by Harvey Burrell

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal explored a group of students at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University and their contributions to the Academy Award Nominated film “Beasts of the Southern Wild”.Beasts” was completed for 1.5 million dollars, an impossible low sum of money by Hollywood standards. It took home the  Grandy Jury Prize at Sundance and received 4 Oscar nominations. 33 students volunteered to as many as 40 hours per week. All of this was accomplished in a “class dubbed Studio 400A, an advanced elective wherein students offer free visual-effects work for low-budget films.” This model places students in meaningful roles on film sets. It is likely to catch many independent producers’ eyes. It is an amazing way to cut costs and give students a chance to express themselves creatively. However, it can also turn the corner and become an easy way to exploit tuition playing students. In the case of “Beasts” it worked out for the students, many of whom have received job offers from VFX studios. It can be a fine line, but when walked carefully everyone wins. It is an interesting model to consider as things develop here at the Media Lab.

Be sure to check out this awesome behind the scenes video from “Beasts of the Southern Wild”!