Students work to write, produce Kent State’s second movie

Amy Cooknick

A group of Kent State students will be singing and dancing its way to the silver screen in the university production “Research: The Musical.”

“The script is done, we have cast the film, we just finalized the head crew members,” said Traci Williams, executive producer and instructor of Pan-African Studies and Journalism and Mass Communication.

“Research: The Musical” is the second feature-length movie filmed in this way at Kent State. The first, “Breaking News,” premiered Dec. 1 last year.

From planning to premiere, “Research: The Musical” will take Williams’ students three semesters to complete: HD Pre-Production in the spring, HD Film Production in the summer and HD Post-Production in the fall. The film is nearing the end of phase one in its full production process.

Williams teaches pre-production and production, while David Smeltzer, assistant professor of journalism, teaches post-production. She said the course is open to all majors. Students are welcome to take all three sections of the course, but many opt out of the summer session.

“In the summertime to take the class, it’s six credits, so it’s expensive,” Williams said. “Many students take the fall and spring course, but they volunteer during the summer.”

Students who work on the film in the summer do so for about 12 hours a day during the eight-week section.

“But it’s so much fun, and the students from last year will tell you they’re like a family now and they hang out,” Williams said.

Last year, Williams said there were close to 100 students involved in creating “Breaking News” from beginning to end. This year, there are almost 50 students currently enrolled in Pre-Production.

Three students in the class wrote the script for “Research: The Musical” based on outlines and suggestions from the entire class. Williams said each of the three students wrote one act of the three-act film, then did revisions based on class critiques.

“It’s a musical, it’s a comedy, it’s a love story, it’s about friends,” Williams said. “It’s something that we’ve never done here. We had our first table read a couple weeks ago, and everyone was just cracking up. The cast really connected, so it’s gonna be really fun.”

Williams said she is especially excited about the unique collection of characters the cast portrays, including a crazy scientist reminiscent of a character in “Little Shop of Horrors.”

Because the film is still in its early stages, Williams said she couldn’t discuss the plot yet. She said about 80 percent of filming will be done on campus, and many of those scenes will take place in laboratories, with a few in dorms.

The eclectic plot made it difficult for students to decide on a title.

“I think it took them a couple hours to come up with this name in between two classes,” Williams said. “Somebody just blurted it out. We put all the names on the board, and I think there had to be at least 50 or 60 names that they had, and this is the one that they just all voted on.”

After writing and naming the script, Williams said the class had auditions for cast positions. Those who auditioned came prepared with their own music, and rehearsals began this month. Students in the class will not be acting in the film.

“All the main characters have to sing,” Williams said. “We have a student who was actually composing the score, and I have another student who was writing all the lyrics.”

The musical’s ensemble plans to begin recording the soundtrack May 8 in the Music and Speech Center.

“It’s just so important that we get the word out about the class,” Williams said. “I think so many students find out about this when it’s too late. We have a film class here where people can really have hands-on experience. So we really try to make sure that this is a real-life experience for the students.”

Williams said “Research: The Musical” will premiere at the Kent Plaza Theater on South Water Street the second weekend of December.

Contact Amy Cooknick at [email protected].