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From Harry Potter to cult rotter – uni film fans see two sides of cinema

Date 14.05.2018

Film fanatics from the University of Northampton enjoyed two cinematic excursions recently, visiting the home of a magical blockbuster series – and a screening of a very ‘bad’ cult classic.

Media students visited Warner Brothers’ award-winning Making of Harry Potter tour in Leavesden, Hertfordshire, where they gained an insight into the construction of this series of blockbuster movies, learning more about elements such as green screen CGI, costuming, model-making, and set design.

Lecturer in Film and Screen Studies, David Simmons, said: “This trip gave our students a great opportunity to find out more about concepts they have studied in seminars, such as media tourism, special effects, and paratexts.

“Seeing the actual props and costumes from the films really helped to bring these ideas to life.”

The excursion builds upon work that students have carried out in second and third year modules Screen Cultures, Media Convergence, and Contemporary Hollywood.

Student, Sebastian Gabor, said: “The tour really emphasised the scale and scope of the work that has gone into the films. It was amazing to be able to see the level of detail that’s involved with every single aspect from the biggest special effects down to the smallest set dressings.”

Students and staff all set for The Room

Film & Screen Studies students also enjoyed an excursion to the Prince Charles Cinema in London’s Leicester Square to experience the ‘so bad it’s good’ cult film, The Room.

Over the course of the evening the students met the infamous director of the film, Tommy Wiseau, as well as actor Greg Sestero.

The undergraduates posed them some probing questions in a Q&A session, and then in the screening itself, heartily engaged with the audience participation that has become synonymous with the film (namely the throwing of spoons and the loud berating of onscreen characters for their improbable actions).

Dr Michael Starr, Programme Leader of Film & Screen Studies, and organiser of the trip, said: “The students are studying cult film as part of their Contemporary Hollywood module, so this was an ideal opportunity for them to experience a genuine cult phenomenon and its surrounding rituals, and to consider the issues of taste, aesthetics and artistic intention that a ‘so bad it’s good’ film such as The Room call into question. The opportunity to meet and question Tommy Wiseau, a cult figure in himself, was particularly exciting for all.

“The students threw themselves into the experience with admirable enthusiasm; I was particularly impressed by how many confidently volunteered to ask questions in the Q&A session, not to mention their spoon-throwing abilities.”

Film & Screen students, Dr Michael Starr and Dr David Simmons meet the infamous Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero