A screening of the student-produced TV series was held in early November at the Orpheum Theater in Fairfield, with viewers being surprised by the professionalism of the work – professionalism further attested by the fact that several of the seven graduates are already working in Hollywood.
The TV track in MUM’s David Lynch Graduate School of Cinematic Arts began in January 2016, and filming of the 10 episodes took place October–December, 2016. By graduation 2017 the students had edited and produced their series.
“People loved it,” said Professor Michael Barnard of the screening this month. “They were generally surprised. The series isn’t like student work. It’s quite sophisticated – well acted and produced. It’s not perfect, but is high quality – similar to what you would see on Netflix.”
The 10 episodes total about 115 minutes, and were shown one after the other.
Titled The Next Town Over, the series is set in a small town in Iowa, and begins with the town being “thrown into confusion and grief when the beloved woodshop teacher, Edward Price, is killed in an isolated car accident,” according to the website.
On the day of the funeral, storms and tornado warnings force the residents to take shelter, with the various episodes revolving around the interactions of those sheltering in locations such as the local church, a bar, and the high school.
According to the synopsis, “The intensity outside increases along with the events inside, and secrets once thought safely veiled in history begin to unravel in light of Edward’s mysterious death.”
“It’s a little dark and intense – a dramatic story,” Mr. Barnard said.
While pleased with the quality of the students’ work, Mr. Barnard said that equally impressive was how the students grew as individuals.
“This is a Consciousness-Based film school,” he says. “We can teach people to transcend. It was a transformational experience for them, and deeply affected them on a personal level.”
A number of Hollywood veterans helped teach the program, including Bill Borden, who has produced dozens of movies. He is continuing to work on the project and has teamed with Hollywood film director and editor Duwayne Dunham to produce an alternate 80-minute version with six episodes that he intends to show at film festivals such as Sundance and South By Southwest.
Funding is being provided by Joanna Plafsky, a generous supporter of MUM’s film program.
Each student was involved in writing, directing, editing, and producing the episodes.
Stephen Siemens, one of the students now working in Hollywood, so impressed a guest lecturer with his expertise in visual effects that the person hired him on the spot. Stephen left for Los Angeles the day after graduation and immediately began contributing to top movies.