Carson School begins production on third Carson Film

J.B. Tyson (first assistant director, left) visits with Carson School students Adam Turner and Candace Nelson to set up a shot for "The Healing of Harman." Photo by Jordan Opp.
J.B. Tyson (first assistant director, left) visits with Carson School students Adam Turner and Candace Nelson to set up a shot for "The Healing of Harman." Photo by Jordan Opp.

Carson School begins production on third Carson Film

calendar icon23 May 2018    user iconBy Kathe C. Andersen

Lincoln, Neb.--The University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film began production in May of the third film in the Carson School Film Series.

“The Healing of Harman,” filmed May 9-17 in Lincoln with a cast and crew of around 75 students, faculty, alumni and professionals. The local premiere is scheduled for Oct. 27 at the Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center.

The Carson School Film Series involves a select number of film industry professionals teaming with students and faculty from the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film to create a 20- to 25-minute short film. The objective is to provide students with an opportunity to work directly with faculty and outside professionals to create a professional production that is larger and broader in scope than can reasonably be expected of students working independently.

“I’m really impressed by what has been pulled together, in terms of the scope of what this production is and can be,” said Director Seth Pinsker. Pinkser has received more than 50 major national and international awards for his creative work in film, television, commercials and branded content, including an Academy Award Nomination for Best Short Film (Live Action).

“I’ve been really impressed with the talent of the students and the quality of their work,” he said. “I think it will be a project that everyone can be proud of. The students are amazing. This is such a good thing that Nebraska is doing for its students. Every once in a while you come across something and say, ‘How come that hasn’t been done before? How come they aren’t doing it elsewhere?’ It’s a great idea.”

Julie Uribe, an Emmy Award-winning producer with more than 30 years of experience in the television industry, is serving as executive producer of the project and co-wrote the screenplay.

Uribe formerly served as the senior vice president of non-scripted development for FremantleMedia North America, the media giant that produces “American Idol,” where she led development, pilot production and international acquisition strategy. A native of Lincoln, Uribe has returned to Lincoln and is a lecturer in the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film. In 2016, she participated in the Nebraska Alumni Association’s Alumni Masters Week.

“The Johnny Carson short film is a phenomenal opportunity for students,” she said. “They get to work with Hollywood pros. When they work on their school projects, often times they have an extended amount of time to complete them. One of the ways this is a more realistic experience is that time is an issue.”

Elijah Watson, who graduated last December from the Film and New Media program, came back to work as co-producer and line producer on the film.

“This is one of the things I’ve been waiting for,” he said. “One of the reasons I came to UNL was because of this film. It feels like the perfect end to my college career, even though I graduated a little before it started shooting.”

Uribe has been working on the film for 18 months, and several of the students, including Watson, joined her last fall in working on the film.

“I’ve been thrilled to promote them to producer roles,” Uribe said.

Watson said working on the film has been a great experience for him and the other students.

“I have a pretty high role on the project, so it’s been challenging and rewarding to see the film go from text on a piece of paper to a fully realized production with cameras, actors, directors, sound and production,” he said. “We have more than 70 people working together. I started working alongside a lot of the professionals a couple of years ago [on other projects], but it’s been great to see them work with the current students who maybe haven’t had the opportunity to work on a professional set yet. There are a lot of things you can’t learn in class that they can teach you in a day on set, skills you can’t get from a lecture.”

Uribe said, “I don’t even consider them students. I view them as working professionals.”

“The Healing of Harman” is a story about a Kurdish interpreter living in Lincoln, Nebraska, who meets a mysterious man from his past who asks for help with life and death consequences. While not autobiographical, the film is based on stories told to Uribe by Harman Doski, a local refugee from Iraq.

“It’s a new experience,” Doski said of his experience watching the film get made. “I never expected to be a part of a creative film that will share a message of forgiveness and love.”

Uribe said the film strives to ask deeper questions.

“It’s a movie that asks big questions about love, hope and forgiveness,” Uribe said. “Because local refugees are also acting in the film, our students have had the opportunity to meet them and be as inspired by them as I have. I think as artists, we always want to feel whenever possible that we can make a social impact, and I hope this film does that. And I think it’s exciting that the local refugees have had an opportunity to be working artists.”

Mourad Zaoui, who is originally from Casablanca, Morocco, is a Los Angeles-based actor who is playing the role of Mustafa Ali, the man from Harman’s past.

“When I told my friends in Los Angeles I was coming to Lincoln, Nebraska, they were making fun of me. ‘Oh, Nebraska. What are you going to do there?’ But actually I was excited, and I’m happy to be here. I love it,” he said. “It’s a very professional film. I’m impressed that the students have the opportunity to do this and work with the professionals and learn from everybody.”

The Carson School Film Series gives students an opportunity to see what life on a film set is like.

“The truth is, any time you’re working on a film or television set, you’re lucky,” Uribe said. “And really, if you want to be anywhere else, it’s not the business for you.”

It’s also a unique opportunity for students to participate in different aspects of production.

“My acting students are also performing in the film,” she said. “Some of them are working as extras, as well as in production. When we say this is a unique opportunity, it’s because you might work in front of and behind the camera.”

Hannah Cahill, a freshman from La Vista, Nebraska, has had the opportunity to work on both sides of the camera for the film.

“It’s been absolutely amazing. It’s given me a ton of opportunities to work behind the camera and in front of the camera as a production assistant and also an extra with lines,” Cahill said. “That is extremely important, especially for an independent film, because then you get to learn multiple stages of what making an independent film is like. You get so much more experience than you would anywhere else.”

“The Healing of Harman” is the third film in the Carson School Film Series. The first film, “Vipers in the Grass,” was completed in 2010. The second film, “Digs,” was completed in 2013.

“As the writer and executive producer of this film, it’s been a life-changing experience for me,” Uribe said. “I hope it will be for the students as well.”