Lee Students And Faculty Produce First Feature Film

Tuesday, August 9, 2022 - by Morgan Varner, Lee University

Several Lee University students had the opportunity to work as a crew on a feature-length film written and directed by Matthew Fisher, associate professor of communication.

“The Good People of Orphan Ridge” combines genres of comedy and horror, centering around a group of indie musicians recording an album in a haunted house. Mr. Fisher said his first steps in creating the film were finding strong actors and convincing locations. Liking the premise of a haunted house and knowing he would be working with college students, he aimed to film at the Hardwick and Dethero houses, both owned by Lee University. “In short, the spark of the idea was ‘young people in a spooky house.’ Everything else – indie rock music, fairy folklore – came later,” said Mr. Fisher.

People of Cleveland will recognize other filming locations such as Lee’s Mayfield Commons and Leisure Time Bowling.

The film took approximately two years to complete, but everything was filmed within the span of 17 days. One weekend every month during the spring 2021 semester, as well as six days over spring break, was all the time the actors and film crew had to bring this story to life.

“It was intense,” said Mr. Fisher. “The staggered shooting schedule helped, though. Seventeen days is tight, but not unheard of in the realm of indie filmmaking.”

Mr. Fisher has written features before but had not taken on the role of directing what he had written. “Anything I wrote, I thought, ‘I actually have to SHOOT this,’” he said. “Through this experience I learned many lessons I will take into future projects, such as what feels like a failure in the moment, may end up being my favorite scene in the movie.”

Students were involved in every aspect of the process apart from sound design and color grading. Throughout the fall 2021 semester, 12 different student editors worked on segments of the movie, and Fisher compiled them into a single timeline. Students participating in this project received class credit and gained valuable hands-on experience.

Merritt Jenkins, one of the two film’s script supervisors, was responsible for maintaining continuity on set and recording notes on each shot during filming. “The job gave me both an appreciation for the tiny details that make up a movie scene and for the broader aspects, and, simply put, though it was numerous long hours of intense focus, script supervising was a lot of fun and something I’d do again in a heartbeat,” said Ms. Jenkins.

Professor Fisher hopes to offer this opportunity again in the future to students interested in film making. “I have other ideas for low-budget features. If ‘Good People’ is successful in film festivals, I will be ready to pitch them.”

“The Good People of Orphan Ridge” has been submitted to nine regional festivals. According to Mr. Fisher, after the film makes its festival run, the next goal is to find distribution, ideally on a streaming platform, so the film can be viewed by a general audience.

For more information about Lee’s cinema program visit www.leeuniversity.edu/academics/arts-sciences/communication-arts/cinema/ or email matthewfisher@leeuniversity.edu.


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