It’s lights, camera, action for Regent film students
NORFOLK — Ty Sheetz remembers when his life came into focus. He was 8 and had watched “The Lord of the Rings” for the first time.
Immediately, he starting making his own films.
This week, Sheetz and a group of students from Regent University were leap-frogging around Norfolk producing a short film called “The Harmonica Man.” The story is simple: A homeless harmonica player meets a 10-year-old orphan and the two develop a fatherdaughter relationship in an effort to help find good in the world.
North Carolina-based actors Chris Korkalo and Hava Flores play the lead roles. Sheetz is the director.
“This is what I’ve always wanted to do,” said Sheetz, a senior from Mechanicsburg, Pa. “I’ve been making little projects since I was 8. But things didn’t really start happening until I came to Regent and entered the program.”
The latest short film is one of two Endowment Films the students produce each year. After putting together dozens of short films throughout the year, the best producers, directors, screenplay writers and cinemat- ographers are selected to work on a project with a budget of between $12,000 and $15,000.
“That’s why we call them endow films,” said producer Tiffany Taylor, a graduate student in the program. “This is the biggest endow film we’ve ever done. We’ve got a crew of 40, all students, and two instructors. We’ve hired real actors for the lead roles.”
“The Harmonica Man” is expected to be completed by February for Regent’s film showcase in the spring.
The university’s film program has won 448 national and international awards. Sheetz has two short productions on the film festival circuit. He said he’s entered seven short-film festivals and won best director in all of them.
“I can’t take all the credit, trust me,” he said. “These are team efforts in every sense of the word. You see how many students are out here working on this one, and it takes every single person to make it happen.
“And the school and professors deserve a ton of credit.”
“The Harmonica Man” took seven months of preparation prior to this week’s seven days of filming. But assistant producer Jarrett Ksiazek said it will be the culmination of years of waiting.
“I’ve been sitting on this project for five years,” said Ksiazek, who wrote the screenplay. “I wrote it when I was 17 and did it in two days. I was never sure if it would ever be made into a film and I’m so blessed that they’re giving it a chance. This is a real honor.”
Crew members say the work at Regent is preparing them for their future, and they understand that award-winning shorts are a good way to be noticed by bigger film companies.
“These things also help bring more awareness to the program,” said Derek Yancey, director of photography for this production. “We put out about 50 short films a year, but this is by far the biggest undertaking and can bring the most reward for the program and for all of us.
“A lot of important people see these films.” Tolliver can be reached by phone at 757-222-5844.
“The Harmonica Man” is about a homeless harmonica player who meets a 10-year-old orphan.