UCLA film class gets ultimate test

For UCLA film students, this is the chance to strut their stuff.

The fourth annual UCLA extension film showcase will debut at 7:30 p.m. tonight in the Samuel Goldwyn Theater of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

This year’s program of four short films includes comedy, drama and suspense.

“The course was designed to put people on the map of Hollywood,” says John Thomas Lenox, a producer who serves as co-instructor of the extension course. “Therefore we tend to have a bias toward narrative, traditional films.”

This year’s films range from “Two Weeks from Sunday,” the story of one man’s jitters before his wedding, to “Sunny’s Deliverance,” the family drama of how a child’s death affects the survivors.

“You Are What You Eat” is a comedy involving high school friends whose children are romantically involved.

Finally, “Desire” chronicles sexual tensions in a small Texas town.

The popularity of the extension program saw more than 400 applications for the course’s 60slots last September.

The final group is equally divided into directing, producing and writing candidates. In general, most participants have professional experience in associated fields or in non-fiction film.

Through the course of the year, accepted scripts are developed, production workshops are conducted and the participants form alliances.

The winnowing process winds down to the four films selected for production.

Perfect record

“We’ve never had a film not completed,” says co-instructor Simon Lewis. “That in itself is some kind of record.”

The teams are each provided with 4,400 feet of stock, basic film equipment, editing facilities, some film processing and other physical support. They have a nine-day schedule and pickups.

Lenox notes that no production has ever been able to make a film on funds provided solely by the school.

Teams have had to find anywhere from $ 5,000 to $ 40,000 additionally to complete projects. But unlike most film schools, the final film belongs to its creators.

This year’s participants agree that the course is a calling card. The directors include a former attorney, an award-winning documentarian and a theater actor-director. Similarly, the producers and writers have eclectic experience.

“It’s generally a very good program,” says an agent. “All these student screenings tend to be hit or miss when you’re looking to find new talent. But this one tends to produce more thoughtful, better conceived shorts.”

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