School of Theatre, Film & Television

Lights, cameras, action! The School of Theatre, Film & Television’s annual showcase of undergraduate thesis films, I Dream In Widescreen 2020 is about to go live on the school’s YouTube channel for the very first time, Aug. 8-9.

This year’s event will include a series of sidebar conversations featuring film and television luminaries, all Arizona alumni. Also, students benefited from the mentoring and sound mixing from Scott Weber, who has won Emmy Awards for his sound work on “Lost” and “Westworld.”

We have Q&As with four of the talented filmmakers and creative minds behind the films to hear their stories about their background, films and creative process all during these uncertain times.

I Dream in Widescreen | Films, students, schedules | TFTV YouTube channel

Actor Martin Martinez sits inside a 1968 Mercury Cougar while on-set of the film, Tesoro, filmed in Tucson and directed by Roxanna Ibarra.

Roxanna Denise Stevens Ibarra
Film: Tesoro
Role: Writer / Director / Composer / Actress
Artist Bio

Image of Roxanna Ibarra

What inspired you to go into film and television?
It wasn’t out of personal choice. I didn’t register for classes on time during my freshman year of high school, so it was either between bodybuilding or digital media. My mom was like “you are not going into bodybuilding,” and she put me in media arts. I had to sit in a room with a bunch of nerdy boys on the computer all day, and I hated it until I made a really good friend who took me under his wing and taught me how to use the software. Pretty soon I became the audio girl and ended up loving it. After high school I was on a vacation in Mexico City and that same night was the deadline to apply for the School of Theatre, Film & Television. I was using my dad’s laptop on the hotel WiFi and I was like, “Mmmm, I’m going to go for it,” and I got in. Since then, it’s been film this and film that.

If you could only watch one film for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. That’s the film that made me think I could do films. The director is a Middle Eastern woman who’s not only gender fluid, but she made a western black-and-white romance with a vampire in a completely different language. She did it with no-budget. I thought if she could do it, I could do it.

How did you come up with the idea for your film? 
That entire summer I couldn’t grab on to one idea. The deadline for the script was coming up and I was laying on the porch with my dog and boyfriend staring up at the ceiling. For some reason, I started to think about old people because they are so funny and have so much experience. They tell us these stories and we get bored very quickly, but they’re interesting. I started thinking about what my tata’s youth must have been like and the car culture in Mexico and based my film from that.

What was it like working with Scott Weber?
I created several tracks for my music, and he mixed them in a lot of ways that I didn’t originally like, but then I realized how good they were. In my head, I had imagined the version of the song, and the way he mixed it was completely different. He also walked me through how a sound design template should look and what the workflow is. He showed me more than anyone has ever showed me about sound design.

What do you hope people will take away after viewing your film?
I hope they find it refreshing. I hope they see a film that they identify with. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Chicano film besides Westside StoryLA Bamba or some narco-themed Mexican thing, that I can identify with. Why do we always have to be drug dealers?

How do you feel about the screening being all online?
I’m going to be completely honest, it’s a real bummer. I was very excited for my grandparents to see it because they speak more Spanish than English. It’s more culturally relevant to them. More of the older people in our community are going to identify with our film than the younger people, so being on YouTube might be difficult for them to access. I also would have liked to see my peers in person for the last time because I might not ever see them again.

What advice would you give to perspective students looking to go into film and television?
A big thing that I’ve always found really frustrating with watching a documentary or reading a novel about someone beginning in the industry is that they always say to believe in yourself and work hard, but they don’t give you the steps. So here are a few tips:

  1. Create a story and write out the script (make sure that it is short!)
  2. Find some actors
  3. Go to a production house or library to rent out some equipment
  4. Film it
  5. Edit in in a software that is not Windows Movie Maker
  6. Show it to someone mean (not your parents) who will give you good feedback.

What does the future look like? 
I am currently working on a top-secret documentary project with a few alumni. Nothing is set in stone yet, but we are hoping to have it pitched by August 15. Ten years from now, I’d love to be working for Disney in the music department. That would be my dream … to create a beautiful story through sound.

Director Dan Crowley and the production crew prepare to film a scene in the short film, Karen from Susie May. Crowley said that the location played a major role in establishing the look of the film.

