Drama Class (2011) – By Josh Samford

Within the world of independent cinema, high concept ideas usually lead to two inevitable outcomes. The first is that the filmmakers may take the adversity of crafting something outside of their means, and then step up to the plate and deliver something highly creative. Let’s face it, when you have a 40 million dollar script and a budget of thirty dollars, you have to get pretty innovative. Unfortunately, this isn’t the most commonly traveled road. The more common road is that filmmakers do their best to emulate the movies that they have seen before, and the budget becomes extremely noticeable. As is sometimes the case, filmmakers seem to imagine that by reminding the audience of films that have come before them, this will bring the same enthusiasm to their own project. Unfortunately, it only leads to comparisons being drawn when the quality levels don’t seem to match up. Although Drama Class stands out as a film that tries its best to be something much larger than it actually is, it is unfortunately smothered under the weight of its own commitment to the genre.

Drama Class is a comedy film that follows the daily happenings of a small town college that has recently been opened. In this peculiar school we find numerous young people with their own laundry list of problems. However, their world is seemingly about to change when a new reality show decides that their school will be the perfect setting for their "theater based" reality show. The dean of the school is a young woman who may be a bit in-over-her-head, but she gets away with it because she is the young trophy wife of the boss of the Marconi crime family. She loves the idea of potentially becoming a star, and eagerly anticipates this new reality program within her school. Many of the young people are also quick to jump for their own chance at stardom, but as the start date for the reality show looms closer this group finds that there are things more important to them than just being on a television show.

High concept goals aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but they usually don’t work out if there isn’t enough budget to make the onscreen happenings seem believable. While some of the acting in Drama Class is actually impressive enough to sustain an aura of beliveability, there are times when the filmmakers try too hard and we are reminded of the budgetary restraints behind the project. When the movie sets itself within the offices of a huge network, for instance, it simply falls flat because everything looks too cheap. Although there are probably easier ways to give the idea that your movie is set within the confines of Rockefeller Center than actually shooting in New York City, you still have to at least present sets that help the audience believe in the illusion. During these earliest scenes, I found myself wondering what the filmmakers were inevitably going for. Would this be a faux-documentary? Would it be a spoof of the reality-TV culture? As it turns out, the movie is neither of these things. Instead it seems to be a title that hopes to evoke memories of American Pie or various other teen-comedies that have come about within the past two decades. The success rates for this are mixed, unfortunately.

While I do think that Drama Class has its moments, the meandering plot and distant characters never have a chance to grab the audience. The cast does a fair job for newcomers, and they try their best even though many are lost within the large cast of characters. The post-production video effects within the movie are also very well handled. Although this is a movie that may step above and beyond its budget level, it still retains a certain coat of gloss due to the color filters used and the striking credit sequence used at the start of the movie. While I am also talking about the positive areas within the movie, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the beautiful girls that are found within this little indie movie! A quick look at the Drama Class website will only verify my opinion, the ladies found in this small university can only be described as heavenly!

While I did not love the movie, the filmmakers have some promising areas that they can build off of within the future. The movie tackles many "college" ideals, and tries to be witty about it, but inevitably falls into the same trappings that many of these movies do (weak characters, episodic nature of the plot, etc.) but it must also contend with a very limited budget. Writer and director John Salvatorelli shows a lot of courage in attempting such a large concept with his feature film, I have to give him that. I think this film might be a bit much for even the most seasoned independent filmmaker, and perhaps he will step forward with a stronger work in his next effort. If you’re interested in learning more about this project, however, you can visit the official website at:

http://www.dramaclassthemovie.com