Crew Experience is underway

SOU Digital Cinema program launches unique “Crew Experience”

(Ashland, Ore.) — After a two-year pandemic delay, Southern Oregon University has launched its innovative, new, 12-credit spring immersion course called “The Crew Experience.” Student filmmakers spend an entire term learning on location, collaborating under the supervision of faculty and experienced industry mentors on the set of a significant film project designed to emulate the professional working environment.

Students had to apply and interview for their crew positions and were placed based on the experience, skill levels and portfolios of work they have accumulated in preceding classes. No other film or media program in the Pacific Northwest offers such an experiential approach to professional production training.

“This is truly ‘higher’ education, what college ought to be,” said Andrew Gay, associate professor and chair of Communication, Media & Cinema at SOU, and the principal architect of the Crew Experience.

“Today’s film student is savvy,” he said. “They know they can learn the buttons of a camera or editing software on YouTube, so why spend the tuition on film school? What we’re offering is professional immersion — hands-on training, working side-by-side, on-set with both faculty and industry veterans. It’s about learning the set culture, the lingo and procedures that mark professionals from amateurs. You can’t get that from a YouTube video.”

Thanks to a generous sponsorship from Canon USA, SOU students are working with a higher caliber of camera equipment than ever before. The company has loaned SOU two full C500 Mark II camera packages with cinema lens kits, providing students the opportunity to work with professional-grade gear as they develop their skills. Students who successfully complete the Crew Experience are eligible to receive SOU’s new micro-credential in Set Skills for Cinema Production, in recognition of their achievements.

Ashland-based producer and founder of Film Southern Oregon Gary Kout is one of the industry mentors working with Digital Cinema students in their final week of production. Kout also kicked off the term with an inspiration keynote address encouraging students to make the most of this unique opportunity.

“Filmmaking is as much a craft as it is an art, and the inner workings of a film set is an understandable mystery to those who’ve never been on one,” Kout said. “So to get a real education in film production, one has to get their hands on the gear and their bodies on a set. The Crew Experience provides this invaluable opportunity to SOU film school students that will benefit them greatly as they move into careers in the industry.”

Courtney Williams, another local writer-producer, 1st assistant director, and board member for the Oregon Media Production Association (OMPA) is another set mentor this term.

“Hands-on experience is one of the most valuable ways to learn filmmaking,” Williams said. “The Crew Experience is just that. Students experience rigorous planning, on-their-feet decision-making, creative-problem solving, and unexpected inspiration — what it really takes to make a movie!”

The Crew Experience has been shooting throughout the Rogue Valley this term and will continue production through Sunday, May 29. Gay said the project chosen for the Crew Experience was created specifically to pose significant production challenges for the students to overcome as a crew – such as working with a large crowd of extras during COVID and having to shoot in remote, rugged locations. The filming locations have included the Medford Railroad Park, downtown Medford, Porters Restaurant in Medford, Rogue Valley Roasting Co. coffee shop in Ashland, the Mill Creek and Barr Creek Falls trails in Prospect, and a private residence in Medford.

Rick Bailey, president of Southern Oregon University, commented on the unique program. “We are very proud of the students, faculty and staff who make The Crew Experience possible,” he said. “It is a great example of interdisciplinary collaborations leading to powerful experiential opportunities for our students. Opportunities like this make Southern Oregon University a truly one-of-a-kind institution.”

Media members may contact SOU to schedule a set visit for photography and/or video interviews on Saturday, May 28, while the student crew are filming at the Medford Railroad Park.