Theatre Students Learn Filmmaking on Film Set in Oxford

students in filmmaking class

Students in the Feature Filmmaking class on the set of Where We Bury.


Students in the Feature Filmmaking class in the Theatre Department at Miami University are learning how to build a film from script to screen this summer while working on the set of an independent film. Filmmaker and Miami University alumnus Jeff Graham chose to return to his alma mater to film his inaugural independent film, Where We Bury. “At the risk of sounding cliche, filming in Oxford, OH is an actual dream come true for me,” said Graham. “My four years of undergrad at Miami are some of the most important and formative years of my life, so to embrace my passion for filmmaking on the very campus that helped build the core of who I am is an incredible experience.”

Graham studied education at Miami and has been able to implement the pedagogical skills he developed while student teaching. The seven-week course is a crash course on how to make a film, from the first line of the script through the final edit. Using Where We Bury as a model, the students are learning a variety of filmmaking skills including writing, pre-production, casting, location scouting, budgeting, camera, grip, editing and more. The students have also been writing and directing short films over ZOOM to practice the themes they are learning in class. As a hands-on learning extension, the students were invited to attend a location scout and will be background actors in the final film.

While Graham studied education at Miami, he was also a member of the Miami University Men’s Glee Club. “So much of my creative identity was formed at Miami. Music is my first love, so I'm scoring the film as well. We recorded the score at Souers recital hall at the Center for Performing Arts, which gives me goosebumps.” A connection to the College of Creative Arts also formed the relationships that made the class possible.

After putting together some early pre-production elements of the film, it became clear to Graham that Oxford could be an excellent location to film. “I immediately thought of Liz Mullinex, Dean of the College of Creative Arts, who has built a beautiful relationship with many Miami Alumni working in entertainment through the Thriving Artist Network. It was at a Thriving Artist event in Los Angeles that we met." He later pitched the idea to Mullenix and the Department of Theatre chair Julia Guichard, and they welcomed the idea of staging a virtual table read of the script with a group of then-uncast talent. After seeing the script and an extensive course proposal, they agreed to introduce a class component to the filmmaking process. “I can't say enough good things about how beautifully the Department of Theatre has helped facilitate this experience. They have been collaborative, thoughtful, and supportive throughout the entire process. It has been a dream working with Julia, Liz, and my students.”

In addition to the beautiful scenery offered by Oxford, it also gives Graham a chance to revisit some of his old favorites. “I was thrilled to revisit all of the locations that we're using for the film, but the Kofenya scene holds a particularly special place in my heart. In the context of the film, the characters are having a very challenging but important conversation about the nature of their best friend's untimely death and trying to unpack what it means to mourn like an adult. I had a number of deeply spiritual and meaningful conversations at Kofenya during my time at Miami.” 

Some of those conversations were with his partner, co-producer, and Miami alumna Laura Graham. This is their second professional collaboration as they co-wrote a pilot that was shot in 2015. For this production, he says “she has been incredibly supportive with logistics -- from flights to meals to wardrobe. Laura is a production genius.” She began her production career as an intern at The Late Show w/ David Letterman, eventually landing her first official position in late night 6 years ago as an executive assistant at Jimmy Kimmel Live! where she currently serves as the show's Human Interest producer.

When the filming is complete, they will have a wrap party at Fiesta Chara followed by a visit to Skips. “I want to introduce our LA-based actors to the joy of Oxford uptown!” said Graham. Depending on the festival run and possible pickup, the film will not be accessible to the public until at least Fall 2022 when Graham would “love to facilitate an Oxford premiere.”