Professor invites students along her cinematic journey

February 01, 2023

Students on set with Professor Blythe Frank

Assistant Professor of Film, Television and Media Arts Blythe Frank exemplifies the phrase, “practice what you preach” as she doubles as a feature film producer outside of the classroom.

Frank has explored line production, creative production and executive production for nearly a decade.

“I find the layered opportunities of producing allow me to explore a number of different skills and interests, so it’s never boring and I continue to learn with every new production,” she said.

Most recently, Frank worked for a company called Cinematic Health Education, creating online comprehensive courses to train individuals in the health care field. Frank has done work like this in the past that helped train certified nursing assistants, a highly successful program that was later sold to the Red Cross, she explained.

Creating such cinematic productions is no easy task, Frank said.

“The process started about a year ago when my company was engaged by the client," she said. “We developed and wrote all the scripts, then cast and fully mounted the production itself. We started pre-production in August and began shooting on October 11 and shot for 30 days. We are now in post-production and will deliver the project in March 2023.”

Frank decided that she wanted to immerse her cinematic production management (CPM) students in this process, inviting them on set to her health care production called “Ready HHA.” This is a series of episodes about the lives of at-home health care workers and their patients, reflecting on their life stories, their struggles and about how they overcome them.

“Having students from the CPM program involved has been incredible,” she said. “I loved seeing them put their learning into practice. Observing them making connections, gaining their confidence and mastering their positions was very rewarding. I’m so proud of them all.”

Frank invited recent CPM alumni as well as a few who were about to graduate to work on the production. These included Brandon Cabral, MA ‘23; Emily Blanchette ‘21, MA ‘22; Sarah Sewell ‘21, MA ‘22; and Jesse Bourbeau ‘21, MFA ‘22 who worked on the production throughout, she explained.

“Knowing their work in class, their positive attitudes and their willingness to learn, I knew Brandon, Emily, Sarah and Jesse would be a great fit,” Frank said. “I also invited my 3+1 CPM students to spend a day on set as production assistants and many of my students also participated in the production in this capacity. They learned a lot about the ‘set ecosystem,’ their place within it and how each role is essential to making the production happen.”

Throughout the process, Frank was most proud and content when seeing her students’ confidence and independence shine through each of their roles, she said.

Bourbeau, performing the role of second assistant director for “Ready HHA,” loved being at the center of the action and gaining industry knowledge, she explained.

“It allowed me to be on set every day solving problems and running the show from the ground level,” Bourbeau said. “It was classic boots on the ground, ‘make it happen’ filmmaking."

Bourbeau, not only passionate about her position, loved making new friends and found Frank to be an inspiration.

“Professor Frank is the consummate professional in the room at all times,” she said. “It's an absolute pleasure to work with someone so accomplished and on the ball. As a mentor as well, Professor Frank has been huge for me. I can't thank her enough for her guidance and dedication.”

Cabral, being the talent coordinator for the film, reflected similarly regarding his experience on set with Frank.

“It was an excellent experience working with Professor Frank,” he said. “She helped me take the skills I had learned in the classroom and apply them to the work I was doing daily. Professor Frank also helped assure us that we were doing good quality work on days we felt overwhelmed by the day-to-day life on a film set.”

Cabral found this experience to be hard work that paid off, not only increasing his confidence but assuring him that he has chosen the correct career path, he explained.

Sewell, a graduate fulfilling the role of production coordinator, also found the experience to be worthwhile and invaluable.

“It was nice that my first job out of college was with a professor that I knew,” Sewell said. “Professor Frank was able to guide us, lend an ear and offer advice as we made our way through the production. She is a wealth of knowledge and it’s been really great that she has provided her students with this opportunity to learn about the industry with first-hand experience.”

Sewell enjoyed the experience so much that she is attending Cannes Film Festival with Frank in May.

“This opportunity has given me a taste of what the film industry is really like,” she said. “Now, I have an idea of what to expect from film sets and film production. Experience is everything in this industry, and I’m so grateful to Professor Frank for giving me this amazing experience.”

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