The University of Texas Film Institute (UTFI) began filming its first all-student feature film, “Dance with the One,” this summer with the help of more than 40 students from six schools across campus.
This is the first film being produced through UTFI’s Feature Film Lab, a two-year, five-semester non-profit program designed to train University of Texas at Austin students in all phases of professional feature filmmaking.
UTFI is reinventing the film school model by incorporating the production of feature films into the curriculum and training students in six areas of specialization: producing, directing, editing, cinematography, production design and sound.
“‘Dance with the One’” is about a 20-year-old boy who lost his childhood coming from a dysfunctional family,” says the film’s creative director Alex Smith (M.F.A. ’96), a Michener Center for Writers graduate. “He makes bad choices but is able to save his little brother from the sins of his father by becoming strong and showing brotherly love.
“The film shows potential for a family that gets healed. The strength of the writing is engaging, funny, heart-hitting and emotional at its core.”
Joshua Smith Henderson, of the Michener Center (M.F.A ’08), wrote “Dance with the One” with Jon Marc Smith. The film is directed by Mike Dolan (M.F.A. ’07), a Michener Center graduate who has been a writer and director in the UTFI Feature Film Lab.
“Jon Marc Smith and I were inspired by a few kinds of Austin, Texans: the psychedelic cowboy, the successful Mexican-American businessman, the washouts and drug casualties, and finally the children of such people,” Henderson says.
Department of Radio-TV-Film (RTF) Professor Tom Schatz, executive director of UTFI, and Smith are overseeing production.
“The script began as one of eight selected for a fall 2007 screenwriting lab, which culminated in a fully cast public reading,” Schatz says. “It was one of four scripts selected to move on to the spring production lab where teams of student directors, producers, actors, cinematographers and production designers cast and shot key scenes from the scripts to better explore the films’ characters, tone, look and market viability.”