The hands of a clock tick by and the camera cuts to a shot of elevator doors closing. Loud footsteps echo as a professor makes his way to his classroom. He takes a bite of an apple before scrawling his name, professor Semmelweis, messily on a chalkboard.
“Welcome to Psychology 101,” he says, with eerie electronic music playing in the background.
The Hollywood Eagles’ short film Class is in Session screened at the Nyack International Film Festival in Nyack, N.Y. on April 18. Originally filmed in spring 2022, Class is in Session is the second major project of Boston College’s film-making club in the post-pandemic era.
Class is in Session is a seven-minute short film that follows the mental decline of fictional psychology professor Semmelweis, played by Matthew Leonard, MCAS ’24. The film takes place over the course of one of Semmelweis’ lectures. He begins his lecture with an aloof demeanor and disheveled appearance. Over the film’s runtime, Semmelweis drifts off into philosophical tirades as he descends into a manic state. Leonard compared this progression into madness to that of the Joker and Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of Jack Torrance in The Shining.
“Over the shoot, it was mentally draining having to act insane take in and take out,” Leonard said. “The filming process itself can drive you mad with how many takes you have to do … but I enjoy acting and the shapeshifting nature of entering a role that is foreign to your daily experience.”
Class is in Session’s protagonist parallels Ignaz Semmelweis, a Hungarian physician who suggested that hand washing could prevent the spread of disease. With his ideas unable to be proven with the technology at the time, he became angry and disgruntled and was later institutionalized.
According to Dan Carroll, co-director of Class is in Session and BC ’22, the film came together in a short amount of time. With the club still reforming following the COVID-19 pandemic and Dominic Floreno, co-director of Class is in Session, president of the Hollywood Eagles, and MCAS ’23, studying abroad, the process had to move quickly, according to Carroll.
“We shot everything in one day, which was our goal with [Class is in Session]—to write, shoot, and produce it given limited time constraints,” Carroll said. “[Floreno] and I video called even though he was thousands of miles away so we could finish the post-production of Class.”
To prepare for its premiere at the Nyack International Film Festival, Class is in Session underwent several revisions, according to Floreno. Initially filmed as the first part of an experimental anthology series, the project was later repurposed into its own feature short film in the fall of 2022.
“We basically re-edited the short film into a stand-alone project,” Floreno said. “We had to change the entire first scene in order to strip the short film of its former anthology branding. Of course, we redid the color correction for [the film] and reshot the ending with different actors.”
Floreno said that they also re-recorded the score of the film with help from Brendan Mcgillicuddy, BC ’22.
A new poster of Class is in Session for the Nyack International Film Festival features the added tagline “it’s time to learn who you really are,” which was absent from the thumbnails of the original release.
Class is in Session is also available on the club’s Youtube channel.
COVID-era restrictions on student activities made shooting films almost impossible for the Hollywood Eagles, according to Floreno. He said that the Hollywood Eagles had been dying out since 2019 and basically stopped existing after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When we inherited the club, we were really just getting it on paper,” Floreno said. “So to see the club grow so much and to be putting out stuff that’s getting you into festivals in such a short amount of time [has] been amazing.”
Since its resurgence, Hollywood Eagles is no stranger to the Northeast’s burgeoning film festival scene. Their previous project, The Thing About Love, screened at New York’s Trinity Film Festival and New Jersey’s Lovesick Film Festival in the spring of 2022.
The recent revival of Hollywood Eagles and production of Class is in Session can be attributed to the club’s new style of filmmaking, according to Floreno. All of its post-pandemics films are the result of a centralized production process that mimics that of a film studio, Floreno said. Floreno said he credits the new ambition of projects like Class is in Session to this model that allows members of Hollywood Eagles to exercise more centralized creative control over their projects.
Class is in Session is the Hollywood Eagles’ second attempt at the student-led studio model, their first being The Thing About Love, released in the fall of 2021.
“We were able to be very clear and specific with our roles, but because we’re working in this really sweet spot, medium size crew range of like, you know, 12 to 15 people on crew for each project, the people running the shoot on said day never really interfere with the creative process,” Floreno said.