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Senior films glorify God through fiction, nonfiction

Drew Huhta, a senior cinema production major, edits his senior film.
Photo: Jordyn Britton

Bob Jones University’s cinema department will present its annual senior film premier on April 30 at 7 p.m. in Stratton Hall.

The six senior cinema majors whose films will be presented this year include Faith Boardman, Alyssa Fanning, Gaby Gudah, Marshall Hammer, Drew Huhta and Anna Sherwin. Half of the films they created are fictional, and half are non-fictional.

Sharyn Robertson, the department head of the cinematic arts program, said that while students generally lean toward creating more fictional stories, it is not unusual for there to be an even mix of fictional and non-fictional films. Robertson approves the senior film projects and helps the seniors with their films’ audio.

When you’re working on a project, you listen to [the soundtrack] so many times that you might start ignoring some things that could be a problem because you’re so familiar with [it],she said. Robertson is trained in critical listening and said that having a fresh pair of ears listen to the seniors’ soundtracks can help to smooth out any problems toward the end of the filmmaking process.

Zydowicz made created a thesis film for his master of fine arts degree that won a Cine Golden Eagle Award.
Photo: Jordyn Britton

Christopher Zydowicz, a professor in the cinema department who serves as a producer for all the senior films, said his role with the senior films resembles that of a life coach in some ways. “A producer in this industry oversees the production,” Zydowicz said. They handle the schedule, the timing of the schedule and the legal aspects of it.

The senior film project is part of a class that lasts two semesters, with the first semester focusing on the rough cut of the film and the second semester focusing on the audio, color, final polishing and other aspects of the film. The films generally last from eight to 12 minutes, but Zydowicz said he has found that a well-polished fiveminute film often does well in film festivals.

Robertson said that some of the elements she looks for in the senior films are a mastery of the filmmaking elements the seniors have learned over the past four years, a story that is presented in a way that the audience can understand and a clear presentation of the hope of the Christian worldview. “Every story that’s told should have some type of hope and the truth of Scripture,” Robertson said. “Essentially, you don’t have to do a Christian story with a Bible verse. But I’m looking for the truths of Scripturethat there’s hope, there’s redemption, the good wins in the end—those types of ideas.” Robertson’s ultimate hope with each project is that the students’ messages come through to the audience.

Zydowicz said that a common feature he has noticed in all the senior films is that the films are personal to their creators.

Alyssa Fanning, one of the senior cinema majors presenting a film at the premier, said that she has always been passionate about animals, and that was what led her to make her film a documentary showing the relationship of PTSD veterans and their service dogs.I met a trainer from Service Dogs for Veterans while I was working at Starbucks, and I knew then and there that’s what my film would be about,” Fanning said.

According to Fanning, the filmmaking process was fairly straightforward for her. “I shot some … [footage] at a few of their training classes, [then] shot a few interviews and started weaving a story together from the information I got.” Fanning said the filmmaking process gave her a new perspective on how to communicate and work with new people to create something great.

Zydowicz said that ultimately the senior cinema students use the field of visual communication to glorify God. “Most people think of cinema as someone who is operating a camera that goes out to Hollywood. That’s far from the truth,” Zydowicz said. “Our students are visual storytellers, glorifying God with the talents God gave them.

Both Zydowicz and Robertson said they are proud of the work the seniors have put into their senior films.

Tickets for the senior film premier can be purchased at bju.universitytickets.com or through the ticket office in Rodeheaver for $8.