Studio North provides film funding and support

By AUBREY ALMANZA | September 11, 2014

Amidst recent renovations of campus biolabs and medical research facilities, more artistic needs have finally been met with the establishment of Studio North.

Studio North, an entirely student-run production company, not only exists to encourage creative endeavors, but also has the financial backing to see student projects through (the infant company was founded earlier this year with the help of a large, anonymous donation). Although new to campus, Studio North has made considerable strides in the past five months. Most notable of their accomplishments are the generous grants awarded to promising applicants.

One fortunate recipient is senior filmmaker Max Bowens. Bowens, a Film and Media Studies major, was chosen for his latest vision: a story of a boy trying to find his mom. With the aid of Studio North, New York City (Bowens’s birthplace) is set to be the short film’s location. At Studio North’s Tuesday night information session, Bowens described his upcoming film as “the culmination of everything I’ve worked on the past few years.”

Information session attendees were also introduced to Bowens’s fellow grant recipients, Andrea Massaro and Tony Lee. The filmmaking duo was chosen for their proposed family drama, which delves into a young boy’s perspective on death.

“Our script is about the family of Ray Goby, who is a small child that attempts to deal with the loss of his goldfish at the same time that his extended family handles the loss of his grandmother,” Massaro said.

“His preoccupation with his dead goldfish is the common thread throughout the script that pulls his journey through his grandmother’s wake and inspires his musings about his family.”

In an interview with The News-Letter, Massaro, a senior majoring in both Writing Seminars and Film and Media Studies, reflected on the University’s cinema culture and recent Studio North addition.

“Hopkins film culture has been growing at a fast pace since I’ve been on campus. Film Society has done a lot of great work in the past few years, increasing their presence with the film festival and projecting some really great films, and the Film & Media Studies Program has brought a lot of interesting speakers to campus lately, including some of the House of Cards crew last year.”

“I think that Studio North is the one thing that Hopkins was missing,” Massaro added. “Production was only limited to classes in years past, and I feel that Studio North will provide a great resource, not only for film students, but also all students on campus who may be interested in pursuing a career in film or making a film.”

Massaro describes the contributions of Studio North as greater than mere project financing. The company also supports members in terms of production, scheduling guidance, talent and editing. “Tony and I have been working with Ian McMurray, the script chair, to rewrite our script and make it as production-ready as possible. His feedback and edits have been invaluable.”

Talent Chair Ingrid Ma has helped the duo schedule casting calls, while Executive Chair Grant Lease oversees, advises and conducts meetings to keep the film on track.

“It’s like having a whole team of creatives that you can collaborate with and rely on to help you out whenever you need it. Their support has been amazing so far, and I look forward to seeing all of their other ideas for helping filmmakers on campus come to life,” Massaro said.

The near future holds many exciting events thanks to Studio North. Currently in development are Digital Media Center workshops on film lighting and sound. Executive Chair Grant Lease eagerly anticipates the company’s upcoming mentoring program, wherein novice filmmakers will partner with production veterans, and later serve as mentors themselves.

Also underway is the company’s homebase, Station North, which will be fully stocked with the latest recording equipment.

Students can look forward to a campus screening of the grant recipients’ short films. According to Meredith Ward, a Hopkins Film and Media Studies professor and Studio North’s faculty advisor, the premiere will include “actual tuxedos and a red carpet.”

Studio North has a place for all interested students. Last year, the company exclusively accepted scriptwriters who also intended to produce, but this year, a properly formatted script is all students need to apply for a grant.

Professional types can become members of the Executive Board committees, where focuses range from finance to editing.  As for the camera shy, plenty of behind-the-scenes roles need filling. With 15 characters and six locations in Massaro’s film alone, students can sign up to assist with lighting, costumes and more.

“Tony and I are looking for crew and production assistants that are underclassmen or know nothing about film production. We want to help a future generation of filmmakers get on set and learn what working on a film is really like,” Massaro said.

In such a hands-on and competitive industry, experience is key. “It’s not something that you can read in a textbook — it’s something that you have to watch and learn,” she added.

Preparing students for work in the film industry is one of Studio North’s highest priorities. An image of film success in her own right, Ward will assist in pre-professional workshops.

However, students not pursuing careers in film are equally as vital to the company’s success. Studio North seeks a webmaster, crew members and any generally interested, enthusiastic students.

Regardless of your major, experience or career goals, head in the direction of Studio North.

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