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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Student documentaries premiere at The Loft Cinema


    Courtesy of Kaylah Rasmussen

    A still from the short documentary ʺThe Evolution of a Fossil Guyʺ by Kaylah Rasmussen, a junior studying film and television. The Loft Cinema will be screening Rasmussen’s short documentary with 14 others at the ʺWhat’s Up, Docs?ʺ event tonight.

    Fifteen short documentaries by the junior class of the School of Theatre, Film and Television’s BFA Film and Television program will be screened today at The Loft Cinema as part of the school’s annual “What’s Up, Docs?” event.

    The films cover subjects from profiles of paleontologists to the life of an electronic music producer. They are the final products of the Documentary Production class, a required course for all BFA film students, taught by assistant professor Jacob Bricca.

    “Essentially, it’s a semester-long workshop that takes students from initial stages of research and proposal writing all the way through to creating a finished film,” Bricca said.

    The filmmaking process began early this semester when Bricca asked his students to create proposals for their short documentaries during the first few weeks of school. Bricca said students were encouraged to choose a subject that both interested them and was feasible with the resources and connections they already possessed. The only requirements were that the film had to be a documentary of some kind, and, unless given special permission, it should have a time limit of 8 minutes.

    The filmmakers took the assignment and ran with it, exploring the art of documentary filmmaking and all of its positive and negative aspects. Documentary filmmaking and traditional narrative filmmaking may seem like identical processes, Bricca said, but they are quite different and have their own nuances and niches. One of the main differences the students must learn how to cope with is the unpredictability of their work.

    “Hundreds of things can happen to change one’s plan,” Bricca said.

    He stressed that while plans can go awry in any kind of film production, documentaries have a much larger possibility of running into problems because of the lack of control the filmmaker has over their subject. When creating fictitious films driven by a set script, students generally have a significant amount of control over what happens in each shot and the message that will ultimately be communicated to the audience. In documentary filmmaking, however, the creators must rely on their subjects to tell the story for them. They have to rely on the unscripted accounts of real people and handle any issues that could arise with their subjects’ availability.

    “Documentary filmmaking, to me, is a little stressful, because you have to worry about the actual person you’re doing the documentary on,” said Kaylah Rasmussen, a junior studying film and television. “It’s a much more delicate process than fiction filmmaking.”

    Rasmussen is one of Bricca’s students and creator of the short documentary titled “The Evolution of a Fossil Guy.” The film tells the story of a world-famous paleontologist Rasmussen was acquainted with and his journey through life so far. Rasmussen began work on her documentary this past summer, and after six months of work, it will make its debut tonight on The Loft’s big screen.

    Other short documentaries being screened cover topics such as Mormonism and comedy troupes, while one is a profile on the local Tucson Guitar Society.

    “I love making documentaries about people — learning about them and being able to sympathize with whatever they’re going through,” said Cora Beckett, a film and television junior.

    Beckett’s documentary is a personal portrait on a friend who identifies as a mermaid and explores how this has affected her life. Before creating the film, Beckett said she had primarily thought of herself as a fiction filmmaker but now sees herself creating some documentaries in the future.

    Despite having several months to create their films, students worked up to the very last minute on Monday night to put the finishing touches on their documentaries.

    However, all the effort has clearly been worth it, Bricca said.

    “Many of the films pretty effectively bring you into a world that you’ve never been in before, and that’s what any great film does,” he said. He also said he believes some of the student films premiering tonight should be sent to film festivals and shown in other outlets because they are of such high quality. Bricca added that some students are planning to submit their shorts to various competitions.

    Although not all the filmmakers are planning on making a career specifically in the documentary genre, the students taking Bricca’s course had the opportunity to learn valuable skills that can be applied to any genre of film.

    Follow Victoria Pereira on Twitter.

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