Dan Crowley
Film: Karen, from Susie May
Role: Writer / Director
Artist Bio

What inspired you to go into film and television?
In 2012, I saw Beasts of the Southern Wild. I was sitting in The Loft theatre by myself and once the opening music and credits hit, I was like “wholly shit, this is awesome.” That moment was enough to make me know that I wanted to make movies.

If you could only watch one film for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
This is very different than Beasts of the Southern Wild, but probably Mad Max Fury Road. It’s on the other end of the spectrum compared to that movie, but it’s two solid hours of pure movie magic.

How did you come up with the idea for your film? 
This one came from a friend whose mom works for Mary Kay. We were just talking and drinking coffee one day and he was like, “oh yeah, my mom works for Mary Kay and they have these like pow-wow sessions where women come over to the house and they all sit in a circle and they talk about how strong and great they’re going to be today and how good they’re going to be at selling stuff.” I’m like, “that sounds insane. That sounds very cult-y and it sounds really cool.”

What were some of the challenges that you and your crew faced during the production process?
Thankfully there were never any dumpster fires. One of the added challenges we had was setting it in the 80’s, but that was also exciting to me and the team. Last summer, my producer and I were crewing on a feature film and we saw this house that they weren’t even filming in, we were like, “whoa, that’s intact!” The wood paneling walls, the crappy shag carpet, the appliances were still there. The stove was from the 50’s and still worked. This location allowed 100 percent for that to happen, so that was the big break. It was a little nerve-racking at the time because it was government property in Marana, so we had to go through the government to get access to it, but I kind of doubled down and went all in.

Do you have any entertaining on-set stories you’d like to share?
A lot of that weekend was a blur. When we went to scout for the location, we found out that the old housing development where we filmed is used for some type of body-guard secret service type training program. The first time we showed up, we drove past this racing course that had about 50 damaged demolition cars with metal guards around them to take hits.

What do you hope people take away after viewing your film?
For me, this film is all about learning and being able to hone what we were being taught. At the same time, I wanted to look at a weird angle of society that isn’t really talked about. The idea that a multilevel niche marketing world still exists is really funny and interesting.

How do you feel about the screening being online?
I’m very curious to see what happens. It’s a very big thing to tackle, especially when there’s so much other stuff on YouTube. I know they are putting the work in, so I’m definitely going to be tuning in to watch. If they get a national reach that would be insane and awesome.

What advice would you give to perspective students looking to go into film and television?
Don’t just experiment with what you want to create, but experiment with the people you want to create with. Find people that you can collaborate with efficiently, effectively and where you can be the most creative and trusting of each other so that you’re not doing it all by yourself.

What does the future look like? 
I plan on staying in Tucson for a year or two and would like to create one more significant film of the same scale in the next year. Something around 10 to 15 minutes long, and with a budget so that I can pay the crew as much as I can to show them that I value their time and effort. Eventually, and like the annoyingly lofty shared goal of a lot of people, I want to become a director.

Actresses Olivia Potter (left) and Shayla Forero act out a scene while filming the short film, Side by Side. “I was a little worried about having child actors, but I was so lucky to find Shayla and Olivia,” said Alyssa Urgo, the film’s director.

Alyssa Urgo
Film: Side by Side
Role: Writer / Director
Artist Bio

What inspired you to go into film and television?
I’ve always been interested in the entertainment industry. I started out wanting to be an actress, but in high school I didn’t want to be in plays, so I took a video production class. That’s when I discovered I had a stronger passion telling stories from behind the camera.

If you could only watch one film for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
“The Wizard of Oz” because I grew up watching that film more than any others, and it’s my grandma’s and mom’s favorite. I’ve watched it a hundred times and I can watch it a hundred more.

How did you come up with the idea for your film? 
My film is based on my life with my family. When I was in the fifth grade, I had an adopted younger sister join my family. I realized that I had a real situation that could speak to people because it’s authentic.

What impact has your sister had in your life? 
She’s been one of the greatest teachers in my life. She’s showed me the importance of listening to other people’s stories, to be considerate of all ways of life and that we’re ultimately more similar than we are different.

