Talent at the Surface

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Not to be outdone by Hollywood blockbusters, such as Knowing and 2012, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh students produced a 20-minute film set in post-apocalyptic Earth.

In Surface, the Earth’s ozone layer has disintegrated, flooding the planet with deadly radiation and forcing all of humanity into underground “radial shelters.” Completely self-contained, these safe-havens allow for the continuation of humankind. When the power supply of radial shelter 1364 fails, two characters must save their community by ascending to the desolate terrain above.

Students Trent Hilborn ’11, St. Paul, and Mark Mazur ’11, Green Bay, wrote, produced and directed the short film as part of a motion picture workshop in the radio-TV-film department. Surface was filmed over the course of two weekends, with several scenes shot in the basement of the University’s Dempsey Hall. The movie features a cast completely composed of UWO students. Even the idea for the movie came from a UWO experience.

“The initial idea grew out of a science class in which global warming was often discussed,” Hilborn said. “I imagined what the world would be like if the ozone layer completely broke down and where society would be as result of it.”

Fourteen drafts and six months later, Hilborn and classmate Mazur were filming. Surface had its world premier April 23 at Reeve Memorial Union. It has since been featured at film festivals across the United States, including the Venture Film Festival in Ventura, Calif., and the Midwest Sci-Fi Short Film Festival in Bloomington, Minn. It also was an official selection at the Student Academy Awards, an annual competition for college and university film students.

Hilborn credits communication Professor Doug Heil, who led the motion picture workshop, with providing guidance that refined the film’s script.

“We spent a lot of time working with Professor Heil to revise the script over and over and over to make it better and better,” Hilborn said. “Without Doug Heil, the film would not have been nearly as strong.”

“During the production of Surface, Mark and Trent impressed me with their attention to every facet of filmmaking,” Heil said. “Most students excel in a couple of areas, but Mark and Trent did it all: the direction, the cinematography, the performances, the editing and the sound design are all noteworthy.”

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