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By Liz Gibbons, UW Institutional Communications intern
Students in a University of Wyoming first-year seminar course will show their film “Just Another Zombie Movie” Sunday, Dec. 6, at 2 p.m. at the Gryphon Theatre in the Laramie Plains Civic Center. Admission is free and open to the public.
Taught by Michael Harkin, professor of cultural anthropology, the class “The Anthropology of Monsters” studied the psychological and symbolic dimensions of monster beliefs in different cultures. Various monsters, such as Sasquatch, vampires and zombies received focus in the class through analysis of media and texts such as the “Twilight” films, “Beowulf” and television’s “The Walking Dead.”
Some of UW’s top instructors have signed on to teach the first-year seminars, which are three-credit courses required of all new freshmen under the university’s new general studies program. Incoming students registered for the seminars throughout freshman orientation sessions in June, with topics ranging from “The Beauty and Joy of Computing” to “The Anthropology of Monsters” to “Outdoor Leadership.”
The seminars are offered to engage new students immediately in the college academic experience, help in the transition from high school and give them the skills they need to succeed -- including critical and creative thinking, inquiry and analysis, and writing and speaking proficiency.
None of the courses enroll more than 24 students, allowing class members to develop relationships with one another and their instructors -- all of whom are highly experienced teachers, and many of whom have been honored for teaching excellence by the university and their individual colleges.
Harkin explains that the main graded assignments for his first-year seminar class are group presentations and a final research paper.
“I was surprised, when for the first group assignment, one of the groups produced a 10-minute horror movie exploring the myth of the banshee,” Harkin says.
“Apparently, a lot of people in the class liked the idea of a movie, and my group was approached with the idea of filming a class zombie movie, since one of our upcoming modules was about vampires and zombies,” says UW student Brianna Leonard. “We took this idea to Professor Harkin, and he thought that it would be a great project.”
The students worked to develop a plot; however, Leonard explains that the film was all improvised by the actors without a script. After developing a plot, the group selected actors and scouted filming locations. Filming took place throughout October and November.
Leonard says the movie is “a stereotypical comedic zombie movie” in which college students attempt to survive the zombie apocalypse.
Harkin explains that while none of these students are anthropology majors, they all share a common interest in monsters as they appear in literature, film and popular culture.
“I believe this project epitomizes what the first-year seminar should be about: students pursuing their interests and taking responsibility for their own learning experience,” Harkin says.
The cast and production team for the zombie movie, listed with their hometowns, are:
-- Director: Jordan Hoffmaster, Laramie.
-- Executive producer: Karissa Resnik, Colorado Springs, Colo.
-- Assistant director/acting coach: Brianna Leonard, Ankeny, Iowa.
-- Set managers: Madison Crawford, Newcastle; Jessica Determann, Cheyenne; and Hannah Larson, Laramie.
-- Head of makeup: Alexandra Belding, Idaho Falls, Idaho.
-- Main actors: Cody Bennet (playing Jake), from Limon, Colo.; Sarah Farmer (playing Abigail "Raven"), from Cheyenne; Logan Fox (playing Lennex), from Casper; Stephanie Hart (playing Stephanny), from Gillette; Riley Otto (playing Brad), from Rawlins; and Evana Somlyay (playing Andromeda "Andy"), from Laramie.
-- Zombies: Determann; Katelin Espinola, from Denver; Madison Heithoff, from Pine Bluffs; Larson; Resnik; and Joshua Walsmley, Douglas.
-- Guest star: Harkin.