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UT Film Students Gain Experience on Location

Published: February 14, 2008
When University of Tampa senior Tara Parian, a film and media arts major, heard about a job working on a local independent movie, she jumped at the opportunity.

The low budget independent comedy, titled “Misconceptions,” was in need of volunteers to help with various production tasks on location in St. Petersburg.

As many UT students were away for a break between semesters, Parian returned early to Tampa from her home in New Hampshire to work as a production assistant on the set of “Misconceptions.” The 10 hours-a-day, five days-a-week job meant routinely providing copies of the day’s shooting script to the actors and film crews, assisting the director and camera operators in marking various scenes and even acting as an extra when needed.

“I just helped out in any way that I could,” Parian said. “Learning film production definitely helps. It puts into perspective how many people you need to make a movie.”

The film, starring Orlando Jones and directed by Academy Award nominee Ron Satlof, was one of two locally filmed productions that film commissioners announced would need temporary assistance as filming took place throughout January and February. All told, eight students and one alumnus got temporary work on the set of “Misconceptions,” as well as “The Messenger,” an independent thriller being filmed throughout the Tampa Bay area.

Tom Garrett, visiting assistant professor of communication, knew that UT film and media arts students were just the people to help out on the projects. Garrett helped spread the word about the films and the various jobs to students and recent UT alumni.

“I always try to keep my finger on the button on what’s coming to town,” Garrett said. “Several of the students are from my production classes. Pretty much every hour that they’re not in school they’re on the set.”

While some of the students received payment in exchange for their work, others were able to earn internship credit. Still others, including Parian, simply volunteered for the job in order to gain a hands-on learning experience.

For sophomore Kelsey Stroop, who served as the intern coordinator on the set of “The Messenger,” the experience provided valuable connections that could help her establish a career in the film industry. A chance encounter at the 2007 Gasparilla Film Festival with P.J. Leonard, director of “The Messenger,” led to Stroop’s assignment as intern coordinator.

“I would suggest something like this to anyone interested in film,” Stroop said. “Any opportunity like this that comes up, take it. You never know whom you’re going to meet. I have made a lot of connections and I hope they’ll be helpful to me in the future.”

In addition to networking contacts, Stroop said working on the film was an engaging experience, providing exposure to many different aspects of the filmmaking process.

“The first day I was here, we were at the aquarium and one of the actors was in a shark tank,” Stroop said. “Another day we were at a pet shop and they had to handle a boa constrictor. So we got to do quite a few cool things. I’ll keep doing films and see what I gravitate towards. I’m learning a lot and having a lot of fun.”