Monday March 12, 2018

Lights, Camera, Action!

Zombies are invading the University of Dayton campus, but a scrappy group of students is trying to defeat them with makeshift weapons such as hockey sticks, croquet mallets and frying pans.

It turns out stopping the undead horde is as simple as shouting, “Cut!”

Award-winning director and University alumnus Jonathan Judge ’93 visited campus in February to lead about two dozen media production students in an intensive weekend filmmaking workshop. With Judge serving as their guide, the students produced a short horror-comedy film, titled Sunday Scaries.

“Our ultimate goal is for the students to have the experience of a production that is a little different from some of the studio or documentary work they have done already, to give them a sense of all the people that come together to make film and television, and show them what positions they could pursue going out into the world,” Judge said.

A three-time Emmy Award nominee, Judge is a television and film director and producer who is best known for directing the series School of Rock, Life in Pieces, 100 Things to Do Before High School and Big Time Rush. He received the 2014 Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Children’s Programs and the 2006 British Academy of Film and Television Arts’ award for Best International Children’s Show for Nickelodeon’s LazyTown.

Judge holds a bachelor’s degree in communication from the University of Dayton. In September, he received the 2017 Special Achievement Award for distinction in professional or civic activities at the University Alumni Awards.

“To receive the award was amazing and humbling, but it was fun,” he said.

Judge conducted the workshop with his wife, Chris Field, a costume designer whom he met while working on the Nickelodeon series The Naked Brothers Band.

Sunday Scaries’ key production roles were filled by students taking part in an independent study project with department of communication lecturer and Flyer TV manager Roy Flynn. Additional students from Flynn’s Advanced Video Production course also participated.

Before the workshop, Judge and Field had video conference calls with students to discuss their script ideas and plan the production. After they arrived on campus, they met for a Friday morning production meeting before filming started that afternoon. Most of the film was shot Saturday in the student neighborhood, with students working from 7:30 a.m. to about 9 p.m. On Sunday, they edited the film.

“The weekend was very fast-paced, exciting and fun,” said Johnny Antonini, a senior communication major from Toledo, Ohio, who wrote the film’s script.

Alex Moulvi, who co-directed the film with Sammy Rita, said working on the movie made for one of the most memorable weekends of his college career.

“For me, working with Jonathan and Chris was a great opportunity for real-world exposure to the industry I hope to make my career in,” said Moulvi, a senior communication major from West Chester, Ohio. “Not only did they bring their professional sides — showing us what it takes to be a director, and the work and care required for set designs, costumes and makeup — they also brought their teaching side, providing reasons and explanations for decisions they made, as well as providing feedback and clarification for decisions made by us students.”

In addition to the workshop, Judge also participates in the department of communication’s annual “Flyers in Hollywood” trip to Los Angeles, where students engage directly with alumni working in the entertainment industry.

Judge credits the University for encouraging him to explore storytelling. As a student, he studied print journalism, wrote a weekly column for Flyer News titled “Judge for Yourself,” and worked for four years in the University’s Public Relations office, stringing for The New York Times and writing for University of Dayton Magazine.

He became interested in filmmaking during his junior year and did a short film program the following summer at the Parsons School of Design. After graduation, he was accepted into the graduate film program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where he received a master’s degree.

Judge started working in the independent film industry and directed a series of short comedy films for HBO before moving into children’s television as a director on the series Blue’s Clues. He said the University of Dayton helped give him the communication skills needed to convey his creative vision to a production crew.

“My job as a director is to take the idea of the writers and then take a group of really talented technicians and creative people and get that across to the screen,” Judge said. “It is incredibly collaborative and requires managing personalities and basically getting 100 people to understand what you want to do, communicating that and leading them up the hill to do it.”

The students premiered Sunday Scaries in April in the Sears Recital Hall of the Jesse Philips Humanities Center on campus.

“It means a great deal to the students to have someone like Jonathan Judge on campus for a project like this,” Flynn said. “His many years of experience really helped the students gain a great deal of insight into the many details involved in the production of an actual film.”

Sunday Scaries is available for viewing on the University’s YouTube channel.

- Dave Larsen, communication coordinator, College of Arts and Sciences

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