Crossroads began their first project last fall when Sparks, co-founder and former president of the group, wanted another outlet for himself and others to gather filmmaking experience. Sparks, who graduated from the University last May, was influenced by his background in sports and knowledge of film to emphasize a collaborative atmosphere for the group, he said.
Much like each player on a sports team has a specific job, each member of a Crossroads Productions project focuses on executing a single element of the filmmaking process. When the idea for a collaborative system was presented, Sparks said he wasn’t sure how well it would be received.
“I think by having different points of view, the projects are able to tell the story in a better way to make it a better film overall,” he said.
Developing ideas and projects with other students helped Sparks learn more about film, and he continues to learn from those around him as a graduate student studying film at the University of Southern California. Sparks still stays involved with the group, but the presidency was passed to Hunter Barcroft for this semester.
Barcroft, a senior majoring in telecommunication and film, worked with Crossroads Productions last year and has involved the group in multiple projects this semester. Although he said he finds both writing and producing films to be interesting elements of the craft, he has enjoyed working as a problem solver as well.
“The whole Crossroads mentality is that not only are we there to make movies, but we’re there to help grow together,” Barcroft said. “I like teaching people and helping them grow. Not everyone’s experience is the same.”
Students who work with Crossroads Productions may find themselves filling different roles with different projects, working on some projects as the director, others as a writer or potentially an actor, among other roles in the filmmaking process.
While at the University, Sparks minored in theatre to expand his experience with film, and he took playwriting with Steve Burch, associate professor of theatre history and playwriting. Having experience serving different roles in the filmmaking process can be beneficial to understanding film, Burch said.
“I think it’s important for actors, for writers, for directors, to understand the craft of each other,” he said. “They’re all storytellers. So as they learn how to tell the story, I don’t think it’s easy – nor should it be – to separate these things, what the director does, what the actor does, what the writer does. It really is collaboration.”
Sparks’ combination telecommunication and film with theatre allowed him to meet several actors in the theatre department, which fostered collaboration between telecommunication and film students and theatre students.
Elizabeth Perkinson, a junior majoring in theatre and English, worked with Crossroads Productions as an actress in “The Casey Chronicles.” Perkinson said she has an interest in acting for film and saw the audition as an opportunity to learn more about how those techniques differ from those for acting on stage. The atmosphere on set allowed her to learn and also enjoy the process, she said.
“I got to work with a couple of my friends, meet new people, joke around with the crew. It was a great experience,” Perkinson said. “I have a few memories of everyone singing Disney songs together between takes and of shooting into the wee hours of the morning – and lots of Chick-fil-A.”
In addition to providing film experience, the Crossroads Productions film projects create a base network for post-collegiate opportunities. Both Barcroft and Sparks said they hope to maintain the relationships within the group and work with members again in the future.