‘Cell phones rule’ in student film

By Daniel Rothberg

More than 35 students stood dressed in desert garb in the Feldman-Horn Art Center plaza, ready to recreate a segment from the film “Indiana Jones.”

The scene was filmed as part of an Advanced Video Art I project called “If Cell Phones Ruled the World.” Students from the video art class used tents and tables to transform the Feldman-Horn plaza into a Middle Eastern village.

The project will be composed of several segments. Each segment will feature a reproduction of a scene from an iconic film with a cell phone inserted somewhere in each scene. They will use scenes from movies such as “Pulp Fiction,” “Titanic,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” “Indiana Jones” and “The Conversation.” The class is attempting to recreate the scenes as accurately as possible at different locations on campus.

“It’s a series of vignettes strung together by a running joke—the joke being that cell phones are everywhere,” Advanced Video Art I teacher Kevin O’Malley said. “We have done projects — mostly spoofs and satires — where students duplicate a famous scene from a feature film. This is the first time to my knowledge where one of my classes has so faithfully recreated a series of scenes.”

So far, the Advanced Video Art I class has filmed four scenes. They hope to finish the piece in time for the Harvard-Westlake Film Festival deadline in January, O’Malley said.

The class reproduced each scene shot-for-shot by creating what is known as a “reverse” storyboard, O’Malley said.

“They took still frames from each camera set-up in the original scene and then designed their own shots – everything from camera angle, lighting, wardrobe and props,” O’Malley said. “And then, of course, they had to insert a cell phone somewhere in the midst of the scene.”

For each scene, students alternated producing and acting in the film. Gabe Benjamin ’11 is the project’s lead editor.

From creating costumes to designing the set, each scene took hours of preparation, Nick Lieberman ’11 said. 

“I definitely think that we set a precedent for a lot of preparation and working hard before we even start shooting, which isn’t always done with teenagers,” Lieberman said.

“To me, the best part of producing a movie like this is that this merry band of filmmakers keeps getting better and better as they work together,” O’Malley said.