The Harmonica Man: An Endowed Film Experience

Typically, most students spend Fall Break going home, seeing family, or hanging back with friends. For a film major, our time is spent a bit differently…

October 21, 2018: The first day of The Harmonica Man took place in a city every Regent student knows – Norfolk. It was there that almost all of this film, detailing the perils and tribulations of a broken down harmonica player, took place. The days were long and cold yet filled with warmth and laughter due to the comradery of such a wonderful crew coming together for a common cause. For the most part, we all knew each other through various small sets and classes; now was the time to prove ourselves.

My job on set was fairly simple: behind-the-scenes director. Essentially, me and my team were making a film about the making of the real film. And boy, did we have a team! Comprised of fellow film majors such as Austin Smith, Gabriel Barone, Aaron Bilbrey, and Jake Frey, we shot hours of footage and gathered tons of photos detailing the experience of Regent’s 2018 Fall Endowed film. It’s the school’s bi-annual funded student project, and in the film major world it’s a pretty big deal… at least, now it is.

Ty Sheetz (Director) and Professor Vince Williams (Executive Producer) sitting with a monitor waiting for the next shot.

A senior by the name of Jarrett Ksiazek wrote the script; another senior known as Ty Sheetz (aliases include Ty Dollar Sign, Tidy Sheetz, or Dirty Sheetz) directed the project. It took us seven days to pull off the biggest Endowed film to date, as it was filmed entirely outside and required the use of several camera techniques and locations to bring a more professional film feel. Everyone was focused in their positions; we knew the stakes and that in order to get yourself recognition, you had to keep up with the flow of the set. It’s what we are always encouraged to do, and it took every ounce of our abilities to tear this story from the page and throw it on the screen.

Take it from the guy who had to film everyone working: they fought hard. Not in the sense of physical combat, but in getting the shot done, no matter how difficult it was (unless time pressed us into making it easier). There were setbacks, including a cancelled day due to weather and last-minute location changes, but the Harmonica Man team persevered and tackled the issues like it was nobody’s business.

Ty Sheetz directing camera team, James Michael Douglas (Camera Operator) and Caleb Sherrill (Key Grip), to get a tracking shot.

I’ve never worked on an Endowed project before Harmonica Man. I’m usually told about how they can be messy and often come short of being anything noteworthy in the final product. However, the film program is certain that Harmonica Man will change this perception. Backed by a wonderful team filled with bright, young minds working together to make something special, Harmonica Man will be one of Regent’s best Endowed films – if not the best – to date. Having witnessed the production firsthand, I can assure this fact. If you’re not convinced by this article, then wait for the behind-the-scenes documentary for this feature, which will be released next semester. It will be compiled of b-roll footage of the set, on-set and in-studio interviews, and a good balance of humor and sentiment to make any viewer’s heart swell.

The Harmonica Man was truly one of the greatest sets I have ever worked on, and if the final product is even half as good as the set was, audiences will be in for a treat!

Harrison Dove-Green is a contributor to the Daily Runner.