KU Filmworks create exciting special effects
- Aug. 15, 2012
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The audience watches as a helicopter hovers in the air. A missile flies, hitting the house below. The house explodes. A man lies in the front lawn, surrounded by smoke.
Behind-the-scenes, the helicopter is just a toy in front of a green screen. The missile was created with the help of a lens flare and the filmmaking program Adobe After Effects. The house, a doll house filled with fireworks. The smoke, just a fog machine.
This particular project created by KU Filmworks, a student organization, cost less than $100.
“To give an illusion that this was an actual action film, they used a whole bunch of stuff that we have available,” Filmworks president Ian Weaver said. “It’s just a lot of little tricks here and there to make it look like its a much bigger film. They did it with a bare minimum budget, and they still made it look pretty cool.”
Filmworks was created in 1999 for students who were interested in video production and filmmaking. The club works on numerous video projects throughout the year, including music videos for local artists.
Most of their projects are completed on little or no budgets.
“I think we kind of push the zero dollar budget because it forces us to be a little more creative about how we approach the ideas,” said Brandon Freese, the organization’s vice president. “If a script calls for a building blowing up, we obviously can’t blow up a real building. So, we have to find other ways of going about that.”
Weaver said the cost of a film depends upon the intricacy of the script. The members of the club try to choose scripts that don’t require many special or visual effects.
“We try to go with scripts that are more character pieces,” Freese said.
Some club members also use websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo to help raise money for film production costs. Filmmakers post their projects online, and anyone can pledge money to the project.
Associate film professor and independent filmmaker Kevin Willmott used the site Kickstarter to raise money for his upcoming film “Jayhawkers”, a story highlighting Kansas basketball’s history and its connection to the civil rights era.
Willmott said he had heard quite a bit about the site in the independent film circle and decided the “Jayhawkers” project was a good opportunity to try it out.
The goal for the film was $50,000. That exact amount of money had to donated within a month, or the film would receive none of the money raised on the site.
The production team advertised their Kickstarter site through social media and word of mouth.
“With this film, connected with KU basketball, we tried to connect with people who are big supporters of the team,” Willmott said. “People who are not just film people but are sports people, and who would really want to see this film made.”
Willmott said while he recommends Kickstarter to students wanting to raise funds for their films, the site isn’t something to use haphazardly.
“I mean, we’ve worked on this project for a long time,” he said. “So, we were very well prepared to get on Kickstarter and to use it to our advantage. Even then, it was difficult to pull it off. You’ve got to really sell your project and make people believe that this is a good investment. The more you can show your passion, the more you can show your dedication and the preparation you’ve given to your project, the more people believe.”
-Edited by Kelsey Cipolla
Emily Brown is a journalism major from Overland Park, Kansas. Read more from Emily Brown.