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Home · Articles · Movies · Features · Chamber Chief

Chamber Chief

A Oklahoma City Community College student preps to direct a Holocaust-based film funded entirely by private donations.

Emily Summars July 6th, 2011

Shawn Barfield hopes his film — currently in pre-production and originally his capstone project at Oklahoma City Community College — is more than a mere hit.

“We’re trying to build an industry here in Oklahoma,” said Barfield, who serves as writer, director and executive producer. “When you contribute to this film, you’re contributing to a lot of students who are going to put in a lot of time and effort.”

As a student at OCCC, Barfield’s helped with a lot of others’ capstone projects, granting him time to see what worked and what didn’t.

“I insisted I would give myself a very easy project with a modern setting,” he said.

While Barfield’s brain told him one thing, his heart told him something totally different. After reading an article online on the subject, he knew his production would be set during World War II, with a focus on Nazi concentration camps and Judaism. Going against everything he originally said, he ran the idea by his wife, who will design sets and props after extensive research on the time period.

“I’ve researched things like what does the inside of a gas chamber look like, what’s a rabbi’s office look like, a Nazi office look like,” she said. “I have to think of colors, lighting, textures, everything to get a certain feeling across on a very limited budget.”

“Dancing in the Chamber” is budgeted at $40,000, while the average OCCC student film is budgeted at $1,000, Shawn Barfield said.


Associate producer and University of Central Oklahoma student Austin Crawford is helping fund and fundraise for the film because it’s a story that “has to be told.”

Crawford said Barfield’s 15-page script was better than the 120-page scripts he read during his internship at Warner Bros. in California.

“Dancing in the Chamber” is the story of Menachem. After his family is taken away, murdered before his eyes, he is shipped to a concentration camp.

“Menachem is obviously surrounded by defeat and death and all of these things constantly. This film is about him finding that victory internally within himself to keep going,” Barfield said, describing the character’s journey as trying to find a victory over the Nazis.

“It’s a type of violence that happens every day,” Crawford said. “It fights violence with a power of pride. If a person doesn’t have self-dignity or self worth, they have nothing.”

Barfield also e-mailed his script to fellow student Chris Butcher.

“I read it that night and called the next morning,” Butcher said. “I said, ‘You know, I’ve got to be a part of this.’”


So what’s different between this and other Holocaust dramas, where high emotions and themes of death are just de rigueur?

“The stories visually told enrich all of our lives,” said Butcher, who serves as producer. “My personal love of this story is it’s about one man under incredible pressure that takes his personal identity back. He celebrates himself, even though everything in the absolute worse possible way is telling him not to.”

Once complete, “Dancing in the Chamber” will sport gritty cinematography and a percussionbased music score. It also, Barfield said, will be like nothing you’ve ever seen.

“It doesn’t focus on religion or spirituality; however, I think the film touches upon some spiritual aspects within Judaism in relation to the Holocaust,” he said. “As I’m researching, it’s a big question within Judaism: How does this fit into theology? They’re divided on how does (Nazi persecution) relate to God.”

Emphasizing that his film is not religious-based, but rather character-driven, Barfield hopes it will bring the eyes of the industry toward Oklahoma.

“This film will prove that wasn’t made by a film company with millions of dollars. It was students who really dug deep,” Barfield said.

Added his wife, “People should care because there’s not a huge film industry in our state, and I think that the more that we support our local filmmakers, the stronger that industry will become. I love Oklahoma and living here.”

Filming is scheduled for Oct. 17-21 during fall break, at a rate of roughly three pages a day. Casting begins today with auditions for speaking parts at 6 p.m. at the OCCC VPAC Building. For more information or to make a donation, visit

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