What was the production process for your film like? 
I began writing the script last June. I did about 11 drafts, and then we started production in October. After that, we had to find our location, do casting and work on rehearsals. We spent three 12-hour days on production, and everything went smoothly because of how much we prepared. After that, we began editing, and when March hit, it was the pandemic, so we had to start working remotely. It was just really great that we were at that stage because it was definitely possible to finish it, but still difficult. The school really helped out by giving us the programs to continue working on sound and coloring. Scott Weber also joined to help out with the sound design, which was honestly unreal. He helped out so much. We had everything finished by the first week in May.

What do you hope people take away after viewing your film?
I hope that people realize that it doesn’t matter where you come from or what situations you’ve had to face. We can all relate to each other, respect each other and learn from each other.

Why should people be excited for this event? 
I think that we have a truly amazing group of films and for that reason alone, everybody should be excited, but this is also the first time that I Dream in Widescreen has been done this way. I think seeing what people are doing during this time can be very positive and very inspiring. It’s inspiring that we were able to create extra content such as the alumni panels and prerecorded Q&A’s. We are still trying to make this event worthwhile for the filmmakers and the audience instead of just putting the films up on YouTube.

What advice would you give to perspective students looking to go into film and television?
The biggest piece of advice that I would give to students is to try to get as much experience as possible and to jump in on projects or discussions no matter what level of knowledge you think you have.

Do you have any exciting plans in the future? 
I’m planning on moving to L.A. at the end of August and apply to a bunch of jobs. I have a few interviews coming up. I’m looking to continue my education in the workplace, so I want to gain more knowledge about the real-world industry.

Director Anthony Cutrone (right) talks with crew member Emma Sinex, while on the set of the A Hunger. The film, shot on Mount Lemmon, stars actors Lance Guzman (center) and Margaret Smith.

Anthony Nicholas Cutrone
Film: A Hunger
Role: Writer / Director / Co-Producer
Artist Bio

What inspired you to go into film and television?
I’ve always been into film. My dad was a guy who knows a lot about film, and I remember watching all the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies with him. When I went to Tucson High, I took a filmmaking class where I was fortunate to have an awesome instructor. I was hooked.

If you could only watch one film for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
That always depends on my mood, but if I had to choose, it would be Yasujirō Ozu’s Tokyo Story. It’s a bitter-sweet film about how sad life can be at times.

How did you come up with the idea for your film? 
I had to come up for something for a directing class, and I had this image of people walking in the woods. I thought maybe they’re looking for something, and for some reason, I thought of them finding a suitcase full of a white substance that they eat while being chased by people that are after them. There’s this movie called The Stuff, about yogurt that turns people into Zombies and the country is obsessed with it. So that was kind of a little thing I stole from, but it was weird and I liked that.

I heard that the entire movie was shot in film, what was your reasoning behind that? 
I’ve always wanted to make a movie on actual film. I do some 35mm photography and I think it adds another layer aesthetically. My producer was very convincing and was like, “you should do it.” You’re also more selective about what you do. You have to think about what you are taking more. Film’s expensive. Sometimes with digital, you just get a lot of footage and have to go through it when you didn’t really need it. It fits because all of the shots are basically long-takes, and together, they create this mood and aesthetic of the weird world the characters are in.

What was it like working with Scott Weber?
We were very lucky to be able to work with him. The whole experience was awesome, and Scott was super knowledgeable. I wanted him to be a true member of the team instead of just a hired hand. It was a great learning experience.

What do you hope people take away after viewing your film?
Mine is a little weirder than everyone else’s. I hope it makes people feel a little uncomfortable. There’s a great quote from the famous French film director, Robert Bresson that says, “I’d rather have people feel my film before understanding it.”

Why do you think people should be excited for the event?
It’s the first online event for the school since COVID-19 hit. It sucks that there’s no ceremony at the Fox Theater, but I feel like more people will be able to watch the films since they’ll be online. Hopefully more people in the industry will be able to see them and reach out to some of us if they like what we did.

What advice would you give to perspective students looking to go into film and television?
Watch a lot of movies. It sounds like a no-brainer, but a lot of people don’t. Also, don’t just watch films that you are comfortable with, but broaden your horizons and watch films that you might not usually watch.

What does the future look like? 
It’s all up in the air because of coronavirus, but I still want to make and write films. I was also thinking about teaching English in Japan or South Korea, but I’m not sure yet. It’s a strange time for film right now.