Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

University film scene flourishing

“The weirdest thing is just the reaction, like, “Oh, I’m a filmmaker and I go to Alabama,” when you’re out at festivals or places with other filmmakers, and it’s this sad side glance,” Hallie Tarpley, a sophomore majoring in
 TCF, said.

Students like Tarpley have found that not only does Alabama have a growing film culture, but the TCF program at The University of Alabama gives students opportunities that bigger programs may not be able to provide. Tarpley, who has since worked at Birmingham’s Sidewalk Film Festival, is just one film student utilizing the University’s resources.

“I was a little bit skeptical [of Alabama’s TCF program] at first, but I have been given so many opportunities through our TCF program,” Christina Irion, a junior majoring in TCF, said. “I’ve been able to get my hands on a camera earlier than at other programs. Our department and the TCF students really go above and beyond to show that we are something that’s worth paying attention to.”

Not only does the program allow students the freedom to find and create their voice, but it also allows them to use that experience in a real world scenario. Outside of courses, the TCF program offers collaboration classes, travel to film festivals throughout the country and opportunities to intern at some of the major filmmaking locations throughout the country.

“It’s so great to film in Alabama,” said UA alumnus Danny Ryan, who is currently working in the New York film industry. “Everyone is so excited for it and open to it–both the community and the students. There is so much potential that is untapped because there is not as much of it going on.”

The Black Warrior Film Festival, started by Ryan and other TCF students after an inspirational trip to the Sundance Film Festival, has grown exponentially each year since its inception in 2013. The community’s support of the festival and the quality of films it produces shows how passionate about the program University students are.

Many faculty members are creating opportunities for aspiring filmmakers to get professional experience in Tuscaloosa. Two University professors, Seth Panitch and Adam Schwartz, finished a feature film, “Service to Man,” shot almost fully in Tuscaloosa. The film utilized students and faculty from the University throughout the process.

“In terms of using UA students, a lot of them don’t have experience on feature film professional sets, but they turned this negative into a positive by taking it as an educational experience and kept their ears open and their egos closed,” Panitch said. “They learned very quickly how the sets work and their professionalism was just as good as the professional actors we hired.”

He said the challenges of creating a professional film in an area without a strong film infrastructure were not a problem for the dedicated crew.

“You have fewer options in a small market, so you are trained to problem solve on a different level,” Panitch said. “It keeps you constantly thinking about problem solving, and then when smaller problems come up, you solve them more quickly because your mind is more acute towards coming up with solutions. It also forces us to be more creative, which I think is ultimately reflected in the project.”

The biggest advantage Tuscaloosa has, however, is the support the community shows for every step of 
the process.

Despite the progress the film department and city of Tuscaloosa has made, Scwartz said the filmmakers at the University are not going to stop pushing the envelope.

“I still think there is a lot of room to grow, even in just understanding the importance of film for both informing and entertaining, and UA is supportive,” Schwartz said. “We are able to do a lot here.”

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