In a universe where India conquers the West Coast of the United States, Bollywood becomes the top film industry in the world. Following these circumstances, USC transforms into the University of New India and boasts one of the top film schools in the world: the UNI School of Bollywood Arts.
This extravagant world is part of the upcoming USC student film project titled “The UNI School of Bollywood Arts.” Initially, the idea sprouted from the creative minds of talented freshmen from the USC School of Cinematic Arts. Together, they created a story of an alternate universe in which Napoleon Bonaparte spent his exile in India, raised a new family and trained a new line of French-Indian leaders who conquered the West Coast of the United States, creating New India. In only thirty minutes, this film tells a tale of friendship, Bollywood-inspired songs and dance and even a love story.
Much like the grandiose challenge of fitting this impressive story into just 30 minutes, the team behind the film is quite large. Within the large creative group of three dozen students, two aspiring film students emerged to “take the reins,” propelling this small collaboration into a massive trans-media project. Sarah Jones, the film’s producer, and Ben Kadie, the film’s director, share the details of how the film came to fruition.
Kadie has been doing short films since third grade with his dad. Even though he and Jones had “little influence on the last draft of the script,” both oversaw the filming and filled in the gaps to make the film happen. The project allowed for each student to passionately work in his or her specialized field without the burden of competition.
An unofficial competition in the cinema school inspired the idea for the film. Even though the intention of the game was to promote creativity among the SCA students, not every student appreciated the rivalry between fellow classmates in their first semester.
“The game placed all of the SCA students against each other,” Kadie said. “In the end, the competition hurt a couple of feelings. [But] this collaborative group project was a really good chance to work together.”
Bollywood became the theme after students suggested the idea in a group meeting. Working together also encouraged networking among the SCA students, which would later lead to the success of their fundraising campaign. Initially, their project lacked funding but they solved this issue by creating an Indiegogo fundraising campaign and used every social media resource available to make their project a reality.
The group assimilated an extraordinary variety of people despite their limited resources. They posted casting calls around USC and held auditions to cast actors while friendships led other talented individuals toward this project.
“It’s very helpful going about the cinema school because we can use this experience for other projects,” Jones said. “We found everyone who’s involved in the project through Facebook or prior connections.”
As more students began to join in on the project, coordination became much more difficult.
“The whole thing started out slowly because so many people were working on this film,” Jones said. “The script itself took about a month and we are still editing the footage.” Indeed, the group was so large at one point that productivity was stagnant until a couple of students took responsibility and filled those leadership roles.
Jones majors in television and film production at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and took on the important role of producer to keep the process efficient.
“In Minnesota, not a lot of people did film so I was really inspired to do something big here amongst other film majors,” Jones said.
“The most difficult part was the filming process. We had only two weekends to film and it’s a half-hour long movie,” Kadie said.
With a student group as large as this one, as well as operating on a tight schedule, the goal of shooting the film in only two-and-a-half school weekends was very ambitious.
“Overall, the dance turned out quite well and it was pretty magical to see,” Kadie said. “I wasn’t there when they were learning the dances but an hour later I would come back to the actors and they would be able to dance the whole routine.”
“It’s more of a tribute than an actual Bollywood film,” Jones said. “But its purpose is for audiences to enjoy the energy of this musical.” Kadie agreed, remarking that the film will get people to go out and watch authentic Bollywood films. Since the whole project was inspired by real-life events experienced by the crew, many SCA students in the audience will enjoy the many references in the film. Each person on the team, especially the actors and writers, inspired the characters found in the film.
Surprisingly, the parts of the film most coveted by the Kadie and Jones were spontaneous and not scripted.
“There’s one song called ‘Life on the Set’ which is a song between the two competing student teams, and it’s a fun goofy song where the actors brought a lot of little jokes on set that weren’t scripted,” chuckled Kadie.
“It’s interesting to see how the music composer, Michael Schlafman, wrote amazing music in such a short time. We didn’t give the composer or choreographer a lot of time but they finished within hours. It was rewarding to see everyone’s different abilities,” Jones said.
Initially, their project lacked funding but they solved this issue by creating a fundraising campaign and used every social media resource available to make their project a reality.
Even though the Indiegogo campaign has long passed, Trojans can still support this student project by attending a film screening later this semester. These students are so committed that they created a “series bible” that can be accessed online. Don’t miss out on the most exciting, and possibly the biggest, student project yet!