University of Texas Film Institute begins production on first feature film

Sept. 24, 2004

AUSTIN, Texas—The University of Texas Film Institute and its for-profit production company, Burnt Orange Productions, have begun principal photography on their first feature film.

Elisha Cuthbert, Edie Falco, Camilla Belle, Martin Donovan, Shawn Ashmore and Katy Mixon will appear in the film tentatively titled “Dot,” which will be directed by Jamie Babbit.

“Dot” is a dramatic thriller about an orphaned teen (Belle as “Dot”) sent to live with her godparents and their daughter Nina (Cuthbert).  Unable to hear or speak, Dot’s alienated existence takes a disturbing turn when she uncovers the secrets of her new family.  Out of the lies and deception that threaten to tear the family apart, an unlikely bond forms between Nina and Dot.  Falco portrays Olivia, Nina’s kind but dysfunctional mother, and Donovan will star as her husband Paul.

Twenty-two University of Texas at Austin graduate and undergraduate students are working on the film in all stages of production.  Five graduate students, or apprentices, are working in roles ranging from camera assistant and assistant editor, to still photographer and DVD producer.  The undergraduate students, or interns, are working in various capacities from accounting and office management, to set production, props and costumes, to casting and publicity.  A number of intern and apprentice positions will be filled in the post-production phase of the project.

“We’ve been fortunate to have landed such a strong script and a stellar director in Jamie Babbit who has embraced what we’re doing with the students,” said Dr. Thomas Schatz, executive director of the University of Texas Film Institute and an executive producer for “Dot.”  “I think we are well on our way to educating our students about the realities of making a feature film.”

The screenplay was written by Abdi Nazemian and Micah Schraft, and was developed in the prestigious Sundance Feature Film Program.  Holly Wiersma, Andrea Sperling and Joel Michaely are producing, along with Carolyn Pfeiffer, president and CEO of Burnt Orange Productions, and Schatz.  

“In addition to working with University of Texas students, we’re relying a great deal on the excellent pool of Austin talent for the bulk of our production team,” explained Pfeiffer.  “We’re delighted with the level of cooperation and support this endeavor has received from the local filmmaking community.”

The movie, which will be photographed on high definition (HD) digital video, will be shot in various Austin locations over the course of 22 days.  A release date has not been set.

The University of Texas Film Institute
Introduced in September 2003, The University of Texas Film Institute is striving to revolutionize the film school model in higher education by providing specialized training in various aspects of feature filmmaking and incorporating a narrative component to give students experience on high-quality, low-budget independent feature films with viable commercial potential.  Based in the College of Communication, the Film Institute involves faculty, graduate students and advanced undergraduates from the Department of Radio-Television-Film and other units on campus. The Film Institute also draws on the considerable filmmaking talent in the Austin community and on alumni and others involved in the entertainment industry.

About Burnt Orange Productions
Burnt Orange Productions, LLC, is a for-profit production company that will partner with the UT Film Institute to leverage talent and resources from The University and also from the Austin film community to produce high quality, low-budget independent feature films. President and CEO Carolyn Pfeiffer has produced more than 15 feature films and most recently was vice-chair of The American Film Institute Conservatory.

Note to Editors:  Due to the tight filming schedule, “Dot” will be a closed set.  However, we will do our best to accommodate media needs.

For more information contact: Erin Geisler, College of Communication, 512-475-8071, or Carol Marshall, PMK/HBH-LA for Burnt Orange Productions, 310-289-6200.