Short film by UMSL classmates headed for the big screen
“Guys, do you want to make a movie?”
That’s the out-of-the-blue question University of Missouri–St. Louis senior Nicholas Rousseau recalls asking his friends Ben Smith and Clinton Jordan one day in the fall of 2014. All media studies majors, the three were working on a group project for a studio-production course taught by Associate Professor Jim Fay at the time.
Smith and Jordan responded with a surprised but enthusiastic “yes,” and the conversation set in motion an extensive outside-of-class collaboration with exciting results: On July 19, their short film, titled “The Ultimate Fan,” will premiere as part of the Whitaker St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase.
“I was pretty stoked, kind of speechless, when I heard the news,” Rousseau, the director, says about making the cut. “Going in that was always kind of the plan, to make it to the showcase. I’d worked on films in the past that made it, but this is different. And I think we have a lot to be proud of.”
Telling the story of a fictional, avid St. Louis Blues fan called upon to save the day, “The Ultimate Fan” was a pretty ambitious project for a bunch of students to tackle, Jordan notes. The South Carolina native, who is finishing up his bachelor’s degree at UMSL this summer, served as director of photography for the film.
“This was a relatively big cast and crew – and a big production in general with pretty extensive video shoots and some cool locations spread across Illinois, Missouri and New Jersey,” Jordan says. “And the whole film is really based around St. Louis – not just the sports team but the city itself.”
By January 2015, he, Rousseau and Smith were hard at work on a script, knowing they wanted to have a cast in place and be shooting the film within a few months. On top of their studies at UMSL and various other jobs and activities, it was a tight schedule.
“There were two days where I was just nonstop writing,” says Smith, the assistant director, who graduated from UMSL in May and currently works as a freelancer for HEC-TV. “Nick wrote a first draft, and then we worked together to refine it.”
From those early stages to the final steps required to bring “The Ultimate Fan” to fruition, the three friends are all quick to credit their media studies coursework and UMSL faculty with having a positive impact on the project.
“There are a lot of things about camera work and about features of a camera that we learned in class,” says Jordan, who has also applied those lessons as a photographer and video editor locally. “I think that really helped make our footage look as sharp as it does.”
Smith adds that the expertise and thoughtfulness of Fay, their faculty adviser, was an encouragement as well.
“He knows what he does, and he wants to help people,” Smith says of Fay. “That’s the thing – he really reaches out to you as a media-studies student.”
Shot primarily over several intensive weekends last summer, the film project took the trio and the rest of the cast and crew to all sorts of places. Just a few of those include the Amtrak station in Kirkwood, Missouri, a UMSL parking garage – where the key chase scene occurs – and the track at Bayless Senior High School in south St. Louis County.
“Everybody got horribly sunburned the day we shot the track scene,” Rousseau says, thinking back on some of the hurdles they encountered. Jordan and Smith laugh, remembering that particular snafu. It meant delays with the already-tight schedule, as the cast members’ skin needed a few days to recover.
But despite challenges, they got it done – and the three friends speak of it as a rewarding experience from start to finish.
“We all definitely learned a lot, and we all had fun doing it,” Smith says.
“I got to work with two great people in my life,” adds Rousseau. Asked if he wants to direct another film, he responds with zero hesitation.
“With these guys, yes. I definitely want to work with them again. They bring ideas and angles that I never would have thought of.”
“The Ultimate Fan” trailer is available for viewing online, and tickets for the 7 p.m. July 19 screening at the Tivoli can be purchased through the Shorts Program: Drama page on the St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase website.
Jordan notes that people are also welcome to cheer on the UMSL crew at the Closing-Night Awards Party at Blueberry Hill on July 21.
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