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University of Texas Film Institute Starts Production on First All-Student Feature Film “Dance with the One”

The University of Texas Film Institute (UTFI) will make its first feature-length film “Dance with the One” this summer. Pre-production is set to begin on June 5 and principal photography will begin on July 7.

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The University of Texas Film Institute (UTFI) will make its first feature-length film “Dance with the One” this summer. Pre-production is set to begin on June 5 and principal photography will begin on July 7.

This is the first film to be produced through UTFI’s Feature Film Lab, a two-year, five-semester non-profit program designed to train University of Texas at Austin students in all phases of professional feature filmmaking-from script-writing, to pre-production, to filming to post-production and marketing.

“Dance with the One” was written by Joshua Smith Henderson (Master of Fine Arts ’08) of the Michener Center for Writers at The University of Texas at Austin and Jon Marc Smith. The film will be directed by Michener Center graduate Mike Dolan (Master of Fine Arts ’07), who participated as a writer and a director in the UTFI Feature Film Lab. An experienced actor, he appeared in the films “Biloxi Blues,” “Hamburger Hill” and the original Broadway production of “A Few Good Men.”

Department of Radio-TV-Film (RTF) faculty members Tom Schatz, executive director of UTFI, and Alex Smith, the creative director, are overseeing production. The producing team also includes Bryan Sebok (Ph.D. ’07), Department of RTF master’s candidate Brittany Hammer and doctoral candidate Peter Kovacs.

Department of RTF Master of Fine Arts candidate Marcel Rodriguez will be director of photography, College of Fine Arts (theater and dance) graduate Yvonne Boudreaux (Master of Fine Arts ’07) will be production designer, Department of RTF undergraduate Sam Avila will be the art director, Department of RTF Master of Fine Arts candidate Jaime Cano will be the editor, and Department of RTF graduate Molly Green (Bachelor of Science ’08) will be the casting director.

“Principal photography on ‘Dance with the One’ is the third phase of the film’s development within the UTFI program,” said Schatz. “The script began as one of eight scripts selected for a fall 2007 screenwriting lab that culminated in fully cast public readings.

“It was one of four scripts selected to move on to the spring production lab where teams of student directors, producers, actors, cinematographers and production designers–along with a group of professional and faculty mentors–cast, rehearsed, shot and edited key scenes from the scripts to better explore their films’ characters, story, tone, look and market viability.”

An Austin-based neo-noir thriller in the vein of the Coen brothers’ “Blood Simple,” “Dance with the One” was selected by a panel of filmmaking professionals and Department of RTF faculty based on strength of story, budget feasibility and ability to be filmed in Austin.

While University of Texas at Austin students will fill all production roles, professionals from the local filmmaking community will mentor students in each production department. These professionals include producer Elizabeth Avellan (“Desperado,” “El Mariachi,” “Once Upon a Time in Mexico”), casting director Beth Sepko (“Office Space,” “Miss Congeniality,” “Fast Food Nation”) and actress Dana Wheeler-Nicholson (“Tombstone,” “Fletch,” “Friday Night Lights”). Professionals will be hired in a few on-set positions, such as line producer and stunt coordinator.

The production process will span both summer sessions, with full-scale pre-production happening during the first session and five weeks of principal photography during the second session. The crew will include 40-50 graduate and undergraduate students from the Department of RTF, as well as the College of Fine Arts, the schools of Architecture, Business and Law, and the Michener Center. Students working on the film will earn course credit.

Post-production will continue in the fall semester under the supervision of the Department of RTF’s Keefe Boerner, formerly of Troublemaker Studio, who was postproduction supervisor and visual effects coordinator on many Robert Rodriguez films. Marketing and distribution will be the focus of a spring semester course taught by the Department of RTF’s John Pierson, whose independent film experience includes introducing the first features of Spike Lee, Richard Linklater and Kevin Smith.

“While success on the film festival circuit or even at the box office would be welcome,” said Alex Smith, “the ultimate goal is to give students an experience they can’t get at any other university: creating their very own professionally made feature film with industry guidance and mentorship.”

UTFI is still accepting applications for the summer feature, as well as post-production positions for the fall semester. Applicants must be current University of Texas at Austin students or recent alumni who participated in the UTFI program. Teaching Assistant appointments and stipends are available for key crew positions.

Learn more about UTFI and “Dance with the One” online.