Senior, Communications; Division of Arts & Behavioral Sciences
One interest leads to another
I am from Shawnee, Kansas. I actually didn’t have an interest in filmmaking or communications at all at first. It wasn’t until I got into high school, and our school had what was called a seminar show where the video productions class, once a month, would make a half-hour special with some news segments and also some more fun pieces. I thought that was really interesting, and who doesn’t like making fun video projects? I ended up entering into the PTSA Reflections Contest with an equine student video piece and ended up going to nationals with that. And it kind of occurred to me that maybe I was somewhat good at this, and understood it. I really loved horses and started horseback riding during that time, and that’s kind of what led me to William Woods —the horses. I originally had the idea of doing horse videography or broadcasting for horse shows, which was very niche. I asked Bonnie Carr in the William Woods academic advising office what major would be a good pairing for what I wanted to do, and she suggested Communications with the film concentration. So I was like, okay, I’ll go with it. In my first semester here I didn’t have any Communication classes, and I realized that Equine Science was just not really what I wanted to do, and that it was more of a hobby to me. And so I just stuck with Com, and then the next semester I went straight into Production II which was really focused on pre-production for a twelve-minute film. So that was really giant, and something I had never done before because we didn’t really do pre-production in high school. So that was really new to me, and it was just so intensive. It was just really fun, and it kind of helped me here in figuring out that this is really where I needed to be. I understand why a Film concentration is in the Communications Department because you really need to know what advertisements are saying, you need to know what movies are saying. A lot of people just watch movies and they don’t take anything out of it, but they’re saying so much in every detail because every detail is on that screen for a reason. And so it just really kind of made sense that Film was under Communications.
12 minutes to make your mark
The twelve-minute film is definitely probably the biggest academic challenge or experience I have had in this program. Also, in Production IV, you work together as a class to do a twelve- minute film as well, so you have two twelve-minute films that you work on. The one that I kind of favor was our “silent scene.” And while that was not a silent film, it was a piece where you tell a story without any dialogue. That is also really difficult because you don’t really think about the dialogue having exposition and basically telling the story for you. And so having to tell a story on film without any words was difficult too. That was the project that I won “Best Picture” with at our Film Festival. It was also the first time that I had done color in a project. I just really enjoyed it and it was one of the most rewarding experiences I have had here at William Woods.
Walk the red carpet at our own Film Festival
Being part of Film Club and taking part in the First Flight Film Festival, specifically the one last year, was probably my favorite moment here. Every year we have the Film Club, which is mostly a Communications club, which includes all student projects. And at the end of the year, usually in April, we showcase them at a theatre here in Fulton. So us student filmmakers get to see our projects on the big screen and it is kind of like our “first steps” in filmmaking, which is why it’s called the First Flight Film Festival. Last year it was just wonderful. Not only were all the projects really well done, but I also did a lot of work in making the “titles” for the projects. Our theme was movie icons, so we had a wonderful poster maker back home who made our posters in which we had a “Jaws” theme, but instead of the shark we had the camera lens. They were giant, just like regular movie posters, and we actually got one to be placed in front of the theater, which was cool. We were able to get t-shirts last year too, which was a first. The First Flight Film Festival every year is a lot of work, but during and after it is so awesome that I was elated for like two weeks afterwards. It was so great and one of the perks of being in this program here at William Woods.
Now showing: the many possibilities for one with a William Woods Communications degree
It is really interesting because of the diverse concentrations that you can take with Communications. With my film concentration, I am prepared to do anything film-wise. We had a Broadcast TV News class that we took, and so I could go somewhere in the broadcast news industry. We have the new concentration in Sports Communication in television and radio there. I’ve also been involved in the radio class, so I could do something in radio. In some of our basic classes we also go over the elements of effective advertising, so I have the option to go into some kind of advertising, either photo or visual. I also learned a little bit about communication law in my Com Law class. I have learned some leadership skills, and knowing why we communicate and some of the strategies behind how to communicate, in Com Theory. It’s the foundation for everything, in my opinion, and the common classes you have to take incorporate all of these concentrations. If you don’t know how to communicate effectively or, more importantly, how to listen effectively, and understand what’s being communicated to you through any sort of visual, print, or even interpersonal communication, there’s going to be some sort of issue in your career. And if you’re not going to be a Com major, at least dabble in a few of the classes because they are going to help in whatever facet that you’re going to go in to. I know a lot of my Com and film classes overlapped with each other. So when I was in Com Law, I was able to apply what I was learning in Film Theory because the theories just kind of connected. Just having all of every class I took be connected in some way really helped just keep pounding in the idea that “this is universal.”
And now a word about those WWU instructors
The Com department instructors are honestly my favorite people on this campus. I’m sure everyone could say that about their own department, but specifically the Com teachers are the best. I say that because I could go up to any one of them with a question or problem not involved in Com, and they will do everything in their power to help me. And they always are open, in their office even during non-office hours, so they’re always available. They will always answer your emails pretty efficiently, and they are just very open to you. They also are really good instructors. They challenge you and it may seem like, when you’re in the class, that they are not helping you. But they really are, because I have learned how important it is to leave room for failure, which is how you learn. Leaving room for failure is letting us have room to make the decision ourselves so we can feel like we can accomplish something. That’s what they do as instructors. They allow you to have room to have conflict and to have some sort of constructive criticism in your work. When you’re in it, it’s really hard, but when you experience it and you come out of it you learn how to really grow. That has really helped. They know how to do that very effectively. They will still kind of guide you, but they still ultimately leave it up to you.
Coming attractions – what’s next for Sara Laney?
I, honestly, do not know. But I know that whatever I’m going to do, I will do well because I have been prepared here at William Woods for all eventualities due to my major and concentration. Then having my minors to back that up, which are business and art, to kind of compliment what I’m doing. A dream I would have, maybe not a goal, but a dream is to see my name on the credits of something. And so maybe if I ever got up the courage to move from Kansas, it would probably be to work on a big budget movie. More realistically, though, Kansas City is getting really popular because Google Fiber moved there a couple years ago. And so a lot of smaller budget production studios and a lot of advertising agencies are there. So I’m considering looking into advertising. I took a news internship with KCTV 5, which is a CBS affiliate in Kansas City, last summer, and that was really fun, so television news is a possibility. I might still kind of dabble in screen writing and see if I could eventually get someone interested in that. Or I might just continue with advertising and see where that leads. So all of this is really kind of up to me, which is really nice. I kind of get my pick of the lot, and William Woods is a major part of that.
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