Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Students make film for Summer Research

On a warm summer day, as the late afternoon sun beat down on a mountain in Amherst County, Virginia, Sonja Cirilo ’15 applied a thin layer of makeup to make Bill Bodine’s face look paler and older. A few feet away, theatre professor Mace Archer looked out over a valley and ran through a script in his head.

When the camera began rolling a few minutes later, Archer portrayed Bobby, a man carrying his aged father on a miles-long hike into the mountain wilderness. “Ain’t got a name, far as I know,” he said. “Besides, you don’t need to know where it is.”

Sonja Cirilo ’15 makes notes during the filming of a scene in Beholder.
Archer and students have worked together this summer to produce a film adaptation of Beholder, a one-act play written by retiring Randolph English professor Jim Peterson. Students took on roles ranging from storyboarding to post-production, giving them insight and hands on experience in the art of filmmaking.

“It was much more tedious than I anticipated. It took a long time, but it was a good experience,” said Ashley Peisher ’15.

In Beholder, Bobby realizes that his father, “Pop,”  likely will die soon. He carries Pop into a mountain where he hopes to reconcile their flawed relationship and help his father open his eyes. After discussing the phrase, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” Bobby implores, “You got to learn to be a beholder, Pop!”

“They do have a lot of conflict between each other. They have a big secret that has torn them apart,” Peisher said. “It is really about trying to give his father this enlightenment before he dies.”

Archer directed and acted in Beholder more than 10 years ago when he and Peterson each taught at Montana State University – Billings. After Peterson came to teach at Randolph, Archer produced several more of Peterson’s plays in Montana.

Mace Archer talks with Skip Wallace and Bill Bodine about Beholder.
Cirilo and Peisher each helped Archer in a Summer Research project last year when they produced a play in a local motel as an experiment in environmental theatre. He invited both of them to participate in this new project this year. “I thought that the opportunity to shoot a film and give students the opportunity to see that process would be really exciting,” Archer said.

Because of Peisher’s design talent, Archer asked her to produce the storyboards—sketches that demonstrate the basic look of each scene and camera shot. He assigned Cirilo to oversee continuity—making sure that costumes, lighting, and props remain consistent from one scene to the next. He also wanted Cirilo, who hopes to act on television someday, to see how acting in front of a camera is different from acting on stage.

“I thought it was a really cool idea, and I wanted to get on board with it,” Cirilo said.

Skip Wallace, Randolph’s video producer, filmed the show and taught the students how to edit it using modern editing software.

The production crew recorded Beholder on a mountain over a period of several evenings in the past two weeks. This week, they are going through a painstaking editing process. The students hope to have the video ready to show by July 5, when Summer Research students will present the results of their projects. Then they will submit the video to several film festivals.

Peisher hopes that people will see the film and “I hope you will look around you and acknowledge the beauty of things around you, and really take in your surroundings, and be a beholder of beauty,” she said.