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Full Steam Ahead: Juniata Film Students Get Experience at Train Station Film Shoot

(Posted August 13, 2007)

Juniata Digital Media students pose with an actor portraying Abraham Lincoln in the documentary \"Lincoln.\" The students are, left to right: Neil Perrin, Grace Canfield, actor, Laura Sweltz and Tim Auman.

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Abraham Lincoln, his face creased with worry, his shoulders slumped with fatigue from managing the ups and downs of the Civil War, checks the words he\'s written for an upcoming speech as he disembarks the train at the Gettysburg station. Cut! Although an actor is standing in for the Great Emancipator and the East Broad Top train station in Orbisonia, Pa. is playing the part of the Gettysburg station, four Juniata College students earned some very real experience as part of a film shoot for a Lincoln documentary by Evergreen Films to be aired on the Discovery Channel some time next year. The students, all summer employees of Juniata\'s digital media program or technology staff, worked as production assistants during a two-day film shoot for \"Lincoln.\" \"The first day we spent building sets, which meant we draped bunting on the train to block any identifying logos and removed or covered up any modern signs on the train station,\" says Neil Perrin, a junior from Huntingdon, Pa. studying digital media. \"The East Broad Top Railroad is often used on historical film shoots because many film companies look for places where they can film a steam engine.\" Perrin and three other students worked as assistants to the producers of the film, performing tasks that ranged from the mundane (bringing water to the crew) to the exciting (Perrin, a fledgling cameraman, worked with the director of photography). The other students who worked on the film set were: Grace Canfield, a sophomore from Littleton, N.H., Tim Auman, a junior from Jonestown, Pa., and Laura Sweltz, a junior from Johnstown, Pa. Each student spent the second day of shooting assigned to assist one of four crew members: the two producers, the sound technician and the director of photography. \"When you first come onto the set it seems chaotic, but once we had been working on set for a while, it became clear everything was pretty well organized,\" Perrin says. Perrin also was assigned to shoot some behind-the-scenes footage for the production. Such filming is often used to create extra features to market the film or documentary, or as DVD extras. The students received $125 per day for the two-day shoot. In addition to working with the Steadicam operator (A Steadicam is a movie camera that mechanically isolates the movement of the camera from the movement of the operator, making it possible to get smooth shots if the cameraman is walking or moving on an uneven surface.), Perrin and the students also saw how filmmakers prepare for CGI (computer generated images) effects on film. Although an actor plays Lincoln, the movie will use CGI to make the performer resemble the former president. \"Being a production assistant is kind of stressful because you have so many things to take care of,\" Perrin says. \"But it also gave me a sense of why everyone has a specific job and how those how everyone comes together to work as a team.\"

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.