A Take on Risk

Registering for Dr. Dawn Duncan’s “Film and Literature” class definitely exceeded students’ expectations.

They had no idea they would become filmmakers themselves. None of the 22 students were film majors or had any experience beyond high school video projects.

“When Dawn told us about the film project, I was scared to death,” says Cynthia Hershberger ’12, Hitterdal, Minn. “We all got the deer-in-the-headlights look.”

In spite of their fear, the class tackled the challenge. On April 15, they presented four short films based on works of literature. More than 100 students, faculty and community members were in attendance at the Fargo Theatre to view the final product.

The entire capstone class became an exercise in risk taking, says Duncan.

“I was worried that it [film production] might be too risky to work,” she says, “but I believed the students could pull it off.”

A capstone course is a writing-intensive course required of students across all disciplines that allows them to address a global problem. The class donated all the screening admission proceeds to the Fargo Theatre to help keep the local arts scene alive.

Each group determined individual strengths and delegated roles. Having no budget, the students all chose works from the public domain to avoid copyright costs. One of their biggest challenges was getting behind the story.

“It was hard to make the emotions seem real,” says Tom Knowlton ’13, Fargo, N.D., who acted in “The Interlopers.”

The group that produced “A Rose for Emily” had to get creative in figuring out how to tell a story that had very little dialogue. They ended up telling much of the story through documentary-style interviews, says student director Stu Rostad ’12, Kindred, N.D.

“The most rewarding part was seeing it finished,” says Ariel Sacher ’13, Litchfield, Minn.

Although the project was more difficult than any of them would have imagined, they would do it again if they had the chance.

“It was just a great experience,” says Knowlton. “It would be awesome to do more.”

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