The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

Film junkies break into the industry

The many faces of film

When Dan Loflin arrived at SMU in 1991, he was what he called “a dumb ass kid who wanted to make horror films.”

Fifteen years later Loflin has a Sundance Film Festival award and an episode of “Oz” under his belt. But his journey hasn’t been a smooth one.

“You have to be crazy to get into the film industry,” he said, “because you could work for six months on something and someone could have beaten you by a week with the same story.”

Loflin was like thousands of college graduates across the nation who want to break into the film industry each year.

Success in the industry is big and glamorous, the epitome of the American dream, say those in the film industry. It can arrive suddenly one day and leave just as quickly as the next. For some, it can take years to break into the business.

“There’s no clear cut route,” said Rick Worland, the chair of the Cinema-Television department at SMU.

After graduating from college with a film degree, many people reach a fork in the road — go to grad school or start work, Worland said.

Some jump right into the business and move to Los Angeles or New York City, while others go on to persue more education.

Neither decision guarantees an aspiring filmmaker will succeed in the industry.

“You have to make your own destiny,” Loflin said.

Breaking In

At 22, Loflin created his first short film. At 25, he put together his first documentary, which aired on the Sci-Fi Channel. At 28, he won an award at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival. At 29, he directed an episode of “Oz,” an HBO series.

After all that, he decided to go back to school and take a few screenwriting classes.

Unlike Loflin, Kimby Caplin, an SMU graduate and award-winning documentary filmmaker, chose graduate film school as a “springboard” into the film industry.

“My ‘path’ to success is very much tailored to suit my needs,” she said. 

Caplin, who has been profoundly deaf since the age of 2, explained in an e-mail interview how her disability has helped her succeed.

“I have had to work all of my life at understanding people and getting along with them,” she said.

The social skills she learned have helped her collaborate on film projects.

Loflin, now 32, doesn’t focus much on his stellar track record; he’s looking for a way to take his career to the next level.

Right now he’s enrolled in a few screenwriting classes at UCLA while he finishes up what he calls “the best screenplay he’s ever written,” though he isn’t ready to talk about it.

At SMU Loflin learned to analyze movies and appreciate film, but he wished there was more emphasis on screenwriting.

“I wasn’t a good writer then and I’m still not a great writer,” he said.

But that didn’t stop him from writing, editing and producing a short horror film while at SMU called “Price Chopper,” which premiered in Hughes-Trigg theater his senior year.

It went on to win local competitions and awards that gave Loflin the confidence he needed to transition into the industry.

“I couldn’t go through four years of film school and not have a film,” he said.

Jolene Vickers, a senior C-TV and computer science double major, wanted a similar experience with film while in school.

She recently interned with a local documentary film project. It went on to win a special jury prize at the 2006 Sundance Film festival.

The documentary, called “TV Junkie,” is about the life of Rick Kirkham, a former journalist for “Inside Edition” who has recorded his life since he was given his first camera at the age of 14.

Vickers and a team of 10 people condensed more than 3,000 hours of footage into one hour and seven minutes.

The Dallas-based project was put together at Post Asylum, a local post-production company owned by SMU alumnus Don Stokes.

Vickers said the long hours she and her bosses spent at Post Asylum editing and transcribing tapes was one of her most rewarding experiences.

“Our lives were completely on hold for this project,” she said. “It became a family atmosphere.”

Like Loflin did, Vickers is planning to work in the Dallas film industry after she graduates in December.

When Loflin graduated, he used his appreciation for film and self-promotional skills to land a job as a TV production assistant in Dallas.

Like many people looking for a way into the industry, Loflin and Caplin moved to Park City, Utah for a short time after their graduations where both worked as volunteers at the Sundance Film Festival.

It was there that Loflin met people in high places whom he knew would help him out later.

“Though a film can speak for itself,” he said, “part of the challenge is getting a film into the right person’s hands.”

Meanwhile, Loflin continued to work on his award-winning screenplay, “Delusions in Modern Primitivism” – a film about a guy bored with his tattoos and piercings looking for the next best form of body modification: a gunshot wound.

“You can’t be in the film business when you feel like it,” he said. “You have to be writing 24/7 and have to be disciplined. If you’re not, you’re selling yourself short.”

Caplin took the other route and enrolled at SMU to work on her master’s where she wrote and produced a documentary called “Listen.”

It won the bronze medal at the 2005 Student Academy Awards.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which hands out the Oscars, gives out the Student Academy Awards from more than 300 entries each year.

Past winners have included filmmaker Spike Lee and Trey Parker, one of the creators of “South Park.”

There are “different avenues for a lifelong career in the film industry,” Vickers said, encouraging film students to “get out there and work before graduation.”

But to create and foster a lifelong career, it takes a lot of work, Loflin said.

“In this business no one cares. You’re not getting paid to show up and zone out. You have to constantly be writing. It’s really, really hard.”

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