Ready, Set, Action! CIW YOU(th) See How Movies Are Made

CIW YOU(th) get a behind-the-scenes tour where movies and TV series are shot at DePaul University/Cinespace Studios.
Ever wondered what it took to film a movie that blew you away? 

About eight teenagers got to explore DePaul University’s School of Cinema and Interactive Media – where well-known television series like Chicago Fire and movies like Transformers 4 have been filmed – through a Chicago Ideas Week (CIW) YOU(th) Lab on Oct. 14.

Lab attendees check out Stage 16.
CIW YOU(th) is an empowerment program that exposes about 450 young adults from Chicago Public Schools to new experiences and connects them with mentors. The group from Fenger High School got a grand tour of DePaul’s 20,000-square-foot film building and its life-size movie sets while learning about filming, stages, directing, camera techniques and even acting. Few schools in the country have the advanced stages or equipment found at DePaul—which earned a mention in The Hollywood Reporter’s Top 25 Film Schools of 2013.

John Corba, assistant director of DePaul/Cinespace Studios and the Lab host, said they wanted to plan something for the students that would have “a little bit of a ‘wow’ factor.”

And they succeeded.

The students sat in the director’s chair as others acted on the studio sets. They walked through an enormous house, exploring a bedroom, living room and upstairs room. The students laughed during the acting sets and were intrigued by the surprising realness of the house set.

CIW YOU(th) take in a view of the sets from a catwalk.
“My favorite part was being able to act,” sad Ashanti Brown, 16. “It did go along with what I want to do when I get older. Being an actor you have to know what the director does.”

After walking through the large storehouse of trucks, construction materials and props, the kids were led to the stages. One stage was designed as a pub, complete with green walls, dim lighting, a full selection of empty drink bottles and an old pinball machine covered in cartoon art. One student yelled, “Action!” from a director’s chair and a camera on a dolly glided across the room as the Fenger High School students acted out a scene  
Terence Stewart, 18, a senior at Fenger High School, directed the first scene from behind the “god monitor,” which displayed what was being filmed with the moving camera. The god monitor got its name because behind it, the director sees everything and controls how the scene is filmed. Everyone giggled as the actors played out an unscripted scene of a boyfriend suddenly finding his girlfriend at the bar with another man.

Students play the roles of actors and directors on set.
“I wanted to see how it’s done because I want to be a music guy when I grow up, making music videos and stuff,” Stewart said after telling his actors how to perform the scene.

Another tour stop was to a small boxed room in a corner—the padded sound room where people go to record voiceovers or other parts of a film that need complete silence while being recorded. Some students gathered inside and yelled so that others could hear the difference between the padded room and the outside area.

The tour concluded with the group walking out on a second-floor catwalk to view the house set.

“I think it turned out great,” Corba said. “I think they had more of a hands-on, more intimate experience because I could deal with each one individually. This is definitely something I’d want to do again.”

*For more information on the CIW YOU(th) program and how to get involved, just reach out to*
Written by: Marlee Septak
Photography by: Marlee Septak

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