Red Deer College’s Motion Picture Arts program is celebrating its 10th birthday.

RDC film grads proving program’s worth

Red Deer College’s Motion Picture Arts program is celebrating its 10th birthday.

Red Deer College’s Motion Picture Arts program is celebrating its 10th birthday.

Like sentimental parents, it would be easy for Larry Reese, head of the acting program, and Don Armstrong, head of production, to say “Where did the time go?” — except that so many things have changed over the last decade.

Not only has the four-year applied degree program produced dozens of accomplished graduates who are showing up on both sides of the camera on film and television sets across North America, but the medium has transformed itself dramatically since the program started in 2001-2002.

“We’ve had to keep up with technology,” said Armstrong, who explained that the celluloid film stock and VHS videotape that students began learning with has become obsolete.

“We’re shooting in high definition (file-based computer chips) and holding 3-D workshops now,” Armstrong added.

New instructors were added to the program, as well as various guest teachers, such as CBC’s Heartland actor Shaun Johnston, who shared hands-on industry experience with students. “I think our ability to teach has improved, because as instructors we are also constantly learning,” said Reese, who has appeared in various films himself, including Brokeback Mountain.

And, of course, the other evidence of time passing is the varied body of student works that were created over the years.

Many of these films will be either highlighted or shown in their entirety to the public at a 10th-anniversary retrospective screening of RDC Motion Picture Arts films on Friday, March 1, at the Galaxy Cinema in Gasoline Alley south of Red Deer.

MPA acting instructor Lori Ravensborg, who studied in New York after graduating from theatre studies at RDC, predicted the audience will see a trailer from the 2008 feature film Baby Blues. Among the many shorts to be seen or glimpsed during the two-hour evening is the 2007 comedy Woof Woof, as well the fantasy black-and-white 2011 silent film Bonheur, which was accepted into several North American film festivals, and Break Up, Breakdown, which won the best student work at the 2011 Alberta motion picture industry awards.

Besides the latest 2012 student works to be shown, Ravensborg said there will be scenes from My Hubby Raj, Demento, Mirror, Mirror, Tumaini, Insomniac’s Handbook, the irreverent 2001 comedy Mac N’ Cheese, and others­ — for nostalgia’s sake.

The latter was created by former student Chris Schulz, who has since gone on to professional work, including a feature role in The Glass Menagerie at Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre.

Other highly visible Motion Picture Arts grads include actors Travis Milne, who appears in the TV programs Rookie Blue; Josh Emerson, who was on the TV series Friday Night Lights, and the movies I Love You Beth Cooper and The Short Cut with Adam Sandler; and Reagan Dale Neis, who was on Malcolm in the Middle and now has her own web series.

There are also Aimée Beaudoin and James Higuchi, who appear on the APTN comedy show, Caution: May Contain Nuts; and actor Jade Carter, who took an RDC film class that was a precursor to the MPA program, and most recently appeared on the TV show Castle.

On the technical side, dozens of MPA graduates have worked on films such as Superman, Bourne Identity, the Mission Impossible movies, as well as Stargate and other TV series.

Instructor James Wilson, who was enrolled in the first year of the MPA program and now teaches film fundamentals to students who ended up working either in front or behind cameras all over Western Canada, believes the RDC program has been so successful because it’s remained small, maintaining a high student-teacher ratio.

Since the beginning, only 24 students a year (12 in acting and 12 in production) are accepted into the program that’s so far attracted people from every Canadian province, as well as Singapore, Korea, England, Chile, Nigeria, Lebanon and Guatemala.

While many larger film schools have allowed individuals to “make their own individual films,” Armstrong said the college’s MPA program has always been strong on fostering collaborations.

And these interconnections that are forged in school tend to serve MPA graduates well in their professional careers.

Tickets to the 7 p.m. film retrospective screening at the Galaxy Theatre are $10 at the door.

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