From class to the big screen

In the past few years, students have had more opportunities to participate in area film-making than ever before

They have worked with both small and large film production crews in their efforts to further penetrate and positively influence the growing Texas film industry. Two university communication students have landed roles as extras in a Robert Rodriquez film, Machete, set to debut in 2010.

The movie is about a renegade Mexican federali named Machete who is hired to assassinate a U.S. senator, but gets set up by the people who hired him. He survives the attempt on his life and Rodriquez offered his
fans a peek at the movie in a mock trailer in Planet Terror, a part of the Grindhouse double feature including Death Proof released in 2007.

Directors Quentin Tarantino, left, and Robert Rodriguez pose for portrait March 23, 2007, in Los Angeles. The two teamed up to do homage to exploitation B-movie thrillers. The two feature-length movies, "Death Proof" and "Planet Terror" combine into one double-bill. The project is designed to replicate the grind house theatergoing experience of the 70s and 80s. (Leonard Ortiz/Orange County Register/MCT)

Senior mass communication/journalism major Terrance McGee was asked to be an extra in the film after auditioning and being accepted for a Southwestern Airlines commercial. McGee had a time conflict between class and the commercial, but was called back a second time to ask if he was interested in being an extra in Machete.

The film employs several big-name actors, including Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba, Steven Seagal, Cheech
Marin, Lindsay Lohan, Michelle Rodriguez and Danny Trejo as Machete.

McGee found himself beside some of the celebrities.

He said, “Often times, the majority of the extras are subconsciously trying to get in scenes with a celebrity.
I’ve been nothing but blessed in my role as a reporter, which ironically placed me in scenes alongside Jessica Alba and Robert De Niro. I just think that’s hilarious.”

Junior biology major Cassy Olvera was also able to take part in the film.

She said, “Being on set was really awesome. It was really cool to see how everything was made and how they make the movies look the way they do. I got the opportunity to work with Danny Trejo, who is the lead character, and Lindsay Lohan. My character was actually being a day labor worker, and we got to do some fight scenes.”

This was the first role in a large production that either student has been able to take part in.

“Well, first off, it’s a privilege to be on set with such top-notch celebrities. I am grateful for the opportunity
to work alongside people with such reputable stance. I have learned how vital it is to be a team player and that no one movie is a success without the hard work ethics of every individual,” McGee said, “It is exciting to be on a set because, not only are you surrounded by popular actors or the production team, but you’re on set with many people in the same category as you.”

McGee was only able to be on the set for a couple of days due to his class schedule, but looks forward to future film opportunities.

He said, “I have been treated great thus far. It’s amazing how everyone is treated. The film industry really cares about people’s well-being.”

McGee attributes his success in entering the film industry to the performance adviser, Dr. Diane Howard.

“The UMHB performance studies program has given me the necessary tools to be competitive, built my confidence, and helped me to be that disciplined figure that organizations look for in an individual,” he said.

“Dr. Diane Howard, who is my adviser, deserves credit. She informs me and makes me aware of any castings or auditions. Though I’m made aware of the opportunities that present themselves, she makes it known that it is up to me to pursue the things I want out of life.”

McGee also goes on to add that “since being appointed my adviser, she has always been one for others to emulate.”

Howard prepares students to approach opportunities carefully, proactively and intently, offering a “leading, interdisciplinary, cutting edge, practical approach to preparing marketable students for performance and technical work on radio, television, video, film, platform and stage.”

Many of Howard’s past students have been successful because of their training in the performance studies
department.

She said, “Not only is our program scholarly and research- based, but it has been a successful program with its practical approach to preparing students for substantive work in a broad range of communication fields.”

Howard’s students have participated in several school-affiliated films. One of which, the Temple Grandin
project, is an HBO film in post-production that recruited more than 20 university students.

The film is set for release sometime in the fourth quarter of this year and is sure to please its audience.

Author: Mateo Gamboa

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