The TMU cinema and digital arts emphasis is rolling out a pair of ambitious projects this academic year. The first is a part live-action, part animated television series developed specifically for children. The second is an expanded series of Winterim courses aimed at producing and advertising the university’s latest short film production, this one featuring a superhero concept.
Associate professor Matt Green is the mastermind behind these projects. The children’s television show is titled Franklin & Beans. The idea was introduced to Green over the summer when a friend of his mentioned that TMU should produce a kid’s show that could more than likely be licensed to various places. Hesitant at first, Green ultimately decided to go for it.
“I had an idea about a kid and his pet dog, which would be a puppet. As for the name, I wanted to think of something fun and Frank and Beans is an old joke, so I thought incorporating that was really catchy” Green said.
After figuring out what the “vibe” of the show would be, Green reached out to Dr. Abner Chou, interim president of TMU, and presented the idea to him. Green and Chou both wanted “Franklin & Beans” to stand out amongst other children’s television shows. They desired this show to, “deal with heavy theological truths and dig deeper than surface level stuff” Green said. Once the overall goal for the show was determined, Green and Dr. Bob Dickson, chair of the department, began working on the scripts and putting the show together.
Dickson collaborated with Green and Chou to create the story ideas. Camden Specht, a junior at TMU, wrote out eight final scripts, while Green wrote the other two. Green sought out Specht after he had him in one of his previous classes, “wanting him to be a part of this opportunity” Green said.
Specht states, “Since getting to Master’s I’ve written many scripts, though ‘Franklin & Beans’ has been the first time I’ve had to alter that style. I found myself constantly having to break away from my ‘bigger words’ and I constantly thought ‘how on earth am I supposed to teach assurance or what the crucifixion really means with small words in six minutes or less?’”
The plot is about a boy named Franklin and his best friend Beans, a puppet in the form of a dog. In every episode, which is about 12 minutes long, Franklin undergoes some struggle that he is trying to figure out, one that can be answered biblically. To help guide Franklin past these struggles, his older brother, Mason, is introduced.
“I wanted it to be more about siblings coming in and helping. We all have siblings and we should be encouraging them to step up and be positive spiritual influences” Green said. The advice Mason brings Franklin incorporates the biblical concepts that Green and Chou had discussed prior to production. Season one, which went into production in mid-September, tackles topics including the assurance of salvation, the sovereignty of God in all circumstances, justice and fairness, the holiness of God and whether or not the world is good or evil.
“We definitely didn’t shy away from the challenging topics,” Dickson said. “That’s something we feel makes this show really special.”
As for the visual of the show, it is a combination of live action, as well as animation. The show opens in Franklin’s bedroom, being the live action portion and as he begins to tell Mason his stories, the show switches to the animation. The episodes conclude in live action as Mason then helps guide Franklin through his problems.
Green claims that the live action portion of the show has already been filmed, taking only two days, while the animated portion is still being completed and “should be done over the course of this semester and next semester.” However, though the release date is up in the air, Green hopes that it should be released “in the fall of 2022, God-willing.”
The other project Green is excited about is the new Winterim TV pilot, “The Shade”, being created in January 2022. Winterim classes only last one week before the second semester begins and each Winterim, TMU puts on a film production, led by Green. However, this upcoming pilot is moving in a completely different direction.
“This year we’re doing our first ever superhero concept, it’s going to be a big deal. We’re going to have fight sequences and a lot of really cool and unique stuff that we’ve never done before” Green explains.
The overall idea of “The Shade”, is that the superhero “is able to use shadows” in a unique way to creatively express teleportation. Green also explains that, “along with this, he will also have super strength and a few other powers.”
One of the most unique differences of this particular film is the use of a model shoot. Already built, Green states that this model is going to be the “opening of the film.” The model is a building constructed on plywood, with various creative details to make it look convincing and the opening is going to be shot in a way that makes the model look realistic.
This production will take place on campus, as sets will be built inside the Music Recital Hall. Because of the locality, more students are going to partake in this opportunity. Instead of the usual three classes that take place during Winterim, there are now six different classes who are working to put this project together. This meaning, the student body involved will grow from once being around 60, to now over 70 students. Green is especially excited because, “it is students from all over campus, not just comm. students who work to put these productions together.”
This upcoming Winterim project is exceptionally exciting since the particular superhero concept has never been done before at TMU and as Green states, “that’s probably the most popular genre out there and we’re always trying to do new, cool stuff. It should be a lot of fun.”