Madonna University’s Broadcast & Cinema Arts Capstone Film Class has been raking in awards and accolades in recent years, and while the credit goes to the hard work of the students, it’s hard not to acknowledge the presence of adjunct professor Jennifer Champagne. Champagne draws on 19 years of award-winning experience in Hollywood, and currently owns Milake Pictures, a film production company, and co-owned an Emmy Award Winning animation and VFX house, Max Ink Cafe. Her goal is to prepare her students to enter the industry with the ability to keep step with the pros.
In her first year of teaching, she guided her 2011 students to three Student Emmy nominations, one 2012 Student Emmy Award and a 2012 Detroit Music Award nomination — a first in the five year history of the Capstone film class. The 2012 class won a 2013 Detroit Music Award out of four nominations and three 2013 Student Emmy Awards out of nine nominations.Champagne is the first to point out the dedication of her students. Capstone is a unique program: It is one of the few places in the area where students can get such advanced training with a real industry professional. The idea behind her film class is to have the students create, produce, direct and crew a complete real film to Hollywood standards. It’s no surprise that these students hit the ground running when they graduate. Metro Times recently spoke with some of Champagne’s students: Cory Marlow Davis – Capstone 2011, Producer & Mentor for 2012 & 2013 Awards: (3) Student Emmy Awards, (1) Detroit Music Award Ashley Benton – Capstone 2012, Director/Producer & Mentor for 2013 Awards: (2) Student Emmy Awards, (1) Detroit Music Award Kyle McNiff – Capstone 2012, Director/Producer & Mentor for 2013 Awards: (2) Student Emmy Awards, (1) Detroit Music Award Chelsea Jenkins – Capstone 2013, Editor/Producer Awards: (1) Student Emmy Awards (Award Season for 2013 starts in January) MT: What is the Capstone Film Class? Ashley Benton: It’s a year-long film class that covers all aspects of film from conception to completion. We learn everything from creating crew sheets to scheduling a feature length film. MT: What is/was your role with Capstone? Chelsea Jenkins: I am the 2013 Editorial Department Head, and a 2013 Producer. I am the editor on many of the videos we have done this year, and I oversee the editing of all the projects. I also produce, which includes a wide range of responsibilities — the producers help all the departments get what they need. MT: What did you learn over the course of the year-long class? Kyle McNiff: Throughout the year, I learned everything about film production, from conception and script writing to post production and distribution. MT: How did college prepare you for this fourth year film class-Capstone? Cory Marlow Davis: I’m not sure that anything prepared me for Capstone. I mean we all have a background in TV and video production so we were dealing with familiar things but all of the pre-production, time on set, working with crew, equipment, actors and everything else was so much different than what we were used to. Film making is its own thing. It’s one of those things you just can’t sum up in words, most people don’t understand what is really involved or what it really takes. MT: What are you most proud of? Ashley Benton: Being able to see the growth of everyone in the class and the growth in the projects is what I am most proud of. We consistently get better and better as everyone becomes more accustomed to how production works. I’m proud of the amount of work that we put out as well. We have been able to accomplish so much in such a short amount of time. MT: What was it like working with your professor, Jennifer Champagne? Cory Marlow Davis: Working with Jennifer was unique. I didn’t get it at first, I didn’t know why she was trying to push us so hard but I know now that she was just trying to get us prepared and to share as much of her knowledge with us as possible. We have all been lucky enough to have the opportunity to have Jennifer as a teacher. She is a professional from the film industry. I think that working with her has given us a real leg up on students from other universities or programs because she has all the knowledge and skills that she shared with us. MT: Did Capstone prepare you for the real world and if so, how? Ashley Benton: Yes, Capstone has definitely prepared me for the real world. I was able to be on several professional sets before graduating, and I've continued to get work from the same people. People are always impressed by the amount of work on my resume. I ran into a woman who I was a production assistant for on a plane and she turned to her husband and introduced me as the best production assistant she ever had. I don't think that she would have said that if I hadn't had the training of this class. MT: What is your best memory of Capstone? Kyle McNiff: My favorite memory of Capstone was when the other producers and I were en route to the set of a music video we were filming for the Ruiners. We were filming at a local Carnival and we had put many hours of pre-production in. The owner called us last minute to inform us that we were not allowed to shoot there because he did not believe we were students. He thought we held ourselves so professionally when contacting him, that there was no way we could be students. It took some convincing but we got our location back without anyone knowing. MT: What are you doing now? Kyle McNiff: Since graduation, I have been working as a freelance filmmaker. I have worked on two documentaries through Wayne State University, worked as a production assistant for GM, Bloomberg TV and the NFL network, and also as an AC on a documentary pilot for Scholastic. Ms. Champagne’s current class had a triple music video release on Thanksgiving eve at the Magic Bag in Ferndale. Watch the videos below: The Infatuations, “Yesterday Morning” Paulina Jayne, "He Doesn’t Know It Yet” The Mike Leslie Band, “Weather Vane”
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