CU Denver Film & Television students learn art & technique from the mastersAlice Crogan | College of Arts & Media Jun 10, 2021
Professor Eric Jewett is a Hollywood vet who spent 40 years directing big-name movies and television. As a five-year member of the CU Denver Film & Television faculty, some students flock to his classes to hear stories of directing “Christmas Vacation,” “The Lost Boys,” “Weeds,” and “Code Black” ––and to participate in the Hollywood Internship Program, where Jewett matches students with hand-picked Hollywood studios and his personal professional network. But the students most excited to become filmmakers enroll with Jewett to master the skills needed to make a film.Jewett says that “filmmaking is learned by doing.” In his courses, rather than show or talk about the techniques to film a scene, Jewett turns a class into a full-scale production dedicated to mastering skill. With his CU Denver Advanced Acting class, he is directing “180 Degrees” a dramatic short that demonstrates use of the 180-degree rule, which determines camera point of view in two-person scenes. While mastery of this rule may seem subtle to the viewer, it’s a filmmaking offense to break and requires command, control, and proficiency of a scene.
The students, who diligently and professionally run the production under the guise of Jewett, value the experience.
“Talking about the 180-degree rule in class and watching movies with the 180-degree cut is a nice example,” says CU Denver student Monique Salas, who is cast as the lead actor of the film. “Still, it is very different from actually being present during the filming process and experiencing the cut.” She also appreciated how the experience of being directed by a professional with strong intentions for the role is improving her acting skills.
The teaching film has more than one goal. Beyond learning camera and scene technique, the students have big roles to fill both in front and behind the camera–– scouting locations, securing permits at Denver’s Mile High Stadium, acting, designing scenes, choosing costumes, and managing sets, schedules, and production.
Jewett is inspired by his students, who he says show up each day with creative ideas and are not just rehashing what has already been done in the industry. In fact, “180 Degrees” was written by a CU Denver Film & Television grad while she was a student in a senior thesis class. Jewett is also invigorated by the diversity of his CU Denver class. “42% of the people in the class are of people of color and 30% of my cast are women of color,” he said. “I think it’s important to show that people of color have stories, because they’re so often ignored in mainstream filmmaking.”