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Students in IU course taught by Robby Benson launch crowdfunding campaign for their short films


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Students in a film class at Indiana University have launched a campaign for financial backers at crowdfunding site Indiegogo, with much support from their professor, veteran film and television actor, director, producer and educator Robby Benson.

The students are more than a quarter of the way towards their goal of raising $10,000, which will be used for a variety of expenses for 13 short films. Their class' Indiegogo site features a promotional video the students made along with information about a number of gifts for contributors.

This is your chance to be an executive producer of a real movie -- for just $500.

Other thank you gifts include signed movie posters, signed pictures from the casts and crews, your name in the credits and personal video messages, including one from Benson.

Benson said IU has made a strong investment to quality film production at the Bloomington campus, including providing the necessary resources. Faculty and students from across campus have lent their expertise and abilities, including legal support from the Maurer School of Law. Jacobs School of Music students are writing musical scores for each short film.

This fall, Benson joined the faculty of the IU Department of Telecommunications, soon be part of the new IU Media School, which officially comes into existence next July in the College of Arts and Sciences. He teaches two classes -- one on filmmaking and another about television production.

The students are only a few weeks into their classes, but already they have met via Skype with DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, Academy Award-nominated sound engineer Tod Maitland and casting director Jeanie Bacharach (currently working on "Nashville").

"We're doing our best to get these young filmmakers, who are so bright, so game and so wonderful, to understand all of these elements as fast as possible," said Benson, star of films such as "Ice Castles," "Ode to Billy Joe," "The Chosen" and "Harry and Son," as well as the voice of the Beast in Disney's Academy Award-nominated film "Beauty and the Beast."

"I want to be a director someday, so this class seems tailor-made for me," said Nick Jaicomo, a senior at IU majoring in telecommunications/design and production. "Professor Benson is walking us through all the steps, including making sure you've got all the proper permits and meeting with people regarding filming on location. I met with a group about using a particular space on campus, and ended up negotiating with them on the location, which is a very real-world experience."

The purpose of the Indiegogo campaign is two-fold -- to help students defray production costs and to help them understand that part of the process of making a film is seeking financial backing for their projects.

"Even feeding their crew pizza for seven straight days is expensive," Benson cited as a small, but important example of the kinds of costs the students will defray while making their films. "But there's also wardrobe, art design, production design."

Other seemingly mundane but important costs include gas for vehicles transporting equipment and crew to each shoot. Permits also are often required for shooting at a location. The camera being used requires two 32GB digital memory cards costing more than $125 each.

"I want them to be successful, because we're not a film school yet, but we're on our way," said Benson, who previously taught at UCLA, The University of South Carolina, The University of Utah and the California Institute for the Arts. In recent years he has taught at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts in the Maurice Kanbar Institute of Film and Television, where he was nominated for both New York University's Distinguished Teaching Award (2006) and the David Payne-Carter Award for Teaching Excellence (2010).

Films will be premiered at the university's state-of-the-art IU Cinema in April. Benson said he hopes his students' work also will have an opportunity to grace the screens at Sundance, Slamdance and the Heartland film festivals.