School of Communication

April 27, 2011

RTVF students direct, write for filmmaking teams given a one-week filmmaking schedule

A few days after the massive "snowpocalypse" blizzard that shut down most of the Chicago area including the Northwestern University campus for a day, most of us were hunkered down in our homes. That was not an option for Department of Radio/Television/Film junior Gregory Porper. Porper had a schedule to keep, directing a short film for the Sprite Refreshing Films project sponsored by Sprite, a division of the Coca-Cola Company, and Dreaming Tree Films, Inc. He was out in the snow.

Selected out of thousands of applicants to be an intern collaborating with other 19–26-year-old aspiring filmmakers from around the country, Porper was cast in his first choice role as director of "Swift Justice," a short film featuring recording artist Alexis Jordan, who currently has the number one hit song in Australia and the number two hit song in the UK. Jordan stars as the superheroine "Justice," created by a comic book illustrator looking for an escape from his talentless comic book store boss.

The Sprite Refreshing Films project included six film teams. In addition to Porper's Chicago team, other teams filmed in Atlanta, Dallas, New York, Los Angeles, and Miami. The films are posted online and must vie against one another for votes. The winning team will be flown to Hollywood to receive their award at the Los Angeles Film Festival in June.

"Our Chicago crew consisted of a dozen high school students from the Great Lakes region, ages 13-18," Porper said. "Many of these students have never even held a camera, so it was up to us interns to teach these teenagers about film theory and production techniques, all within a week."

While Porper was shivering in Chicago, three fellow School of Communication filmmakers were working in warmer locales. Jacqueline Reyno, a senior RTVF major was the director of the Miami team; Ashley Darnell, a junior RTVF major, was the writer for the Dallas team; and Erin Hays, a graduate student in the MFA program in Writing for the Screen and Stage was the writer for the Atlanta team.

The teams completed their films from casting to filming all within one week's time; they were given their scripts on a Monday and had three days to cast, scout locations, and plan everything else, and then only had one day to shoot the entire film.

The intensity of the experience, Porper said, has "given him the confidence" to know that he is on his right career path.

"When I see the final result, I realize this is a nice film with all the limitations we had," he said, referring to the content, filming and editing guidelines set forth by the Coca-Cola Company. "It's a confirmation that when I'm older, this is what I want to do."

At press time, the Atlanta and Dallas teams were going to head-to-head for a spot in the semi-finals. Porper's Chicago film defeated the New York film in the first round of voting, securing a spot in the finals; to vote between May 3 and 31, text CHI to 777843.

Keep track of all Northwestern participants and their films at the secure.sprite.com/refreshingfilms.

Watch Porper’s film at youtube.com

—Emily Hiser Lobdell (WCAS97, GJ01)

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