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North Georgia college students turn summer film course into work experience
Melonie Gerald, left, prepares to start a scene in a short film being produced at North Georgia College & State University with Adam Mauldin, center, and Alex Everett. - photo by Tom Reed

The room is sweltering but silent; the noisy air conditioner must be turned off during filming.

A student cradles a large camera against her chest, waiting for her cue.

Scene two. Shot nine. Take A. Action.

This month, students at North Georgia College & State University’s Summer Film Institute are participating in a film-making "boot camp" to earn course credit and learn about directing, cinematography and other aspects of film production.

"Getting experience on a real set is hard to come by," said Carrie Schrader, the institute’s director. "These students are getting a chance to work on a real film crew, and from here, I can recommend them, and they can start working their way up."

The institute was originally going to be done on a larger scale, but it had to be streamlined due to infrastructure and logistical problems, Schrader said.

The students will create a five-minute short film, which they’ve been working on since July 6.

The film — "So You Want to Be an Action Hero" — follows the underdog protagonist Sally on her quest to become an action hero. At first, it seems like she’s not cut out for the job, but when terrorists attack her action hero audition, she learns how to save the day.

"I think the writing has been the most fun part," said Loyd Sommers, a film institute participant and NGCSU senior. "We each contributed to the script."

This level of collaboration was also appealing to Kristofer Conklin, president of NGCSU’s Student Theatre Guild.

"It’s just a community project," he said. "It sounds cheesy, but when you have so many people working toward the same goal, it just feels good."

For Schrader, the institute is a way to bring film to students who might later become involved in Georgia’s booming film industry. She said that because of tax incentives and ideal locations, Georgia is now one of the top states in the nation for film production.

Sean Stephens knows this first hand.

Stephens, a recent NGCSU graduate, started his own production company in Atlanta. He’s been helping out at the film institute throughout the course of the program.

"I definitely think, undoubtedly, that the people that are involved in this right now are going to be able to take these experiences and apply that to future projects," he said. "Not only does it give them the experience, but it also gives them something to show, a final product."

That final product, a fun action-comedy, might be exactly what people need right now.

"Movies really were born in the Great Depression, when people really needed a story and they needed to be entertained," Schrader said. "Now is no different. We need good times."

And as the cameras roll and the actors study their lines, the students are learning valuable skills for the future.

"My goal is to really get it so students can graduate being able to tell a visual story," Schrader said. "Whether it’s a five-second piece of Flash on a website, whether it’s a small YouTube video, whether it’s a business person learning how to do a marketing thing, people have got to graduate knowing how to tell a visual story in a small amount of time."