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Student short film hits the big screen

Many actors dream of seeing their work make it to the big screen. Now, for a small group of Columbus actors, this dream is about to become a reality.

“Beyond a Reasonable Doubt,” a short film starring students of the local acting studio, Acting in Columbus, will be screening at the Gateway Film Center at 6 p.m. Sunday. The film’s plot is based on the 1954 teleplay “Twelve Angry Men.”

For Beth Sopko, a member of the film’s cast, this is the first time a performance of hers will be shown in a movie theater. She is anxious to see the finished product.

“I’m a little scared just to see myself,” Sopko said. “I’m excited because I enjoy the work, but it makes me a little nervous.”

Aaron Geib, another actor, said the screening will provide an excellent opportunity for the acting students to evaluate their performances.

“It makes you aware of things that you might not necessarily be aware of,” Geib said. “Until you actually see yourself doing it, that’s when it all comes full circle.”

Richard Mason, who directed the film, founded Acting in Columbus in 1998. He believes that giving acting students a chance to actually shoot a film and see it in a movie theater will allow them to improve their craft.

This is the third version of “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt” that Acting in Columbus has produced. Each version has had a different cast featuring students of the Advanced Acting for Film class. Production of the film occurs during the final weeks of class, after the students have spent several sessions learning about the work that goes into making a film.

“I found in my acting classes there was a gap between what actors were learning in class and what they needed to know to work on a film,” Mason said.

“Actually doing a film at the end of the class puts everything in context that I just taught.”

Chris Martin, the film’s cinematographer and editor, has been involved with the “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt” project since the beginning. He and Mason had previously worked together on a documentary project.

“Learning the craft of acting is one really tough skill,” Martin said. “How to do that in front of a camera and a production crew is a totally different skill. It’s the kind of thing that you have to learn just by being around it.”

Geib said taking acting classes has been an important experience in his life, and he feels it’s an opportunity more people should take advantage of.

“I wish that they would make an acting class mandatory in every high school as part of the curriculum,” Geib said. “If you have any kind of shyness or awkwardness around people, start taking some acting classes. It will teach you really quick how to get rid of that.”

Mason said Acting in Columbus classes don’t only focus on acting, but also on the process of auditioning for roles and the work that needs to be done to keep them.

Many Acting in Columbus students go on to work in commercials and films. Geib was cast in an independent feature film that will begin shooting in a month.

Nathan Williams, another actor in “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt,” has auditioned and gotten a callback for a role in a movie with Natalie Portman.

Tickets to “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt” are $5 and can be purchased at the Gateway Film Center box office or at movietickets.com.

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