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MAPS begins production

STARS COME OUT FOR RAVALLI COUNTY STUDENTS

Lights, Camera, Education

MAPS Media Institiute shifts into high gear

MAPS Begins Productions

MAPS begins production
by WILL MOSS - Ravalli Republic

December 03, 2009

MAPS STARTS
Students in the MAPS Media Institute's Film Production class shoot a scene in the girl's bathroom at the program’'s home in Hamilton's Westview Center Tuesday evening. The program gives students with an interest in media arts the opportunity to get hands on experience and professional instruction.

It's a classic love story: Boy hears girl singing from the girl's bathroom and falls in love. Boy gets girl, loses girl, and wins girl back .... Cue the big musical finale.

But before anyone can be nominated for an Academy Award, or the director could even call, "Action," they had to first secure the set.

"When we were camera blocking, little girls came into the bathroom and screamed, ‘There's boys in our bathroom!,'" recalled Peter Rosten, president and founder of the MAPS Media Institute in Hamilton. "So, we now have a sign, ‘MAPS FILMING.'"

It's just one of many lessons being learned through experience by the students in Rosten's Short Film Production class, which got the chance this week to begin production on their first feature.

The class, one of two MMI film classes that meet twice a week, is composed of about 10 students, 14-17 years old, who are interested in learning the ropes of the film production process from brainstorm to world premier.

"Each student came up with their own story - the variety, as you can imagine, was all over the place - then they did two or three rewrites on each of their scripts and we selected the one that we wanted to shoot," explained Rosten.

The parameters of the project mandated that the cast had to come from within the class and had to be shot on location at the Institute's home in the Westview Center, which they share with the Keystone to Discovery After School Program (hence the bathroom incident).

And while they may not have a multi-million dollar budget or big-name Hollywood starlets, they do have the advantage of experienced teachers and guest speakers, willing to teach them the basics of how the production process actually works.

"This is A to Z with maybe N and P and Q missing," Rosten said. "But it's basically, ‘Here's how we do it.'"

It's less about the product, he said, than it is the experience.

"The important thing is, right off the bat, get them into a project," said Rosten. "Will this be the best work they ever do? No. But will it be the first? Yeah, and that's really important."

Once on the set, the students become surprisingly focused. Sure, they have their laughs, as all teenagers do, but when it comes to getting the shot right, it's strictly business.

Each student has their role in the production: director, producer, actor, camera and microphone technicians, etc.

Working on getting a flip focus shot just right, they yell back and forth.

"Watch that cord," says one.

"There's a boom in the shot," says another.

The cameraman practices the pan and focus a few times and the take starts with the traditional, "Rolling, speed, action!"

Cameron Padrotti, who is co-directing the production, said the experience is enjoyable but eye-opening.

"I didn't think I'd ever be a director, so it's kind of harder than I expected," he said. "I enjoy it, but there's just a lot of decisions to make."

The script the class is producing was written by student Jenna Kubiak, who is also the lead actress.

"It's been a really awesome opportunity to just open up, put it down on paper and kind of create a story from there," Kubiak said of the screen writing process. "It's really cool seeing it progress and come to life as we've started filming it."

After watching movies her whole life, Kubiak said it was interesting to see what happens behind the scenes, especially as an actor.

"I didn't realize that the whole crew was going to be right in my face," she said.

But, she added, learning the process can help her shape her path.

"It's a lot of fun; I love it. I really want to become a film editor one day, so this is a really awesome opportunity for me," she said.

One unique aspect of the program, said Rosten, is that it uses financial rewards for exceptional work, creating a more true-to-life experience; Kubiak made $100 for having her script chosen.

Another advantage of the program is the opportunity students get to meet professionals who work in the industry.

In November, the students heard from Jeremy Sauter of Missoula, a former senior vice president of creative advertising at Paramount Pictures whose most recent movie campaigns include this summer's hits "Monsters vs. Aliens," "Star Trek," "Transformers" and "GI Joe." In October, it was Jim Kouf, a screenwriter known for such films as "Rush Hour," "National Treasure" and "Con Air."

"I think one of the reasons this is different than they expected ... is that they're meeting people who have done this or are doing this in terms of movies that they know; ‘Monters vs. Aliens,' ‘G.I. Joe,' ‘Transformers,'" Rosten said. "[They] basically said to them the same thing I did, but when he says it, it has a little more impact."

For the students, the experience in Rosten's class has been valuable.

"I think it's been a great learning experience. I've had lots of fun," said Dustin Scott. "I've always wanted to learn how to write a script, and it was way different than I thought it was going to be."

The MAPS Media Institute, the major funding for which comes from the 21st Century Learning Center out of Helena, also offers classes in documentary and journalistic production and Web design and has professional facilities and equipment for each discipline.

For more information, visit MMI's Web site at MediArts.org.

Reporter Will Moss can be reached at 363-3300 or wmoss@ravallirepublic.com.