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Experience on the Set

Students work paid internships on the set of ‘Wake,’ a new psychological thriller created by a team of interdisciplinary CLASS faculty

On a late summer evening, a group of community members gathered at a small church in Genesee, Idaho. One hundred people laid quilted blankets on the green grass and sat down against the golden backdrop of wheat fields. But what appeared to be a traditional church picnic was actually the set of the new psychological thriller, “Wake,” created by a team of faculty and students in the University of Idaho’s College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS).

The horror film explores the intersection of politics and paranoia in the United States through terrifying dreams and visions of its teenage protagonist, whose father is running for Congress.

The set in Genesee included not only the 100 extras who gathered around the church, but also a team of cast and crew, which included working professionals, university alumni, CLASS faculty members and five undergraduate students.

Connecting with Faculty through Hands-On Experience

Bryan Ramirez, a senior majoring in broadcasting and digital media from Caldwell, Idaho, worked as a production assistant, gaining experience with a professional film crew while earning an internship credit required for his major.

“I would dress the set, clean the set, and then I would do whatever tasks needed to be done,” Ramirez said. “It was really fast-paced and serious. I loved how high the stakes were and how intense the pressure could be.”

Other students worked as an assistant director, camera assistant and sound recordist.

“The students who earned paid jobs as production assistants on the shoot gained professional experiences that will help them be better filmmakers in their coursework and help them succeed in their careers,” said Russell Meeuf, assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Media and director of the Film and Television Studies Program at U of I. “They got to see firsthand how an independent film is made, working with professional filmmaking equipment and professional actors, while helping to bring our creative vision to life.”

For the students like Ramirez, it was also a way to interact with professors in a new way.

“They became like peers because we were all working on a project together. We all had the same goal,” Ramirez said. “It makes me see the faculty as artists who are actively applying what they’re teaching. I have a lot of admiration for them.”

Russell Meeuf
Russell Meeuf

“I believe that whatever field you intend to work in, the more actual hands-on experience you get, the better. I want our students to graduate with the confidence that they’re well-prepared to go out into the world to create their own opportunities,” said Benjamin James, clinical assistant professor in the Department of English and the film’s writer and director.

Working Together in CLASS

The team creating “Wake” is a mix of CLASS faculty, including Meeuf, who served as the executive producer for the film and received a CLASS Interdisciplinary Fellowship to help fund this project.

Ben James
Benjamin James

Joining Meeuf on the project is screenwriter James, actress Kelly Quinnett, professor and head of acting in the Department of Theatre Arts, and production producer Kyle Howerton, a clinical assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Media.

‘Wake’ also received a Quick Funds Grant from the Idaho Commission on the Arts to fund the post production of the film.

Upon its completion in February, the film will be submitted to film festivals, including the Sun Valley Film Festival, SXSW, the Portland International Film Festival, the Cannes International Film Festival and several others.

Article by Jeremiah Akin ’18
Published in January 2020

School of Journalism and Mass Media

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University of Idaho
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