filming at numerous locations in the Rogue Valley, but was postponed because of pandemic restrictions.

However, the wait is over, and Eight & Sand premieres on June 16 at the Digital Cinema Capstone & Crew Experience Screening. The event is located in SOU’s Art Building 101 (Meese Auditorium) from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. The screening will also feature Digital Cinema Capstone projects from the class of 2023.

Seven students and one instructor cluster around a cart-mounted camera on a location shoot for Eight & Sand/photo by Avery Jackson
Digital Cinema students immersed themselves in SOU’s Crew Experience in 2022/photo by Avery Jackson

“The practical knowledge I gained from its dynamic format, as well as the team-building and networking opportunities it afforded me, laid the foundation for lucrative opportunities in film and media production as soon as I graduated,” said Michael Drennan, a recent graduate in Digital Cinema who worked on the Eight & Sand crew. “I would highly recommend this course to anyone who wants to work in cinema. This course is an invaluable resource for Digital Cinema students, particularly those who aspire to careers in professional filmmaking.”

Drenna achieved these benefits by enrolling in DCIN 450 — The Crew Experience. This 12-credit course allows students to hone and demonstrate their skills in an environment that simulates a professional film production. Utilizing a hands-on approach to learning, The Crew Experience takes students through the process of working on location as entry-level crew members under the one-on-one guidance of experienced instructors and industry professionals.

“The Crew Experience was the single most constructive class I attended during my six years SOU,” said Drennan.

Students in The Crew Experience begin the class by applying, interviewing, and submitting creative portfolios for roles on set. Instructors then place the students in appropriate positions based on experience, skill, the strength of their portfolio, and their work in previous classes. The course culminates in the release of a significant film project, with each crew member contributing to the final product.

“The Crew Experience not only gave me the practical experience of what it is like on a real working set, and it taught me that I am capable of more than I give myself credit for,” said Christy Spurling-Snyder, who took the class in the Spring of 2022. “The Crew Experience also reminded me to take chances on myself in order to reach my goals. It was such a great experience getting to work with other students and really see them shine in their roles. It was a once-in-a-lifetime wonderful experience for me.”

Eight & Sand focuses on 15-year-old America, who tries to hold her father and maternal half-sister together as they grieve her mother’s death. The film’s main cast includes Signa Fischer as America, Todd Sible as her emotionally restrained father, Jed, and Magdalena del Castillo as Sadie, America’s spirited older sister. Featured in the supporting cast is Macknzie Waggoner as the server, Williem Hagman as the sign spinner, and. Aura Belle Johnson as Erin. The film, which explores the complicated, loving, and sometimes painful relationships between family members, is a stunning showcase of up-and-coming talent.

“The lessons and professional experience gained from being on the production have become a part of who I am,” said Steven Minich, a senior in Digital Cinema. “The experience lives on through the continued projects, ethical standards, networking, and overall approach when it comes to making digital media.”

The Crew Experience is a 12-credit course and is repeatable for up to 25 credits. Students are recommended to take this course in their junior or senior year. Students are required to apply and interview for roles with an instructor prior to beginning the course. Roles are chosen based on a student’s level of experience, skill, and the quality of their portfolio.

Story by Ripley Pierotti, Community Manager for the Communication, Media & Cinema Program at Southern Oregon University.

Comm, Media & Cinema @ Southern Oregon University

Earn BA/BS Degrees and Certificates in Communication Studies, Social Media & Public Engagement, or Digital Cinema @SOUAshland. #ThatIsSOU