Fresh Films studio arrives to Augustana campus

Savi+Jayawardana+works+in+the+Fresh+Films+office+as+an+intern+this+summer.

Savi Jayawardana works in the Fresh Films office as an intern this summer.

Augustana College announced its partnership with Fresh Films studio on May 3. Fresh Films is a non-profit film studio and a part of Dreaming Films, Inc., which is based out of Chicago, IL. Headed by Augustana alum Estlin Fiegley (’93) and his wife Kelli, the studio allows students the opportunity to work on the production of various television shows such as the children’s series, Moochie Kalala Detectives Club.

According to Provost Pareena Lawrence, the Fiegley’s mentioned that they were looking for a new home for Fresh Films to Dr. Jeff Coussens, Professor of Theatre, and Coussens encouraged them to pursue a partnership with Augustana College.

Coussens has known Estlin since he was an Augustana student. He directed Estlin in lead roles on Potter Hall stage and kept up with his postgraduate career. In the spring of 2015, the two met for coffee at a Chicago diner and Estlin mentioned to Coussens that he was looking to create college partnership that would further Fresh Film’s educational mission.

“At the time they were primarily looking at colleges and universities in the Chicago area but as we talked more about the educational content and cross-disciplinary nature of the Fresh Films experience, it seemed like Augustana was a perfect fit,” said Coussens.

The two met with President Bahls and other Augustana faculty after drafting a proposal for bringing Fresh Films to campus.

“We met with President Bahls and others who shared the vision not just for Augustana but for the area in general to be a cool, creative, and prosperous community where businesses, particularly artistic ones such as ours, made their home,” said Estlin, co-founder and Director of Fresh Films and Dreaming Tree Films.

The partnership between Fresh Films and Augustana College will explore the interdisciplinary areas of the studio and the liberal arts education.

“The Feigley’s have a deep appreciation for the liberal arts and Augustana College and recognize how a liberal arts background prepares students for a range of careers, including in the entertainment industry,” said Lawrence.

According to Erin Platt, Fresh Film’s VP of Marketing and Community Outreach, a film studio is a rare resource to offer undergraduates at a liberal arts college. Both the college and Fresh Films will be able to benefit through this partnership.

“Because our core product focuses on education, it only made sense to look for ways to also institutionalize the program within an academic setting that had resources available to help provide administrative structure for those educational opportunities,” said Estlin. 

Fresh Films studio uses a unique model, as noted by Platt,: “teens are behind-the-scenes.” Each summer, Fresh Films travels to major cities in the U.S., such as New York, Chicago, and Atlanta to provide free one-week apprenticeships to teens. [The apprenticeships] expose teenagers to career possibilities using STEM skills or the applied arts in this exciting, growing industry – all while also teaching life skills such as leadership, problem-solving, and teamwork,” said Platt.

Fresh Film’s versatility will offer a wide range of internships for Augustana students. During the fall, the studio will expand their internship opportunities. “This fall Fresh Films will work with the faculty across disciplines to begin to develop the film/media concentration. There will also be opportunities for students in accounting, pre-law, computer science, and any number of fields,” said Platt. According to Platt the studio is already working with student interns in the areas of production, PR, marketing, and business operations this summer. 

Kent Barnds, executive Vice President and vice president of Enrollment, Communication, and Planning of Augustana College, says that the college hopes to add an academic component, a major or minor, related to film in the future.

“Whether students decide to pursue a career in the entertainment industry or a different field altogether, these professional experiences will set Augustana students apart from their peers,” said Lawrence.