Drama and Screen Studies program premieres debut film

26 Mar 2024
Mount Allison students explore filmmaking with a reimagined classic

Screen Studies students are gearing up to launch the program’s first film production.

The Yellow Wallpaper, an adaptation of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1892 short story of the same name, was written and directed by fourth-year student Darcy Worth as part of an independent study with faculty supervisor and Director of Drama Dr. Sarah Fanning.

The film, like the original story, follows a woman’s descent into madness as she struggles against patriarchal constraints.

“I read it for the first time at Mount Allison, and just kind of immediately fell in love with it. I was creeped out by it, in the best possible way, and I just remember thinking how great it would work as a short film,” says Worth, who attended film school and worked in film production before coming to Mount Allison. “The imagery in the story is incredible. The way the room is described, the way it smells, the way it affects her — I just thought would lend itself really well to a visual medium.”

One notable departure from the story was Worth’s decision to set the film in the 1950s.

“Most of the existing adaptations I found were set in the 1890s, providing the same look and feel,” Worth says. “I thought that it would be interesting to offer it in a new context.”

Worth began adapting the story into a screenplay last fall, bringing on drama student Alora Simon as production designer to help with the visual aspects of the film. They assembled a film crew and held auditions last semester. Filming took place in the Motyer-Fancy Theatre in February with equipment rented from the Drama department and Struts Gallery. But translating vision into reality was not without its challenges.

“This was the department’s first film, so we had to confront issues as they came along,” says Worth.

With no predefined work plan in place, the crew found themselves navigating unfamiliar territory, and had to quickly adapt their theatre experience to the screen.

First-year student Emma Neilson, who joined the project as production manager says Worth’s industry experience proved invaluable in steering the team.

“We tried a lot of things based on Darcy’s experience and based on what we thought would work best with our unique situation here,” she says.

“The students managed this project beyond my expectations,” says Fanning. “They worked diligently, independently, and problem solved any hurdles they encountered professionally and collaboratively.”

For Neilson, the project provided a unique learning experience early on in her degree.

“I adore film, and I've been obsessed with movies since I was very, very young, so the chance to participate in creating one in a semi-professional way means a lot to me,” she says. “It’s a really valuable experience and reaffirms that I enjoy this kind of work.”

Fanning sees this as a step in the right direction for the growing department.

“Experiential learning opportunities have been a part of the Drama Studies Program at Mount A since its inception, and the addition of the Screen Studies minor in 2020 introduced and formalized the academic study of screen media, a first for Mount A," says Fanning. "We are hoping to turn this minor into a major within the next couple of years, including an applied filmmaking component. The intersection of academic study and experiential learning would make our program unique across the Maritimes.”

More than 20 students participated in this project, which showed Fanning there was strong interest in filmmaking among students at Mount Allison. She hopes these hands-on experiences can help them launch their careers.

“Exposing students to the applied side of filmmaking will provide them with valuable experience they need to go on to Film School or to enter the industry,” she says. “The government’s $23M contribution to Screen Nova Scotia in 2022 has resulted in the industry contributing over $180M into the province’s economy. This means students wishing to pursue a career in film or television no longer have to leave the Maritimes to do so.”

The film will be publicly screened at the Motyer-Fancy Theatre on campus on April 5 and 6 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the door or through Eventbrite.

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