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Groundbreaking Narrative Television Initiative premieres latest film

The groundbreaking Narrative Television Initiative will premiere its latest project, “Out,” at the Egyptian Theater on Thursday, April 25, as part of the Spring Student Film Showcase. Founded and run by Professor Ryan Cannon, Director of the Film and Television Arts Program at Boise State, the Narrative Television Initiative (NTVI) provides students with hands-on experience in every aspect of creating an original television pilot, from the writer’s room, to filming, and pre- and post-production. The courses emphasize collaboration and allow students to experience what it takes to make a television pilot from scratch. “It was 11 long, hard days [of shooting],” said Asher McMurren, who co-directed “Out” with Amanda Benningfield. “But I truly think it was worth it for the time spent with an incredible crew and cast.” Benningfield also emphasized the joys of working on “Out” and the collaborative gifts of the experience. “Something amazing about this project was being able to work with a crew full of people who are so talented in their roles,” Benningfield said. “The chance to collaborate with the writers both in pre-production and production was amazing to really understand and appreciate the weight of the story we were telling.

“Out” tells the story of Audrey, a young lesbian cut-off from her Christian family, as she navigates her first serious breakup, an extra complicated loss, given that she was taken in by—and still lives with—her ex’s zany, liberal family. Hannah Phillips, a Creative Writing MFA student at Boise State who wrote the script for “Out,” expressed gratitude for the opportunities provided by NTVI, as it gave her the chance to write for the screen for the first time. “I feel really lucky to have experienced [NTVI] during my time at BSU and grateful to Ryan Cannon for all the time and work he put into developing the program,” Phillips said. “And I feel extremely grateful to have worked with so many people who cared about this story and [who] were willing to put in all this time and work to tell it.”

Writing and filming untold stories

Phillips wrote a “modern queer story,” as she described it, in order to explore themes often left unexamined by television. “I think we’re living in a really important and transitional time,” Phillips said. “The steps we’ve made towards equality and acceptance in only the past decades are astronomical. It’s beautiful that there are so many kids—like Seneca, for example—who are growing up with complete support from their families. At the same time, so many queer people are grappling with painful pasts, and there are still plenty of queer kids like Audrey and Carter who are forced to sacrifice so much just to be who they are. And so I’m interested in the intersection of those stories.” Co-directors Benningfield and McMurren expressed passion about the story they captured. “I’m really proud that we have been able to tell a story that is so important and highlights identities whose stories are not told enough.”

Artistic vision meets real-world skills

NTVI features four courses that take students through the process of creating a television pilot. Just like in a real writer’s room and on a real film set, collaboration serves as a cornerstone of the NTVI experience. “I truly learned how to trust others with my own artistic vision,” Benningfield said. “This was a great practice in learning how to really make your artistic vision match the technical needs. I think the times we were able to take unforeseen problems by the reins and really work through them as a team were some of the most rewarding times on set.” Co-director Asher McMurren agreed. “Working with all different kinds of people in high pressure situations is what directing, and honestly filmmaking, is all about,” McMurren said. “Film school at BSU forces you to collaborate with your peers to get on set with a script and a camera to shoot it; almost every semester I had at least one class with a short film as the final project. Spending as much time learning in real time on set as possible is the only way to prepare for the wider world of filmmaking and the bigger projects that come along.”

About the Narrative Television Initiative

Founded by Professor Ryan Cannon, Director of the Film and Television Arts Program at Boise State, the Narrative Television Initiative takes students through the entire production process, from the writer’s room, to pre-production, to post-production. Starting in the Fall of 2024, NTVI will become the Short Film Lab, which will allow teams of students to work on different short films following the same production path as NTVI.

Mark your calendar for the Spring Student Film Showcase on April 25!

Learn more about the Film and Television Arts Program here.