Learning film production from the pros
Cast and crew on the set of the film The Gift. -Photo by Michelle Heshka

Since Geoff Yates graduated from the U of R with a Fine Arts degree in film and Video in 1988, he's worked on such productions as Corner Gas, Little Mosque on the Prairie, Just Friends and Moccasin Flats.

Yates recently returned to the University to help some of today's fine arts students gain experience working on a real movie set.

"I was motivated because this is where I went to school, and this is a way to give something back," he says.

Yates was one of several film professionals who volunteered their time.

"I get alumni requests for donations, and I thought I would donate some time and knowledge, rather than money. This project intrigued me because it would be giving students some exposure to what is expected on a real movie set," says Yates.

Yates is the key grip, essentially a department head responsible for cameras and lights. He was part of a volunteer crew made up of other industry professionals and students who worked together on the production of a film with the working title The Gift, about the choices people have when they have an urge to be violent.

The project, with seven cast members and a crew of 33, was shot in Regina during six days in late March. Producer Sarah Abbott, a U of R professor, says the film will run about 24 minutes and will be entered in film festivals.

One of the students on the crew was Michelle Heshka, a third-year student in multi-media production. She was the still photographer on the set, as well as an assistant in the props department.

Heshka says the experience of working with pros on a real movie set is quite a change from a classroom. "It's totally being here, rather than talking about it. Timing is a huge factor when you're filming. Everyone has to be on time, and teamwork is very important."

Jemma Gilboy, who earned her BFA in 2008, took time off from her part-time job as a production assistant at the Saskatchewan Film Pool Co-operative to work on the sound crew.

"I think this is a really valuable project for people at the film school, because it gives them real industry experience, and so I think that's extremely valuable for students," says Gilboy.

And students like Heshka couldn't agree more. "For me, this has been more than worthwhile. I feel more prepared to go out and find a job."