Carson School's 1st film, 'Vipers in the Grass' begins principal photography

Released on 05/15/2009, at 2:00 AM
Office of University Communications
University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Lincoln, Neb., May 15th, 2009 —

The Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln began principal photography May 14 on "Vipers in the Grass" by Jorge Zamacona, its first film in The Carson School Film Series. Filming continues at locations in Ashland, Lincoln, Roca and Wahoo through May 21.

The Johnny Carson School of Theatre and film is committed to the philosophy that prospective practitioners of theatre, film and new media must be provided with thorough education, training and practical skills for employment in industry and educational settings.

According to Carson School director and "Vipers in the Grass" executive producer Paul Steger, "In pursuit of this mission the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is proud to be producing the first film in the Carson School Film Series, titled 'Vipers in the Grass.' This unique project involves a select number of film industry professionals, teaming with students and faculty from the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film, the School of Music, the Department of Art and Art History, the College of Journalism and Mass Communications and Nebraska Educational Telecommunications to create a 25- to 30-minute short film. The project uses the creative resources of all of the units in the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts and supplements these resources with industry professionals and technology currently used in professional digital cinema production.

"The Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film's objective has been to provide students with an opportunity to work directly with faculty and outside professionals to create a professional production that is larger and broader in scope than can reasonably be expected of students working independently. The industry professionals work closely with faculty and students in a mentoring environment that provides the students a hands-on learning experience from teacher/mentors over the course of two years to create a professional product. The "Vipers in the Grass" project is the only one like it in the United States, blending curricular projects with a creative product that will be submitted to film competitions and festivals around the country."

The "Vipers in the Grass" project incorporates more than 120 students across the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts and the College of Journalism and Mass Communications, with more than 25 faculty and staff members involved from the Johnny Carson School, the School of Music, the Department of Art and Art History and NET. These students, faculty and staff are coordinating and implementing all aspects of production including location scouting, production design, scenic and costume design and construction, camera operators, lighting and grip, graphics, composing the score, working on contracts, travel and housing for outside professionals, budgeting, shooting schedules, etc. -- all the aspects of production found on professional film projects. In addition to the film itself, a select group of students will be working on a "Making of..." documentary throughout the production process.

According to Steger, "One of the unique aspects of the production is the fact that the 'Vipers in the Gras'" project will use a new type of camera called 'The Red One,' that will allow our students the opportunity to work with new, emerging technology that is setting the standard in film making in Los Angeles and New York."

The "Vipers in the Grass" project is funded through a grant from the Program Enhancement Fund through the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts and the Johnny Carson Theatre and Film Endowment.

Industry professionals involved in the project:

* Jorge Zamacona, producer and screenwriter ("Wanted," "Oz," "Homicide: Life on the Street," "The Saint," "Law & Order")

* Mel Efros, producer ("Wanted," "Line of Fire," "Gilmore Girls," "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman")

* Alex Zakrzewski, director ("Oz," "Homicide: Life on the Street," "CSI: NY," "Cold Case," "Numb3rs")

* Ivan Fonseca, first assistant director ("Rescue Me", "The Black Donnellys," "Law & Order," "Oz," "The Wire")

* Sid Sidell, director of photography ("Life," "Smith," "Wanted," "Grave Matters")

* Bob Heine, camera assistant ("Charlie Wilson's War," "The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause," "Wild Hogs")

* Harley Jane Kozak, actor ("The Guiding Light," "When Harry Met Sally," "Parenthood," "Arachnophobia")

* Dean Winters, actor ("30 Rock," "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles," "Life on Mars," "Rescue Me")

Plot summary of "Vipers in the Grass" by Jorge Zamacona: A young girl named Fanny has gone missing in a small Nebraska town. Sheriff Frank Devine (Dean Winters) and FBI Agent Celia Bowman (Harley Jane Kozak) are on the case. Janey Hicks (Kara Davidson), Fanny's mother, has asked for the resources of the media and the community to find her daughter, including Father Egan of St. Catherine's Church (Ryan Kathman), a young girl named Carla (Madison Smith), and local "character" Trudy Daniels (Robie Hayek). The community comes together to solve the case, but just who can be trusted?

Jorge Zamacona was born Dec. 30, 1959, in Tacoma, Wash. He was raised in Madison, Wis., and attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He moved to Los Angeles in 1980 and graduated from California State University-Northridge magna cum laude in 1983 with a degree in television and film writing and production. Upon graduation he was hired by Mary Tyler Moore Enterprises and began his writing career on the NBC series "St. Elsewhere." Since then, Zamacona has built his career and become a successful showrunner/executive producer of many respected and well-known television series. He is married with three children and resides in Riverside, Conn. Zamacona is a consulting producer on the Sony Television Entertainment produced series, "The Unusuals," on ABC.