Metro Technology Centers Digital Film Instructor and deadCenter University Director Harry Wolohon peers through a viewfinder.

Lights, camera, action

Oklahoman high schoolers learn the art of filmmaking at deadCenter University.

“Take 1.”


Few sights and sounds are more associated with a film set than clapping a filming slate, and 89 high schoolers get to experience that moment first-hand.

On June 8 and 9, Oklahoma teens will have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience and training in the film industry, for free, through deadCenter University, a partnership between deadCenter Film Festival and Metro Technology Centers.

“There’s a lot of really cool programs around the state here and there for whether it’s theatre or this film thing,” Metro Technology Centers Digital Film Instructor and deadCenter University Director Harry Wolohon said. “But most of them, if not all of them, require something—some sort of payment. This is free for anybody from freshman year to their senior year.”

On the first day of the program at Green Pastures Studios, students will get to work on four scene scenarios, gaining hands-on guidance from industry professionals including directors of photography (DPs), directors, stunt artists, and special effects makeup artists.

During the second day, at the Metro Tech Downtown Business Campus, participants will hear from panelists currently including: Jon Shryock, who will share about his fabrication shop work; director Kyle Roberts and some cast members from his film “What Rhymes With Reason;” director of photography Andrew Smith; director Milena Govich; screenwriter and director David Cornue; cinematographer Kara Abernathy Choate; director Jeremy Choate; and filmmaking duo Jacob Leighton Burns and Zachary Burns.

Each student also receives two free passes to the festival.

“That’s why we’ve grown to four separate teams of directors and DPs and assistants that’ll assist those groups,” Wolohon said.

click to enlarge Lights, camera, action
Kendra Michal Johnson
Planning for deadCenter University's 2023 program is underway as deadCenter University Director Harry Wolohon (right) and Production Coordinator Noble Banks (left) discuss best options for camera equipment.

This separate group system allows for each of the four groups to be smaller, giving each student more hands-on experience.

Growing the number of participants leads to new challenges, since a growing program needs more industry professionals to supervise and teach.

And Oklahoma’s film industry growth has led some filmmakers to be unable to assist with deadCenter University, due to prior commitments on filming shoots across the state.

“It says that we’re going in the right direction, and it shows to our students like, ‘Hey, we used to have this person, but we’re so busy that that person is on a film set in our own state,’” Wolohon said.

Meanwhile, for Noble Banks, the program has come full circle over the past 10 years.

Banks was a high school student when he attended the first deadCenter University program in 2013 and returned the next year.

“It kind of opened my world to the independent film scene and made it feel a lot closer to the possibility of me being able to pursue this as a career,” he said.

He went on to eventually become a technical assistant at Metro Tech University and production coordinator at deadCenter University.

In these roles, he assists Wolohon in running the program—helping guide students who are standing where he once stood himself.

“I was the first ever returning deadCenter University student to be a director as a part of deadCenter University, you know, nine years later, and then also one of the first returning to have a film actually in the festival, which is a pretty cool milestone,” Banks said.

He recommended that the students attending the program use it as a chance to network and to ask questions of the filmmakers.

“All the professionals that we bring in, are there to teach you,” he said.

More information about the program can be found at

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