Film project views learning through new lens

Don Act I is an action thriller with a talented cast. It pairs breathtaking cinematographic moments with suspenseful fight scenes and sheer intensity. And best of all, the roughly 26-minute film was written, directed, produced and acted entirely by Geneseo students. A production of Film Club, a new organization for students interested in gaining hands-on experience in making movies, Don Act I recounts the struggles of a man trying to escape from a secret organization bent on killing him for some unknown reason. The film includes very little dialogue – we never even hear the main character’s name – but instead focuses on action, juxtaposing long, emotionally loaded and often breathtaking shots with violent struggles between characters.

Sophomore Giovanni Alfonzetti is at the helm of the production, both directing and editing the film himself. Alfonzetti also took care of odd jobs like returning bottles from the garbage room in his residence hall at Wegmans to raise money for costumes and making batches of fake blood. He started Film Club in fall 2013 by sending out emails to campus listservs.

One of the students who responded is freshman Ashleigh Peterson, who played an integral role in the production process for Don Act I. She helped to write an ending to Alfonzetti’s originally 11-page script, assisted with shooting and booked one of the two filming locations, a local hotel.

“It was supposed to be such a simple project,” Alfonzetti said. “That’s why there’s no dialogue or anything because I figured we would have to use crew members as actors [because] we wouldn’t be able to get real actors.”

Members of Film Club shot Don Act I over the course of two days, between Feb. 22 and 23. Alfonzetti and Peterson went to campus theater organization Cothurnus to recruit the production’s five actors. The cast members are seniors Luke Martin and Brandon Rumaker, junior CJ Roche and sophomores Chaileb Crapo and Claire Johanson. They also recruited senior Paul Pedziwiatr, a music composition major, to compose the film’s original score.

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While some of the shots are a bit drawn out and dark nighttime moments in the second half of the film are somewhat difficult to decipher, Don Act I is filled with genuinely suspenseful moments. One of the most shocking scenes is at the very beginning when Rumaker thinks he has “taken care of” Don, played by Martin. As Rumaker stands unknowingly at the trunk of his car, Don hops slowly toward him, his arms and legs bound. Alfonzetti builds intensity throughout individual shots and the film as a whole with practiced skill.

According to Peterson and Alfonzetti, Film Club is in part a response to Geneseo’s lacking film curriculum and the absence of classes that focus on actually making films rather than simply studying them.

“I like being part of the behind-the-scenes, the creative part of it,” Peterson said. “Geneseo doesn’t have much to offer for that, so when I heard about film club I got really excited.”

“I feel like you learn so much more just from being on set,” Alfonzetti added.

Film Club recently applied for Student Association recognition, and members plan to participate in the Geneseo Insomnia Film Festival on March 28. The club hopes to produce more shorts in a similar fashion to Don Act I, including a potential prequel or sequel before the end of the semester.

Don Act I is more than a film, however. It’s a project that united students with a wide range of different majors and interests to collaborate toward a single goal.