Horror movies can shock audiences, scare viewers and, for several Millersville University students, provide valuable industry experience.
Last fall, several students were invited to work on the upcoming horror film “Hayride to Hell.” Joined by Dr. Stacey Irwin, they began on set as general production assistants.
Irwin explains that the roles of a production assistant are varied, and her students had many opportunities to try different things. “Some students focused on working with the art department, and one recent graduate became art director. Another student moved into the position of key production assistant.”
Angel Peña-Pabon, current MU student studying media arts production and public relations, worked his way up to second assistant camera, where he could work the camera crane and clapboard. He even had the opportunity to operate the camera, meaning he has a camera shot in the movie.
“This gave me great experience where I met many people who do this for a living,” says Peña-Pabon. “Everyone we worked with was very open to teaching us tips and tricks in the industry and were very welcoming. I still talk to some of my colleagues to this day.”
“I was also an extra in this film where I got to dress up in a ghillie suit and was one of the ‘bad guys.’ That was a cool experience overall for this being my first movie set,” he adds.
The opportunity was initially brought to Irwin’s advanced production class by recent graduate Matt Lantz ‘22, son of the film’s producer and director Dan Lantz. Irwin credits Dan Lantz’s leadership and interest with why the experience went so well for her students.
The story of “Hayride to Hell” is summarized as “a small-town farmer (Bill Moseley) exacts his bloody revenge on unscrupulous town folk who try to steal his land with the help of a corrupt sheriff (Kane Hodder).” Both actors are well-known in the horror genre, as one of Moseley’s first large roles was in “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.” Hodder is popular for his four-film run portraying Jason Vorhees, the antagonist in the Friday the 13th franchise, from 1988-2001.
The filming took place on a farm in Malvern, about an hour away from the University. The students were able to work within their availability, in between their classes and other busy schedules, while gaining hands-on experience relevant to their studies.
“Moving from the classroom to the set gives students networking opportunities and several students were hired for jobs after the film wrapped,” says Irwin. “The opportunity to be part of a big team of professionals, working toward the same goal, is a satisfying and rewarding opportunity.”
The world premiere of the film takes place Wednesday, Oct. 26 at the Colonial Theatre located in Phoenixville, Pa. Irwin and her students were invited to the screening, which includes a Q&A session featuring Moseley, Hodder and several other members of the cast and crew.
“I learned a lot and met a lot of great people,” says Peña-Pabon. “This also led me to my second movie set that I just finished working on as a sound PA this past July! It was based in New Jersey, so I got the opportunity to travel over there to work and meet even more people.”
“I am so proud of our students,” Irwin concludes. “They really stepped up as professionals and several crew leads on set shared that they were impressed with our Millersville University students’ abilities and attitudes.”
Interested in a Media Arts Production degree at Millersville? Find more information here.