CHAMPAIGN — It was at the end of shooting a long scene of “Red Ball” — a movie written, acted in and edited by University of Illinois students — when the cast, crew and supervising faculty came to a realization.
In the only scene with more than two characters, the 12 actors were wearing masks.
“It was interesting, because we didn’t notice they were wearing masks until it was the end of the scene,” Media & Cinema Studies Professor Victor Font said. “And it was a good scene, so we said, ‘That’s how it works. We’re wearing masks.’
“We’re so used to wearing masks nowadays that even when you’re focused on details in shooting, sometimes you look at the faces of masks, and it’s, like, natural. It was almost an hour of shooting, and nobody noticed.”
Throughout the shooting of the 12-minute film that will screen on loop from Thursday through Saturday at Krannert Art Museum in Champaign, students have learned to adjust on the fly in ways that went beyond COVID-19 protocols.
The movie was a collaboration between students in screenwriting, filmmaking and acting, all of whom simultaneously worked on it throughout the semester. As the screenwriters wrote the script, the filmmaking students prepared the set and worked with what information they had.
The process for writing the short film was far from typical.
Each of the 12 screenwriting students wrote one minute of the film, handing the script off to each other.
“Everything is a puzzle, starting with the script, passing the ball,” Font said. “It’s really interesting how they wrote a story with the 12 of them, not knowing what the next one was going to write.”
In the editing process, Font split the class up into two editing groups, and they each put together a version of the film independently.
Those two different versions of the movie will be shown on a loop this weekend in the auditorium at Krannert Art Museum.
At 6 p.m. April 22, the movie will be screened virtually via Zoom and will be followed by a panel that includes professors and students from all three classes.
“It’s been very interesting for my class to learn that, whatever shooting you do, if you work in two different independent editing (groups), you have two different movies, absolutely different in ways,” Font said.
The students also had to learn to abide by COVID-19 protocols, which included wiping objects down after use and wearing masks when not acting in a scene.
To Font, the unconventional way in which the movie was written, shot and edited adds something that may have been missed otherwise.
“I would say it’s not a conventional movie because of that,” Font said, “but that creates something creative, something interesting, really.”