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Students move from stage to screen

Rosemount students filmed A Premarital Conversation last fall around Lake Nokomis.

Most years around this time Rosemount High School students would be putting the finishing touches on their fall play. The costumes would be fitted, the dialogue would be memorized and the cast and crew would be getting ready for opening night.

Things are a little bit different this year, though. RHS is stepping away from the stage and onto the screen for its winter theatrical presentation, a collection of films the school is calling "Clean Shorts: An Evening of Three Original Short Films."

RHS English teacher Thom Hoffman and video production teacher Mark Hubbard teamed up to create the program as a way to open students' eyes to a new kind of performing.

"We wanted to try something new, give the acting students a different taste or a different avenue. A different perspective of what acting or performing can be," Hubbard said. "There's more than just being on stage."

In addition to Clean Shorts, which debuts Jan. 21 in the RHS performing arts center, Hoffman is directing an old-fashioned radio show that will be performed onstage and broadcast live online in February.

Hubbard wrote one of the screenplays for Clean Shorts from a script by his college roommate. One of his former students wrote the second, a zombie horror film called Dead Hungry. The third, a John Hughes-Gene Roddenberry mash-up called Breakfast Trek, came from a brainstorming session with students.

About 20 students worked on the three films, serving as both cast and crew.

April Bailey was part of all three productions. She is a lead actor for the first film, A Prematrimonial Conversation; student director for the zombie film; and a crew member for Breakfast Trek. She's been in RHS theatrical productions, but she's also a member of Irish Update, the school's video news program. She said the transition from stage to screen went smoothly, but it was still a lot of work.

Students have been working on the films since fall.

"There were some days we would come in on the weekend and spend 10 to 12 hours filming," Bailey said. "There's a while I had no weekends, but it was worth it."

She particularly liked filming Dead Hungry, she said, because it gave her a chance to work with 8mm film rather than the digital recordings most students are used to working with.

Junior Alexa Monn was the lead in Into the Woods, last year's musical production. She'll be on screen in Breakfast Trek, and she did the zombie makeup for Dead Hungry. She said the film project drew more freshmen than the typical theater production.

"I feel like this is more the speed of freshmen," she said. "It's a good way to go from middle school theater into high school theater because you can do a bunch of takes. You don't have to get it right once on stage."

Together the three films will run about 40 minutes. Hubbard hopes to have some discussion with the audience after each one screens.

The students still had some filming to do last weekend on their final short, but so far Hubbard has been happy with the project.

"We're very pleased with what we've come up with," he said. "It's certainly been a learning experience for us ... because it's the first time doing it. We're learning how to do stuff different next year."