Ross School - Senior Projects 2010

Student: Alexa Barrett

Mentor: Kenneth Kilfara


Title: Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

Description: For my senior project, I have created a narrative film based on an important literary work by Joyce Carol Oates that was inspired by my interests in both film and literature. After receiving permission from Ms. Oates to film her story, I worked over the summer to co-write, with Grant Curatola, the screenplay. I then worked through August organizing pre-production which included putting together of crew consisting of a cinematographer, sound engineer, lighting engineer, camera assistant, make-up artist and set manager. I conducted auditions and did casting.   I directed the film during the four day Labor Day weekend and then spent the past four months editing the film, which includes obtaining legal permission to use music for the soundtrack.


Trailer for film:




I began my senior project in January of 2009 when I received the rights and permission from Joyce Carol Oates to write an adaptation in the form of a screenplay of her short story Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Ms. Oates also gave me permission to produce a student production of that screenplay.

I began writing my screenplay, in collaboration with Grant Curatola, throughout May and June. I attended a 5-day screenwriting-workshop at Stony Brook University in Southampton and work shopped my screenplay and formed it to what it is now, with Craig Lucas. I would write pages in the afternoon, come in for morning class where there was a team of actors that would read our pages aloud for the class, and then return home and re-edit according to the response and feedback I got from the class.

I studied at NYU Tisch for four weeks in July with other senior high school students to learn and finesse the production side of filmmaking, including learning how to master Final Cut Pro, the editing software that I used to edit my film. At NYU, there was a strong focus on how to tell a story visually. Generally, there was a film studies class from 9am-11am, learning and interpretating the creative strategies of other directors and producers and how they incorporated different uses of the camera and set. We would then break into groups and were given an assignment, a video exercise we would need to complete by 4pm. The group (usually 3-4 students) would brainstorm over lunch, go out into the city and shoot, and then return to Tisch at 4pm. We would then edit together the short piece until 7, break for dinner, and return at 8 for a night lecture that usually lasted until 10:30pm. These lectures usually consisted of learning how to best tell a story conceptually and visually, studying topics such as plot and character development.

Upon returning from my time at NYU, I immediately was thrown into the stress of pre-production. Organizing a professional film crew together, holding casting auditions for all of the roles but the male lead, and once cast, reviewing the script every night with Mr. Kilfara (male lead) and Tina (female lead).  We filmed the script in 4 days over labor day weekend, beginning Thursday night and ending Sunday evening at sunset. The days usually lasted for at least 16 hours, which was very strenuous, but I really developed my directing skills during this time, as well as my role as producer. Overcoming my fear and shyness in directing my classmates, teachers, and the professional film crew (all of which had already graduated from film school) was one of my greatest accomplishments that weekend.

After filming in September, I returned to school and had several difficulties dealing with hard drive crashes. Dealing with technology, apart from know how to use the editing software Final Cut Pro, was a challenge that I had not seen coming. Uploading and organizing the footage that accumulated to be more than forty hours was a time-consuming and grueling process, one that was not fun or engaging in any matter because it did not involve any creative thinking, just time to sort through footage and label it. Once I finished this, which took a month and a half to complete, I began working on my rough cut, which is the first general grouping of clips in the order of the script, which becomes further developed as the editing process continues. My first rough cut was completed in November, at 40 minutes. My final edit of the film was twenty-four minutes and thirty seconds, completed at 1:30am on January 12th.

Works Consulted

Burt, Richard. “Becoming Literary, Becoming Historical:  The Scale of Female Authorship in Becoming Jane.” Adaptation: The Journal of Literature on Screen Studies Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK 1: 1 (2008) 58-62.

Daly, Brenda. “An Unfilmable Conclusion:  Joyce Carol Oates at the Movies.”  Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Joyce Carol Oates, edited and with an introduction by Elaine Showalter.  Rutgers University Press, 1994.  145-162.

Douglas, Pamela. Writing the TV Drama Series, Second Edition. Studio City, CA: Michael Wiese Productions, 2007.

Hauge, Michael. Writing Screenplays that Sell. New York: 1st HarperPerennial, 1991.

Iglesias, Karl. Writing for Emotional Impact. Livermore, CA: WingSpan Press, 2005.

Jolliffe, Genevieve, and Chris Jones. The Guerilla Film Makers Handbook. New York: Continuum, 2004

Lucas, Craig. The Dying Gaul and other screenplays. New York: Alyson Books, 2008.

MacLusky, Julie.  Is There Life After Film School. New York:  Continuum International Publishing Group Inc. 2003.

Moser, Don.  “The Pied Piper of Tucson: He Cruised in a Golden Car, Looking for the Action.”  “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Joyce Carol Oates, edited and with an introduction by Elaine Showalter.  Rutgers University Press, 1994.  51-66.

Oates, Joyce Carol.  “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? The Best Short Stories of the Century. Ed. John Updike. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1999. 450-465.

Oates, Joyce Carol.  “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” and Smooth Talk:  Short Story in Film.”  “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Joyce Carol Oates, edited and with an introduction by Elaine Showalter.  Rutgers University Press, 1994.  67-74.

Community Member (Details)

ROBERT REEVES is the author of two critically acclaimed novels, both published by Crown, as well as short fiction, essays, and literary criticism. Kirkus Review hailed Doubting Thomas as "a zesty, classy original," and Patricia Holt of the San Francisco Chronicle called Peeping Thomas "funny, disturbing, and brilliant." Reeves, a professor and Director of the MFA in Writing and Literature Program at Stony Brook Southampton, has also taught writing at Harvard and Princeton. He critiqued my screenplay during pre-production and gave me feedback on the film once it was edited.