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Student receives real-world training behind the camera

November 06, 2013

Growing up in Gilbert, Ariz., Luu Nguyen would often find relief from boredom by creating short films that she coerced her younger brothers to star in. They weren’t anything over the top, but enough to kick start her passion for filmmaking.

Now a student in the Film and Media Studies Program (FMS) at Arizona State University, Nguyen is working hard to accomplish her dream of becoming a film editor. With the help of associate professor Kevin Sandler, she has already completed an internship with the Scottsdale Film Festival, and is currently working as a public relations film intern at Olson Communications. She has also worked as a videographer for the State Press Magazine.

“I live by a C. S. Lewis quote that talks about experience being one of the most brutal teachers, but you learn a lot from it. I’m so blessed to be in my third semester at ASU and already have these opportunities for hands-on learning,” she said.

One of the greatest opportunities will unfold next July when Nguyen will serve at Sandler’s side as a producer’s assistant on a film that he and fellow FMS professor Christopher Bradley are making.  

While driving back to Arizona one day, Sandler decided to stop by the Little Hollywood Museum in Kanab, Utah. Run by a former New Line Cinema development executive, the museum pays homage to movies like "The Lone Ranger," "Planet of the Apes" and "The Outlaw Josey Wales," that were filmed there. He quickly learned that the town of Kanab has money set aside in the budget to co-fund film projects shot in the town, so long as they primarily feature students in front of and behind the camera. Sandler jumped at the opportunity.

Fast-forward a few months. Bradley and Sandler are hard at work casting and planning “The Best Way to Get Shot,” a 90-minute crime drama about a man who is passing away of cancer and wishes to pass on the family restaurant business to his son. The son, however, is too young to take over. This circumstance leads to his uncle trying to steal the business out from under him. Drama ensues.

Students like Nguyen will be putting the theoretical skills they’ve learned in their classes to the test while filming. Bradley says that they will learn the difference between planning and actually making a film, which comes with obstacles that call for quick decision-making and last minute changes. Aside from Nguyen’s role, other students will serve as assistants to Bradley, professional actors and crewmembers.

“We want them to gain as much experience as possible. They will be shadowing these professionals so that they learn both the art and business of filmmaking,” said Sandler.

Nguyen says that she is eager to see the process come full circle.

“I’m new to the film industry, so I’m excited to see how Dr. Sandler and professor Bradley orchestrate the vision for the film. Working with them will be great because they really care about their students and making sure they are connected with valuable internship opportunities like this one,” she said.