That’s a wrap: VCU Cinema to cap summer intensive with film premiere

"My Father the Dagger"

Brian Charlton
Contributing Writer

The fruit of the VCU Cinema Department’s hard labor is close at hand. This Friday at the Grace Street Theatre, “First Cut,” a summer intensive for cinema students, will screen five collaborative films to the general public.

Every year the department requires its upperclassmen to participate in “First Cut,” where participants collaborate on five different scripts before being thrown into the real world of making films.

Ana Figueroa, senior cinema major and “First Cut” veteran, described it as a “surreal experience” in which students are thrown into a situation where teamwork is the only way to succeed.

Over the course of the program, each student spends time in a variety of jobs involved in movie production, from pre-production to budgeting, directing, operating a camera, location scouting and producing.

Figueroa said her favorite part of the process was ”getting to try different jobs – and just getting to really build that working relationship with the people I go to school with.”

Mary Beth Reed, assistant professor of the five-year-old department, has been involved with the program since its second year. Reed said she likes ”First Cut” because it creates a real-world film setting in which the students can immerse themselves.

“It allows for them to experience the collaborative atmosphere of narrative filmmaking,” Reed said.

Alee Sproles, senior cinema major and crew woman, stressed how script writing was one of the biggest aspects of “First Cut.” Students labored over scripts during the spring and before the production could begin.

“There were a lot of late nights and hard work,” she said.


The films engage in themes ranging from a polygamist marriage forced upon an illegal immigrant in “Laila,” to “My Father, The Dagger,” in which the audience is tasked with finding the truth behind a child’s possibly delusional perception of his father.

“There is a lot of question about his reality,” Sproles said about “My Father, The Dagger.” She went on to describe another “First Cut” film, “The Bind,” which involves a man tied up in a cabin who may or may not have raped his captor’s daughter.

Reed said she is still surprised with the enormous amount of time and effort the students put into the films.

“The VCU community and the Richmond community have been incredibly instrumental in helping the students shoot these films,” Reed said, “from donating locations, food and props, acting as extras when necessary, to equipment and supply rentals and advice.

Reed said that the screening is a way for both the VCU and Richmond community to show their support for the students’ hard work.

[sws_grey_box]The “First Cut” movie screenings are this Friday at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. at the Grace Street Theater. Admission is free.[/sws_grey_box]

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