Like our advances in technology and science, media is rapidly evolving, and PBA is at the forefront of it.
As a part of our Cinema Arts program, students are part of an award-winning team, one that received 3rd place at the Broadcasters Education Association Awards in 2017, earning a total of 10 national awards for both faculty and student productions, topped only by Arizona State and University of Oklahoma.
“Taking a story from concept to the screen is an arduous, tedious and difficult process but in the end there’s nothing like it,” said Andrew Ray, assistant professor of cinema arts and director of production technology for the School of Communications & Media. “Seeing your collective vision become a film is so exciting. The misconception is that all of filmmaking is a fun process, when in reality it’s very hard work with a lot of details and long hours, but the payoff is tremendous.”
In his fourth year at Palm Beach Atlantic, Ray has been behind the scenes of many outstanding student productions. He’s worked in some form of digital media for nearly 20 years. And, as the executive producer of student films, overseeing an entire production from concept to post-production, is not the only role he plays. In fact, he performs various tasks on set, since it’s both a live set and a classroom.
Last month, Ray and his student team sent out a casting call for students interested in acting to come audition for their next film named “Ratchet.” Written and directed by Braeden Alberti, a senior cinema television major, who also plays the male lead in the film, “Ratchet” is a story about a man who loves his dream car, despite the fact that it is breaking down.
“His whole world changes when he discovers that his wife is now pregnant. He cannot afford both a car and a child, so he will need to decide if his priorities lie with his baby or his baby,” explained Alberti.
Alberti’s story was inspired by his car, which stars in the film as the object of his character’s obsession. Once he finished the script, Alberti worked together with other cinema arts and television majors to establish a solid shooting order. Those closest to him were his assistant director Katlyn Menjivar from Farmingville, New York; director of photography Brandon Garret, from Boynton Beach; and producers Tim DeMoss from Willow Grove, Pennsylvania; and Leticia Landrau from West Palm Beach.
Being both the director and the star of a film is not easy, as Alberti would attest. Transitioning between an assertive director to a vulnerable goofball at the flip of a switch was especially challenging, considering that casting himself as the lead actor was a last minute decision that took place a week before production. Alberti relied heavily on his crew, particularly on Garrett, who handled the majority of the film's camerawork, directing Alberti in places where he could not have directed myself.
“Professor Ray was a great help with this process,” said Alberti. “While we were shooting, he’d typically stand aside, allowing me to take control of things, while mainly helping to set up equipment in the background. However, I could always turn to him whenever I needed an expert opinion [which was often] and if he thought something I did was questionable, he would confront me about it to make sure that I was still on the right track.”
For Ray, first and foremost, the opportunity to work closely with student filmmakers is just another way to share the Gospel with them, as they produce films that impact an audience. Secondly, it is a chance to pass on everything that he’s learned about the film industry.
“From screenwriting to sound capture, to cinematography, editing and internships, I want them to be well-rounded when they graduate,” said Ray. “I teach them to teach themselves. This economy assumes you’ll be somewhat self-taught and so I want my students to have employment opportunities.”
From story to screen, with writing taking most of the time, each student film generally takes a year to produce. Student films like “Ratchet” are presented at their annual showcase that’s typically hosted at AMC CityPlace 20 theater every April. Then, the crew gets them ready for film festivals, including the Student Showcase of Films, one of Florida’s largest student film competition and award shows, which is sponsored by The Palm Beaches Film and Television Commission.
After the student films make the film festival circuit, they are ready to be showcased on PBA film’s Vimeo account for everyone to see.