Students from any major or background – regardless of experience – can sit in the director’s chair and bring their screenplays to life.
Each quarter, The Film and Photography Society at UCLA accepts submissions of screenplays from students, both members and nonmembers. The eight members of the executive board then read and review the submissions before selecting a few to produce.
The submissions closed at the end of week two of spring quarter. Board members then chose three screenplays to produce: “Spineless,” by third-year sociology student Bruce Kasra and “Pygmalion, or the Conundrum of Howard Wade,” by second-year political science and history student Bek Aliev and “The Drag,” by third-year electrical engineering student Mason Fordham. The three films finished shooting and are in the processes of editing.
“We do these movies as a learning experience for people, so even if someone hasn’t had a lot of experience in the role, we try to give them a position that they can learn from,” said Mischa Rajendiran the president of FPS. Rajendiran is also a photographer for the Daily Bruin.
Screenplays were chosen both for their originality and their feasibility, said Rajendiran, a fourth-year sociology student. They were also chosen for the amount of potential learning experience they could provide for students interested in film production.
The films are made by FPS members and then posted online to Vimeo, an online video sharing site. Past short films have competed and won awards in film festivals, such as Campus MovieFest and Cannes Short Film Corner.
The first film “Spineless” is a comedy film about a pushover real estate agent. One day, the real estate agent is framed for a murder that his boss committed, and so he snaps. The agent murders his boss, and by the end of the film, becomes completely unhinged.
Kasra derived his idea for “Spineless” from a dream he had about a family member getting framed for murder and becoming a fugitive. Winter quarter, he wrote “Spineless” as a film idea for his final paper for his producing class and then later adapted the idea into a short film.
His biggest inspiration for his comedic film is the director of “Hot Fuzz” and “Shaun of the Dead” Edgar Wright, for his use of editing and visual comedy, Kasra said.
“I really just wanted to make a film that that I could be proud of and that really kind of just touches upon my taste and sensibilities, so like raunchy humor and kind of absurd plots,” Kasra said. “At the end of the day I really just wanted to stretch my artistic muscles.”
The second film, “Pygmalion, or the Conundrum of Howard Wade,” is a science fiction film about a robot impersonating a human, his role as a politician in society and how people perceive him.
Rajendiran, the producer of the film, said the screenplay’s strength in dialogue and overall originality were the main reasons that the screenplay was chosen to be produced.
The screenplay is reminiscent of the television show “Black Mirror” because of its social commentary, said Fordham, film director of FPS. He added that the screenplay is like a mix of the show “Mr. Robot” meets “House of Cards.”
Several challenges occurred during the process of filming, including obtaining permits for filming locations, such as a court room.
During production, a member of the film crew lost the keys to a room in Kerckhoff that was to be used as a location. The film crew and all the actors were at a standstill for two hours as they looked for a new room, Rajendiran said.
The director, Aliev, did not respond to requests for an interview.
Fordham’s own film “The Drag” is a post-apocalyptic action short film about a man who kills a young girl’s parents over a pack of cigarettes. After the man decides to spare the girl’s life, she chooses to follow him because she has no other means of survival. Together, they go on a rampage in the wasteland.
Fordham had been wanting to produce an action-oriented film for a while because the club had not made one this year, he said. He wanted to make a film that was less moralistic, with no real message.
“I wanted to do a film that was a little more self-indulgent,” Fordham said. “I wanted to put some violence in there and make people a little uncomfortable about what they were watching sometimes.”
Fordham said his biggest inspiration was the film “The Rover,” directed by David Michôd, from which he hopes to integrate the same sense of meaninglessness and lack of purpose in life into his own short film. Similar to “The Rover,” Fordham juxtaposes sudden violent scenes with seemingly random and pointless scenes.
FPS members ideally want the films to be recognized and selected to compete for film festivals, but Fordham said the films are mainly for educational purposes for the students.
“At the end of the day most people who see FPS films are FPS members, so I really want everyone who worked on it to get something out of it,” Fordham said.