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Theater and film students collaborate on single-scene project

2021-02-19-TheaterandFilmStudents
Students pursuing a degree in design and technology for theater build an apartment set from the movie "La La Land" in the Ed Cabell Theatre.The recreation allowed students in film and digital media to replicate the movie scene on the handmade set.

University of North Georgia (UNG) students pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in design and technology for theater are described as problem-solvers. And they had one monumental problem to solve this academic year: How do you learn to build sets without theater productions because of COVID-19?

The answer for spring 2021 materialized through a collaboration with students pursuing a Bachelor of Science in film and digital media. The design and tech students would replicate the apartment set from the movie "La La Land" and film students would re-create the scene.

James Mackenzie, assistant professor of film and digital media in the Department of Communication, Media & Journalism, and David Becker, production technical director in the Department of Theatre, agreed the partnership was ideal.

"(CMJ doesn't) have a lot of resources for the scenes like furniture and other props, but we have that stuff in storage," Becker said, explaining the items and theater stage are typically reserved for productions by Gainesville Theatre Alliance (GTA), a one-of-a-kind, nationally recognized collaboration between the UNG and Brenau University. "We are also building the set in the Ed Cabell Theatre."

Currently, GTA's spring season is in flux because of the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing the Ed Cabell Theatre and its props to be used by the film students. Mackenzie said his film students were eager to work on the handmade set.

"There was a lot of excitement from the students," he said. "This opportunity allowed them to learn on a professional set designed to their specifications. In many ways, this was ideal for them, because they were shooting essentially in a soundstage."

Devin LaPointe, a design and tech student in her junior year, was keen to work on the project.

"It was interesting, because a film set is different," said the 20-year-old who lives in Gainesville, Georgia.

LaPointe explained a theater set must have a clear line of sight from left to right and front to back for the audience. That component does not apply in films.

"You can't stick a wall in the middle of a theater set, but you can in a film set," she said. "You can move the camera and you can move walls. It was different but in subtle ways."

LaPointe was also pleased to help fabricate the set in January and February. The native of Alpharetta, Georgia, said her last GTA set was for its monthly online "Cabaret" series in fall 2020. She helped make a booth with curtains.

It wasn't her only source of set design and technology projects, though. LaPointe painted several backgrounds using watercolors, scanned them into the computer and uploaded them online for the Shakespearean play "Henry V," which was livestreamed on GTA's YouTube channel.

"I was free to make my designs look large and elaborate because they were presented as paintings," she said.

She also learned to build different set pieces in the fall, including a Gothic-style window. It was part of the basic building-block curriculum. For example, students built flats, platforms and step units as well as curved walls, Becker said.

"In many ways, it was kind of a blessing," he said. "We taught them how to build things that they should always have in their toolbox."

LaPointe said she appreciated the variation.

"It was good opportunity to polish my skills as a carpenter and time to explore what I could do in the digital design realm," she said.

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