Student Reflections on Acting for the Camera: On Location with Chauntee’ Schuler Irving's Course

This spring, students in Chauntee’ Schuler Irving's course Acting for the Camera: On Location had a very specific location in mind: The Hunger Games arena.

With funds made possible through the David L. Paletz Innovative Teaching Fund, Irving rented a studio and hired a professional director, director of photography and makeup artist for the filming of a scene from The Hunger Games. The experiential learning and innovative teaching methods Irving deployed in the course helped the students earn a stronger grasp of the movie-making process. 

Melissa Lozoff is the founder of the locally run, Movie Makers, an organization dedicated to helping children, teens and adults create art through film and theater where Irving's course filmed on location. Through Movie Makers and Studio A Acting Company, Melissa has written and directed over 250 short films and directed numerous plays and one acts. 

"I have always believed that acting is so much more than just a beautiful art form," shared Lozoff. "To act is to learn what it means to be human. Education in the arts is education in life. We had an amazing time, it was so much fun, but don't think that a serious education wasn't also learned that night. Acting, especially in a fun environment, can open your heart and open a whole different world."

Check out a collection of photos and reflections from their experiences below.

Hunger Games

“Being able to work with a professional Director and Director of Photography really shed some light on a few things about the moviemaking process. My biggest takes time. We spent like 5 hours just to get 10-15 seconds of footage. It really shows you've gotta be super patient and focused to pull it off on set." — Aryan Kothari, Computer Science Major

students working with makeup for production

Last night marked a core memory in my Duke academic experience. I could never have imagined taking a class where I could work with a professional director and director of photography and recreate a scene from a movie I grew up watching in the woods for five hours. Beyond reflecting on how fun the entire evening was, yesterday's work forces me to think about all the inputs that go into shooting a short scene like ours. From an acting perspective, I really appreciated Melissa pushing us to think clearly about our character and their circumstances before the scene started. Her nudge to decide which part of our body was ailing most contributed to a more believable performance. Another moment I look back on was Melissa shouting, "Have Fun!" right before "Action!" before several takes. Hearing that definitely helped take the pressure off trying too hard to sell a performance. Letting us play really made the art. From a crew perspective, it is remarkable to see how improvisation factors into the work. All in all, it was a beautiful, crazy, creative few hours,” — Krish Bambawale, Economics major

camera lights shining at night

The Hunger Games experience was truly one of the coolest things I have done in my time at Duke. Having the opportunity to work with Melissa, Tyler, and Emily was really incredible and felt so authentic to what professional actors must experience in their work.” — Valerie Deligiannis, Economics major

students filming scenes outside at night

Filming Hunger Games at the Movie Makers plot was such a cool and incredible experience!! Working with Melissa, Tyler and Emily was truly unreal, and it opened my eyes to the obstacles and real-time trouble-shooting that goes into filming. The way that Melissa was able to navigate everything while encouraging us through her directing was so admirable. It just goes to show how much time and dedication truly goes behind creating a movie," — Michelle Tetro, Neuroscience major and minor in Theater Studies and Chemistry

students sitting on log outside while filming hunger games scene

This filming process was the most challenging thus far and yet one of my favorites. This was such a unique experience and getting to work with Melissa, Tyler, and Emily was both so exciting and also gave a clearer feeling of what a professional set would be like. The fog machine was a really unique challenge. Trying to act with it definitely showed me the importance of patience. This was also the first time it felt like we had a very finite amount of time to get the shots we needed since we only had the one night to get what we needed. Overall this was just really cool and I am so thankful to have had the chance to do something like this for our class.” — Elise Gutierrez, Psychology and Theater Studies major