While IU is known for its music school, its wooded campus and its famous coaches, it is still missing something: a film school.
But a new group on campus is planning to fill that void with the production company Dark Hound Productions, an organization created to give a hands-on experience for students interested in filmmaking.
Official shooting starts next week for “Only Human,” the group’s first feature film and the largest independent student film to be done at IU.
The film, which is about a prodigal pianist with a secret past, started with a script senior Kevin Domer wrote in his screenwriting class. He said he didn’t think about actually producing it until his friend senior Erick Cole pitched him the idea.
“He asked me first if I was thinking about making it, and I just laughed in his face,” Domer said. “I was like ‘Yeah, right, if you and 50 other people want to help me, we’ll make it happen.’”
But by January, Domer had those 50 students on board to turn his screenwriting assignment into a feature film.
With the power of the production team, a budget of about $40,000, and students from eight departments across campus, it is the first production of its kind to be shot at IU.
While students have produced independent films in the past, Steve Krahnke, a telecommunications professor and Domer’s adviser for his individualized major, said it differs from other
projects because it involves so many people and is not a class project.
“It’s different in some regards because there’s no faculty member telling them how to do certain things,” Krahnke said.
For Domer, the film idea came at the perfect time. As a student majoring in film production in the Individualized Major Program, Domer needed a final graduation project.
Krahnke said each student has to complete a “capstone project that demonstrates the full breadth” of his or her education.
But when Domer approached Krahnke with his plan to produce a film on such a large scale, Krahnke said he “thought he was nuts.”
“I definitely raised an eyebrow,” Krahnke said. “It’s a huge project that requires a level of coordination with other people, which you would think at a university would be simple, but it’s actually the most difficult part.”
But when Domer and Cole talked with fifth-year senior Joey Mattucci in a communications and culture class, they found a way to make the coordination happen.
Mattucci was already forming a filmmakers club, and Domer had created one to make “Only Human,” so to them it made sense to join forces.
“We thought to ourselves, ‘If we’re doing all this short-production work and documentary work, and they’re doing this feature-length film, why don’t we become one entity and become a production company?’” Mattucci said.
The group then worked on critiquing their script and recruiting students to help with the project.
While Domer said about half of the people working on “Only Human” are telecommunications majors, the rest come from a variety of departments, such as art students making storyboards, theater majors as actors and a law student to organize legal contracts.
“It takes a lot of different perspectives, a lot of different talents and skills,” Domer said. “You’ve got to have the organized people. You’ve got to have the visionary people. You’ve got to bring them together, and that’s what we’ve done.”
Domer said the structure of the crew also sets the film apart from other student productions.
In addition to Domer as the executive producer and Cole as the associate producer, there are three directors and three directors of photography to break up the work.
They also purchased state-of-the-art equipment that is “superior, not just at the collegiate level, but even on the independent scale,” Domer said.
Dark Hound Productions plans to be finished producing the film by the end of the school year, and then the company plans to screen it locally, with proceeds going to Big Brothers Big Sisters and the National Skin Cancer Foundation. After that, the future of the film is unknown.
Domer said he would love the film to win awards at festivals and be widely distributed but said he chooses to be realistic.
“If you talk to any professional, they’re going to tell you there’s not even a chance,” Domer said. “So we’re just keeping our feet on the ground, and we’re just running with this right now.”