by Morgan Culp
What’s the best way for University of Tampa film students to see what it is like working on the set of a box office movie production? Well, maybe by doing just that—and all on UT’s campus.
On Saturday-Sunday, Feb. 22-23, a film crew took over parts of UT, opening up opportunities for students to be a part of Lady of the Manor, a comedy directed by Justin and Christian Long, starring Melanie Lynskey from Two and a Half Men.
“The most surreal thing about being on the movie set was being around an abundance of actors that I’ve seen on TV and in movies before,” said Marc Franklin, senior communications major. “Just being in their presence, trying to keep my cool around them and act like I’ve done this before.”
Franklin was starstruck as Luis Guzman casually walked past him on set. He said he realized just how big this production is in that moment and the impact he is helping to create.
UT students not only got to observe this film set on their campus, they also helped run it.
Associate professor in film animation and new media Aaron Walker delegated many of the students that had the opportunity to work on this production.
“Part of our agreement has always been, if any production were to come onto campus, it needs to directly benefit our students,” Walker said. “The goal is kind of transactional.”
According to Walker, students were either referred by faculty to work on the production, or had a previous relationship/internship with the local production company: Digital Caviar.
Some film, theatre, and communication students were all exposed to different aspects of the production and got to help in the area they are passionate about.
“I was shadowing the director of photography,” said freshman film and media arts major, Steven Nye. “I got to learn a lot about the industry and overall it was an amazing experience.”
Students were able to ask questions and work intimately with the production team. This was a hands-on learning experience for students, and they also get credited for their work on the film.
“I can’t wait to see my name roll past in the credits,” Franklin said. “I was a production assistant and I also got to be an extra.”
Walker said that when the location scouts were first looking for where they should shoot this production, they saw the transformative potential that UT has.
“They realized that some of UT’s spaces, like Fletcher Lounge or other rooms in Plant Hall, could be redressed and transformed into a different space,” said Walker.
Once on UT’s campus, the directors of the film saw even more potential and began using other spaces at UT to transform. Naturally, they turned the Rathskellar into a bar scene and utilized classrooms and office spaces as well as the library. They even shot scenes in the midst of student traffic—in Plant Park and outside of Sykes College of Business.
Even though select students had the opportunity to be involved, Walker said it was intentionally “semi-secret.”
“We weren’t afraid to tell people that a movie production was going on, but this production had four movie stars in it,” said Walker. “There’s a risk associated when so many students are drawn to a production, that it makes it almost impossible to execute.”
With only limited spots for students to be placed in, film students were prioritized in those roles. The selection process was kept quiet to not be disruptive to the students who were not selected to be on set.
There were around 10 film students, four student interns, 15-20 theatre major extras, two students from UTTV and other students who got to interact with the set in other ways, according to Walker.
“Even though I was put in one role, I also got to speak with the script supervisor and see the role of the director and actors,” said Nye. “This is the biggest production that I have worked on.”
Some of the students were even asked to come back by assistant producers and be Production Assistants on their other sets in the area. They filmed in a house in Hyde Park, Tampa and a location in St. Petersburg, Fl.
“The experience of being on a full set like that as a student has immeasurable benefit to students’ lives,” said Walker.
Morgan Culp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org