Courtesy of Dept. of Film, Theatre and Digital Production
Courtesy of Dept. of Film, Theatre and Digital Production

Every year, UCR’s Department of Theatre, Film and Digital Production hosts a film festival showcasing the work of current undergraduates, graduate students, alumni and faculty. The festival is a two-hour event consisting of a compilation of short films. The ad floating around campus shows off the poster art for the featured short this year, “Bad Timing,” written by Stu Krieger (who has worked on children’s classics like “The Land Before Time” and “A Troll in Central Park”), and collaborated on with a crew ranging from undergraduate students Anakaren Chable, Josh Stephenson, Kirby Marshall-Collins and Deandre Moore to MFA director Taylor Hatch and the industry-famous Dean Cundey. Cundey is an Oscar-nominated cinematographer who has worked on titles such as, “Jurassic Park,” “Back to the Future,” “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and “Apollo 13.” In my sit-down with some of the cast and crew, Hatch described Cundey as a “well of knowledge,” and her time working with him as “the highlight of the production.” The rest of the group wholeheartedly agreed that having the opportunity to work with him was a fantastic experience.

The poster for “Bad Timing” shows a corpse, toe-tagged, with a surprisingly bright coral-pink background, and the dead body itself covered with a white sheet decorated by different booming shades of lipstick stains — evoking sensations of scandal and romance. Without giving too much away, the crew was able to divulge that the plot consists of the main character Nini, played by Chable, who is involved in an affair with the former vice president of the United States (a married man), which does not end well. After this, she summons her friend Beth, performed by Marshall-Collins, to get help resolving the situation. If that sounds too dark for you, fear not; although the premise may sound bleak, the director assures that there are comedic undertones throughout.

When I spoke to the director, Hatch, the piece was still in its final days of editing. One of the most impressive feats of the production revealed was that the entire project was filmed in only one week. The cast and crew spent week 10 of their winter quarter filming for six to 12 hours per day, all for a total of just under 17 minutes of screentime. Tony Baltierra, a UCR faculty member and alumnus, informed me that every bit of the film was shot on campus. One outdoor scene was filmed at the Anderson Graduate School of Management (the former citrus experiment station), and another in the park near Aberdeen Drive.

This brings us to the most important question: Why should you, a member of the UCR community, spend this Thursday and Friday night watching a university film festival rather than heading to the University Village to catch this week’s newest blockbuster? For starters, in the words of Marshall-Collins, “it’s free to UCR students. You don’t have to spend any money and you get to sit in comfy chairs and watch all these different short films that are made by people here. There’s also the fact that UCR is a very diverse campus. We have a lot of minority filmmakers. We have a lot of women and women of color working on these films.” It’s true, one of the things UCR is known for is our diverse student body. In the film industry today, one of the biggest concerns is the lack of roles and thus opportunity for nonwhite actors. It would seem at UCR we’re ahead of the curve in this aspect.

Let’s not understate the amount of effort and talent that has gone into the making of these films. Josh Stephenson’s tactic for developing the set designs included researching and starting with conceptual Lego models. He describes his process as trying to create “truth on camera,” which for this project meant trying to fabricate the renovated warehouse-style loft in Georgetown where the film starts off. He focused on everything from the brick walls of the loft to the memorabilia and photos that are included in the set to build character for the former vice president. No detail has been spared to ensure that the sets are authentic.

Deandre Moore worked as the costume designer for “Bad Timing,” as well as “Lucid Dark” and “Let’s Talk About Jane” (two other films in the festival). After reading the script and trying to get a feel for the college-age characters, Moore says he was inspired by people he knows in his own life. He also worked with the cast to try and incorporate their own personality into the character’s style to create a synthesis of texture to create true-to-life characters.

“Bad Timing,” and many other works in the festival are truly products of the UCR community. There will be many other weekends to spend watching superheroes fighting each other or whatever young-adult dystopian movie floods the box office next. There will not be nearly as many chances to immerse yourself in your local culture and see what your peers have worked to create.

The film festival will be held this week on Thursday, April 7 and Friday, April 8. The screenings will commence at 8 p.m. in Arts 335. Only 78 tickets are available for each night of the festival. If you cannot make it, you can also check out some of the department’s work at their YouTube page.