On Sunday, April 29th, the final two films ever produced by “419 Productions” were screened before an audience of more than 250 students, parents and alums of the program.
Designed and taught by Associate Professor Frederick Lewis for the past 18 years, this unique two-semester course in narrative production provided juniors and seniors with the opportunity to produce short films within a professional industry model, immersing 50-60 students each year in all aspects of the filmmaking process, from script development and fundraising, to casting, location scouting, production, post production and publicity. Freshmen and sophomores served in various “below the line” crew positions, learning the production process from the more experienced upperclassmen, preparing to assume leadership roles in their junior and seniors years.
In the nearly 2 decades of the program’s existence, students produced 62 short films in the 20-35-minute range, and 2 full length features. Many of these films won national and regional awards and were screened at film festivals around the country.
Often adapted from short stories by major authors such as Richard Russo, Russell Banks, TC Boyle and Dave Eggers, many of the projects utilized professional SAG actors and were shot in part or in their entirety in California, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas, as well as Michigan, Maine and Toronto, Canada. Over the years students raised more than $500,000 to make their movies.
The presentation of the final two films also featured a “Thank you” video secretly produced by Media School lecturer Andie Walla, herself an alum of ‘419.’ “I’ve always admired Frederick’s work and dedication with 419,” said Walla. “In my own teaching I’ve tried to be like Frederick and offer students experiences outside of the classroom where they can learn about production in the real world. When I heard 419 was coming to an end, I decided that someone needed to say thank you to Frederick for his countless hours of work with 419.” Walla quickly put out the word to friends and fellow alumni. “Within 24 hours, dozens of thank you videos poured in. We are all so happy that we were able to participate in the program. I think I speak for many alumni—419 changed our lives for the better.”
While 419 Productions has come to a close, the School of Media Arts & Studies remains committed to narrative production with its strong offering of studio, field production, and other special courses which provide unique opportunities for students to learn the latest skills and equipment.