August 22, 2014

Webster graduate acts in award-winning film project

Webster graduate Chad Emery sprinted through the streets of Geneva, donning a tousled suit. His bride was waiting at the church they were to be married in, and Emery was running out of time. As he rounded a street corner, Webster Geneva senior Amnah Abudawood shouted, “Cut!”
“It’s always kind of a rush,” Emery, 21, said. “Once, ‘action,’ is yelled, it’s all on you and you know the camera is going to catch everything you do. I can’t get enough of it.”

Though not an acting major, Emery played the lead role in Abudawood’s film project, entitled “My Bride’s Wedding,” when he studied in Geneva in the fall of 2010. Emery graduated from the St. Louis home campus with a degree in media communications last May.

Abudawood, a 22-year-old senior media communications major at Webster’s Geneva campus, made the video as part of a course hosted by Hamilton Watch Company. Film production is not offered as a major in Geneva, but Hamilton hosts some film classes for students interested in film production. Abudawood, who said she’s always been interested in film, signed up for the course as soon as she saw it was available.

Emery’s former acting teacher, adjunct professor Carrie Houk, said it is important for students involved in film to understand all  different aspects of production, even when it is not the student’s major—like in the cases of both Emery and Abudawood.

“In our industry, the more well-rounded you are, the better,” Houk said. “I always encourage (acting) students to take courses in other aspects of film, just like it’s really important for anyone involved with producing films to understand how difficult it can be for an actor to bring life to a role.”

The first eight weeks of the Hamilton video class were focused on developing a story based on Hamilton’s theme: running out of time. Abudawood, along with fewer than 10 classmates, brainstormed stories, developed a script and began planning a short video. The only criterion for the videos was the inclusion of a shot of a Hamilton watch. The students presented their video ideas to a Hamilton representative and four students’ ideas were chosen to proceed onto filming — including Abudawood’s concept of a groom “running out of time” to get to his wedding.

“Before actually taking these courses and actually knowing a lot about how to shoot a video, you always say, ‘why are they taking so long to shoot one scene? It’s not that hard,’” Abudawood said. “But just shooting a three minute video, it took us like six hours. The preparation of that took up two to three weeks, and then the editing took two months. It makes you appreciate when you watch movies and wonder how they do that. It’s really interesting and entertaining.”

In the second eight weeks of the video course, the students focused on filming and editing their videos. Abudawood was introduced to Emery by a mutual professor, and he became the lead in the film.
“It was definitely my favorite project I’ve been involved in,” Emery said. “Not only did we get to tour the beautiful city of Geneva, but it was a really professional environment — from script writing to filming.”

When the film was completed and submitted for judging, Abudawood was hoping for the best but expecting the worst. Her expectations were exceeded, though, when she learned almost a year later that her video won the contest.

As a prize, Abudawood was given a free Hamilton watch of her choosing and was flown to Los Angeles to attend the Hamilton Behind the Camera Awards in early November 2011. At the awards, she met famous actors and directors like Harrison Ford, Antonio Banderas and Chris Weitz.

“The amazing thing is they actually talked to us,” Abudawood said. “They didn’t just brush us off because we’re students.”

Armed with a winning film project for their resumes, Emery and Abudawood both hope to pursue film in the future, either as a hobby or a career. Emery is settling in to his new home in Illinois, where he works as an English as a Second Language tutor at Hartland Community College. He said once he gets his feet on the ground, he may look for opportunities to get involved with acting. Abudawood, in her final semester of school, is searching for jobs involving video production in her home country of Saudi Arabia. She said she hopes to find a job producing videos for public relations.

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