It’s rare for a student film to make it out of a college classroom, much less into the multiplex. But Chapman University in Orange County has added a feature production company to its cinema program.
Chapman Filmed Entertainment is a for-profit company that gives current students and alumni a platform to make feature films. It plans to release several titles each year, starting with a thriller starring Scott Glenn, “The Barber.”
The Frame’s John Horn recently spoke with Robert Basset, Dean of the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts at Chapman University, and Travis Knox, producer of the film and an alumnus of the school, about competing with Hollywood studios.
Why did you decide to start Chapman Filmed Entertainment?
BASSET: You know, film schools make short films and that's really not the currency in the business. So we wanted to accelerate the careers of our students. It's primarily for alumns, but also students work as [production assistants]. Students don't have five weeks to take off to make a feature film. [Alumni] are the heads of all the departments — producer, editor, production designer.
Why did you decide to make a thriller for the first film? Was that intentional?
KNOX: Yes. I don't think that we necessarily had to choose a psychological horror film, but the big mandate is that we must make something that's commercial. I'd love to get into festivals like Sundance, but that's not the primary goal here. So when I found the script, I knew that we had one or two great characters that would be great actor bait, and I knew it had a great twisty story that we could market.
You have what I assume to be cheap labor. You have filmmakers and department heads that don't have a lot credits. Is that part of the economy in saving money?
KNOX: Believe it or not, our director made the exact same money our craft service [workers] made. Across the board, everybody got paid a standard hourly rate. This was an opportunity for everybody, and everybody was pretty much thrilled to be there and to have this opportunity. Our crew is made up of about two-thirds of alumni, not even just the key department heads, but all the way down the chain.
Other than the budget, what are the other criteria that you're looking for? I assume you're not going to be making some sort of NC-17 snuff film, but what do you want to do? What kinds of genres are you interested in exploring?
BOB: We'll do any genre, frankly. We don't censor any of the films, so anything we think is commercially viable we'll do. Of course, we'd like it to be a picture you haven't seen before. We have a rom-com lined up. We have another psychological thriller. We have a black comedy. We don't know which one would go first yet.
KNOX: I think Bob's right. We want to keep these commercial. We're all over the map. He says we'll do any genre. I don't think we'll do a true torture porn kind-of-thing.
Not "Saw XIV"?
KNOW: Hey, I'd love to be one of the owners of "Saw." but I just don't think that's something we're gonna be able to do.
“The Barber,” starring Scott Glenn and directed by Basel Owies, opens in select theaters on March 27.