An aspiring young filmmaker is about to premiere a locally produced short film this week titled All in the Sauce. As part of Buffalo State College's 'Year of the Teacher', WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley tells us about the student's work outside the classroom and what he has learned in his undergraduate studies.
"I've learned so much about everything working on this. It has been such a wonderful experience and I've learned so much about myself as a filmmaker, improved as a writer, improved as a technical filmmaker as well," Simon O'Keefe is junior in Buffalo State's Television and Film Arts Program.
Simon partnered with Joseph Wackowski, a graduate of the program, who co-wrote, directed and produced the film with O'Keefe. All in the Sauce is about two best friends work in the criminal world to earn money. But they find themselves in difficult situations.
This film features just four actors -- one who is very familiar to our WBFO audience -- Theater Talk host Anthony Chase also serves as assistant dean at Buff State's School of Arts and Humanities. O'Keefe had taken one of Chase's theater history class and approached his teacher to appear in the film. Chase agreed, finding himself on the other side of the stage.
"I envisioned a class project. I thought they were doing an assignment and that they needed me for five minutes and I was short of imagining two kids in a parking lot with an iPhone. And rapidly I realized that this was not the deal at all. That they were doing a fully realized short film," said Chase.
While working with the young filmmaker, Chase was impressed with the professionalism of the filming.
"There's a sound guy, a continuity guy, lighting people, professionals from the community, ever short of equipment," said Chase. "There was a room set aside for the talent -- like the trailer to get out of the action -- it was very sophisticated."
O'Keefe places Chase in the beginning scene and end of the film. It's a role that might surprise you.
"I'm a psychopath a serial killer -- well I'm actually a teacher of serial killing. And Simon asked me 'we have role we'd like you to play. How would you feel about strangling a student? Would you be comfortable strangling a student and I said absolutely. So it is me as this cheerful, sort of manic to maniacal killer," said Chase.
"He's a wonderful murderer. Evil, very evil, but sympathetic. They show up at the last scene, and Chase decides to serve dinner and there's a lot more to the dinner that I'm not going to necessarily discuss," said O'Keefe,"
Chase referred to the work of O'Keefe's and his film team as "remarkably sophisticated."
"And I posted the trailer when it came out on my Facebook page and a friend said oh I will wait for the Oscar nominations. I said you're joking, but you have accurately gage the ambitions of these young filmmakers. That is where they see themselves. That is where they are heading. I think the faculty was impressed," said Chase.
Buffalo State's television and Film art major takes a limited amount of students. Its Website says the purpose is to create great storytellers.
"And they seem to be leveraging it into a film community and it's not documentary, it's not avant-garde. It is narrative storytelling," said Chase.
Buffalo State students are placed in some of the top film producing companies in the nation for internships such as 20th Century Fox, NBC Universal, Warner Brothers, Walt Disney and MTV. Chase is impressed with these real workplace experiences, but realizes it's the students’ ambition that bringing them to the right places.
"They are driven. They found out my sister works for Warner Brothers, they are all over me. If we go to New York can we meet her, can we talk to her, can you give her my resume," said Chase.
O'Keefe looks to classic Woody Allen films for his inspiration to pursue a career in the film world.
"Woody Allen is all I really have to say. He just writes beautiful stories about people and that to me, if you can make a film about people and fascinate audiences without explosions and what not, and just over sexual situations, I feel you have done your job as a filmmaker," said O'Keefe.
O'Keefe is learning what it takes to become a professional filmmaker.
"It takes a lot about knowing what Hollywood would buy and what Hollywood won't buy. Classic three act structure, screen play writing. I've written 45 letters to send down to Manhattan to production companies in hopes of achieving an internship this summer," said O'Keefe.
Back in the classroom, as Buffalo State celebrates "Year of the Teacher”, Chase reflects on the theme, finding that working with and teaching students as both thrilling and gratifying.
"As I think about the "Year of the Teacher" -- just a concept like leadership -- so does teaching, and yes, eventually by your pupils you will be taught. That’s the goal -- you want them to take over and step to the front," said Chase.
"That's what's going to happen. I'm going down to Manhattan and take that city over," said O'Keefe.
And for an ambitious young filmmaker like O'Keefe, he already has a professionally produced film in his portfolio. All in the Sauce premiers Thursday night at Buffalo State College's Social Hall at 7 o'clock.