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That’s a Wrap!

WWU students gain experience on professional set of period film

Smiling young woman behind a video camera

Walla Walla University's short film project for communication students served as an excellent educational tool to expose the students to professionals on a film set, provide hands-on experience, and help them build their filmmaking portfolios. Photo: Chris Drake

The two weeks following the end of the 2023 academic school year were not a quiet summer respite for 14 communication students at Walla Walla University. Instead, the days, and sometimes late nights, were filled with costumes, cameras, and a clapperboard.

The communication students were helping on set during the production of a short film, “The Color of Threads,” produced by the WWU Center for Media Ministry. Set in 1909, the film follows five women who move to Walla Walla to start new lives for themselves. The project, written by Josie Henderson, a 2020 alumna of the Cinema, Religion, and Worldview (CRW) master’s program, is considered a proof of concept – i.e., a short film used to showcase the viability of a feature-length film. According to lead producer Matthew Webster, also a CRW graduate, “The hope … is to take [“The Color of Threads”] and have it go out and be picked up by a studio into a longer series.” He also noted the film’s focus on showing love rather than hate and how doing so affects those around us.

Along with high hopes for further development, the project also served as an educational tool for the students involved. “What they gain out of this is real life experience, real set experience, so when they leave the university with their film degree, they’ve built into their portfolio how to work on a professional movie set,” said Webster.

Eighteen professionals, including talent and crew, flew in for the production. Richard Ramsey, who is known for directing movies such as “The Song,” “Unsung Hero,” and “Plus One at an Amish Wedding,” directed the filming across several locations around southeast Washington and northern Oregon.

A student filmmaker, male, looks over a script with an actor

Filming took place across several locations around southeast Washington and northern Oregon. Photo: Chris Drake

While students had valuable interactions with film industry professionals throughout the week, the final day of filming was especially exciting. Scenes were shot in Dayton, Washington, at the Dayton Historic Depot. Part of the set included a train car which is normally parked in Walla Walla and had to be transported all the way from Olympia to be at the shoot.

Julio C. Muñoz, associate communication director for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America, SONscreen Film Festival executive director, and CRW master’s graduate was happy to support this project in various ways. For example, he served as an executive producer and even appeared as an extra in a scene filmed at the Dayton Historic Depot.

Speaking on why the church must continue to support young filmmakers, Muñoz said, “Film is arguably the most popular and powerful form of storytelling in the 21st century. Through their films, these young student filmmakers have the power to inspire, educate, and bring about positive change in society. It’s essential to foster their voices and give them the platform to tell stories that resonate with unreached audiences and contribute to our mission in new, imaginative ways. We believe in the potential of these young filmmakers and their ability to make a lasting impact through their craft.”

This project is one of three that received funding in the fall and has an anticipated release date of next fall or winter. You can read more about upcoming productions in this article about the Center of Media Ministry summer projects.

— Kelsi Dos Santos is Walla Walla University Relations supervisor; NAD Office of Communication contributed to this story.