They Didn't Ask Me (dr_phil_physics) wrote,
They Didn't Ask Me

Lucky Jay and The Perils of Tenure

The Grand Valley State University Film Program funds a big project every year. Sometimes it's a feature length movie and sometimes it's a short. A couple of SAG actors are brought in -- just like they bring in Equity actors for major plays like the annual Shakespeare Festival -- plus a real professional director and they use real equipment. Last year they used RED cameras. We're talking light boxes, gels, shades, reflectors, sound, clapboards, A and B two-camera shots, dollies, tracking shots and pounds of equipment bolted to the camera. Usually they shoot during the summer, then do post-production through the year.

For 2015 they shot a seven-episode web series called Lucky Jay. Each episode was shot in a different time from September to December, or at least the exteriors were. Given West Michigan has real seasons, this is a really excellent touch. Locations were shot on the GVSU campus and in the Grand Rapids area. Brief adult situations. Plus Irish music.

You can read the IMBD entry for Lucky Jay here.

Lucky Jay is about what happens in the academic world. Of course Mrs. Dr. Phil and I were delighted with the subject and, though there's some humor which takes things outside the ordinary, they do a nice job of showing how academic politics work. Taking place in the film studies department, our main character is an Assistant Professor up for his tenure review. A second is up for his promotion from Associate to Full Professor. A third is a visiting professor hoping to have her position converted to full-time tenure-track. And a fourth who is an adjunct working on three different campuses. Plus the chair is considering retirement.

FYI: Mrs. Dr. Phil is a tenured Senior Librarian at GVSU. Dr. Phil has chosen not to play the research-and-tenure game, so toils on as an adjunct instructor at WMU. All departments have politics, and not having to deal with the promotion and tenure system has made me a much happier person -- and better for my students. And infinitely better for my writing. (grin)

One of the problems you see with productions like this, whether a play or film, is a tendency to be heavy handed with the story. Thankfully, they mostly didn't go there. Happily ever after? Not exactly. The characters, including the students, by and large fill their roles. Special consideration is noted from an older returning veteran student. And somebody did a great job either finding T-shirts for students or doing graphic design work to make them.

Each episode ends on something of a cliffhanger, but there are things which happen that are not just the obvious way to go. Well done.

We get to see some classrooms in action and our hero is really passionate about teaching. Think of a Jack Black who actually has academic credentials. While you don't have to be an academic to follow the story, anyone who has been to college can feel familiar here. Oh, and for the Grand Valley community, there's a little Easter Egg regarding T. Haas, the president of GVSU, who I should point out was a career officer in the U.S. Coast Guard.

It probably won't happen, but we would REALLY like to see a second season of Lucky Jay. It would be great to see the process of Jay finishing his book or going off to a big academic conference. Our lead actor is based in Lansing MI, so it might be possible. We were joking about a Kickstarter, since GVSU is likely to do a different film production next year.

NOTE: I really don't know how long this is likely to be available -- we saw all the episodes on Saturday night, with my Kindle Fire HD hooked up to our HDTV using an HDMI cable. Looked and sounded terrific.

The webpage for all 7 episodes, A Making Of... feature and the trailer for Lucky Jay can be found here. The trailer is available on YouTube:

Alternate link to the trailer.
RECOMMENDED (especially as a student production)

Know someone thinking of a film major in college? You can do worse than coming to Allendale and work to get into their student film productions.

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal
Tags: gvsu, internet, movies, reviews

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