Columbia State Film Crew Excels with Student-Led Films

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The Columbia State Community College Film Crew Technology program’s short film, “Annie’s Voice,” finished the film festival circuit just in time for their latest film, “The Neighborhood Milkman,” to wrap production.

“For all productions film crew produces, it’s important to have the students do all the key positions,” said David Smith, Columbia State program director of FCT and professor of film. “It’s why they come to film crew in the first place—to put into practice the real-world, hands-on experience they learn throughout the year. In short, we train them in the best practices for all positions. Once they decide which position they like best, they hone their skills on an actual, peer-reviewed production. All of this adds up to a credible, well-rounded film production education.”

“Annie’s Voice,” was written by FCT student Christian Boyd, a first-time screenwriter, and led by students from units 13 and 14. Directed by Smith, the film centers around a high school senior who tries to find her voice again as she participates in a local open mic night event with the help of her little brother.

“For ‘Annie’s Voice,’ it took some doing to get the film finished,” Smith said. “Students from unit 13 cast the film and decided who would do each position—be that cinematography, sound, editing, etc. We were a week away from principal photography when the pandemic hit us.”

After multiple postponements due to the COVID-19 pandemic, filming finally wrapped in October 2020. The film was accepted through official selection at seven film festivals. At the Rome International Film Festival, it received the Special Jury Award for Music Composition and also won Best Music Composition at the South Georgia Film Festival.

“Editing was completed during the holiday break,” Smith said. “Although I was technically the director of ‘Annie’s Voice,’ I guided the students throughout the process—asking them what they would do or how they would direct the moment.”

The FCT program has returned to a sense of normalcy again with the completion of its film “The Neighborhood Milkman.” Directed by student Liam Mullen, the film follows a young boy who, after the death of his parents, grows up to be the neighborhood milkman, only to repeat the tragedy of his youth. One month after the final edit, the film was already accepted into two film festivals.

“For ‘The Neighborhood Milkman,’ Unit 15 students decided to write the script together as a group,” Smith said. “I decided to give a student a chance to direct the film—a first-time for a FCT student.”

“As with ‘Annie’s Voice,’ students filled all the production positions,” Smith said. “Filmed on location in Nashville and in the FCT studio, the film was able to be completed on time and within budget. In addition, I let director Liam Mullen and cinematographer Dean Fadely make the decisions throughout filming—only guiding when needed.”

The FCT program at Columbia State the only college in Tennessee that offer this level of technology to undergraduate students. The FCT Program Advisory Board is comprised of outstanding professionals—both locally and nationally—as well as members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and the Screen Actors Guild. This provides a very hands-on experience for students; a sentiment that Mullen echoes.

“Columbia State was the only college that specifically covered the material I needed to get my foot in the door of the film industry,” Mullen said. “The course gave me the muscle memory and knowledge needed to be able to hold my own when given the chance to work on any gig in the future.”

Mullen has already utilized his skills in the workforce; he’s currently working Rolling Loud music festival in Miami, Florida, Hard Summer Music Festival in San Bernardino, California and will be touring with band Florence + the Machine as a camera operator.

“If nothing else, I hope viewers can view the film’s story as we saw it,” Mullen said. “As the progression of the character’s life and the events that cause an unstable upbringing. Thank you to all the professors that took the time to teach us about this wonderful work of art we call film!”

To watch “Annie’s Voice” and other Columbia State Film Crew Technology films, visit their YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWxzLxB4y9gFQIc-Pv_wRAw/videos.

The Film Crew Technology program at Columbia State allows students to get hands-on experience and learn the necessary skills to find success working as crew members in the film, video and media industries. Learn more at www.ColumbiaState.edu/FilmCrew.

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