Producing Tomorrow’s Producers

Twenty-six years — and plenty of TV series, movies, and scripts — later, Jill Soloway ’87 still remembers the profound influence of her semester in the capstone production course, Comm Arts 659. “It was a revelation to me. It made me want to be an artist. It made me look at film through the lens of art. And it made me look at myself through the lens of creating art,” the Six Feet Under writer and Afternoon Delight writer/director says.

Helmed by Professor J.J. Murphy, the course emphasizes the collaborative aspect of filmmaking. Murphy leads students through the production process as they create 30-minute films, from casting to cutting to the premieres. The scripts are written by students in Murphy’s screenwriting course. Divided into two groups of seven or eight, the students are assigned positions based upon their strengths and interests in the field. Throughout the semester, they learn their individual roles such as director, cinematographer, and editor, as well as how to work as a crew. “The philosophy of the class is to learn by doing,” Murphy says. “The students who take it are dying to make films. They’re willing to work long hours outside of class for the experience. It’s really like getting thrown into deep water.”

The experiences gained during those long hours have stuck with alumni like accomplished filmmaker and producer Soloway, who calls Murphy “one of those seminal people in my life who made me want to try harder.”