‘The Drone’ takes SHSU to new heights

The Sam Houston State University department of Mass Communication has become instrumental in an inter-departmental effort to bring a screenplay by critically acclaimed writer John J. McLaughlin to life.

Set on the SHSU campus, McLaughlin’s screenplay follows an unconventional main character as he navigates his way through college. Last October, associate professor Wojciech Lorenc signed on to be director and cinematographer of the project.

“We are trying to make this film in the spirit of WALL-E,” Lorenc said. “[The main character] is a drone, essentially a tiny robot, but we are trying to put as much humanity in him as possible. The interesting thing about this particular drone is that he is like any other human. He has a human family. He is just a regular person.”

Throughout the short film, characters interact with him as if he is no different than the rest of them. He represents the typical freshman-age, nervous incoming college student.

“He’s about a freshman-in-college-age,” Lorenc said. “He has a hard time finding himself at the beginning of the film. He goes to a fictional, unnamed university in the beginning of the film, and he has a hard time finding his group of friends. People just don’t get him. After that, at some point in the film, he discovers SHSU, and he discovers the College of Fine Arts and Mass Communication. That is when everything changes for him.”

The script for “The Drone” comes from McLaughlin, who famously wrote the screenplay for movies like “Black Swan” and “Hitchcock.” McLaughlin is no stranger to out-of-the-box ideas like this one.

“Him being a drone really heightens the idea that he feels like he is different than everyone else,” Lorenc said. “It really is about how he feels. All students, to a certain extent, feel that anxiety of ‘Will I fit in?’”

Chair of the Mass Communication department, Dr. Jean Bodon, suggested McLaughlin for the job.

“I talked to my dean, Ron Shields, about how we needed a video to promote the College of Fine Arts and Mass Communication,” Bodon said. “I suggested that we do a different type of promotional video, like a movie rather than an advertisement. I suggested that John McLaughlin write the script.”

Over 100 people auditioned to be a part of this short film process. Some were cast as extras, some have more featured roles. Many Fine Arts and Mass Communication departments are involved in the production. The School of Music will write the score for the movie, the Department of Art will provide some animations and the Dance, Theatre and Musical Theatre departments will also pitch in.

“The collaboration from everyone involved really is a testament that this is a supportive environment,” Lorenc said. “I am very new to the college, so it is actually a great discovery for me to see that we have all these different departments and all these creative people who are really excited and enthusiastic about collaborating on this. I think it speaks so much about the environment here at school, and again, another reinforcement for me that this film really is worth making.”

The short film started shooting last weekend and has 17 more days of shooting throughout the semester. Lorenc plans to hold a screening of the short film in Fall 2018.

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