Graduate film students will have the opportunity to learn from industry insiders through a new partnership between Lipscomb University’s film and creative media program and Town Square Pictures, a full-service feature film production company.
Cameras will roll in early March on “The Secret Handshake,” a family comedy written and directed by Howie Klausner, whose credits include “Space Cowboys” and “Soul Surfer.” The film is part of a unique partnership between Lipscomb and Town Square Pictures that will give students in the university’s film and creative media graduate studies program the opportunity to work with industry professionals to gain hands-on experience in various phases of film production.
“This partnership is significant for the Lipscomb program and not only provides our students valuable real-world experience, but it provides opportunities that other programs don’t have,” said Lipscomb University President L. Randolph Lowry. “It is unique for a university to have a partnership like this with an existing production company. We are very excited about the education and practice experience our students will have as a result.”
“The Secret Handshake” is the story of trouble-making teenage boys and their journey to manhood, taught by men who never quite learned what it takes to be a man. Starring in the film is actor Kevin Sorbo, best known for portraying Hercules in the TV series “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys” and Captain Hunt in the series “Andromeda.” The production will be filmed on the Lipscomb campus as well as at other locations in Nashville.
Klausner and his Town Square Pictures partner, producer Tim Brown (“The Grace Card,” “The Identical”) have served as advisors for Lipscomb’s program since early last year. They believe this partnership is a natural connection for the two organizations.
“This production will serve as a laboratory for the students,” said Klausner. “We want to see Lipscomb’s program develop into a training ground to build a bigger film industry in Nashville. There is nothing like rolling up your sleeves and getting hands-on experience to prepare you for a career in any field.”
University partnerships with production companies are rare.
“It is quite unusual for a university or film school to partner with a production company with industry veterans,” said Mike Fernandez, assistant professor of theatre and director of the film and creative media program at Lipscomb. “Some of the elite programs in the country do this. We are very fortunate to have this opportunity.
Fernandez said Town Square Pictures is known in the industry as “family-friendly filmmakers.”
“Their approach fits with the values of the Lipscomb theatre, film and creative media program and with the type of students we hope to produce,” said Fernandez.
A Nashville native, Klausner's career began with the Clint Eastwood-directed blockbuster, “Space Cowboys.” Recent screen credits include “Soul Surfer,” “The Grace Card,” “The Last Ride,” and “The Identical,” starring Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd and Seth Green, in theaters this fall.
The partnership between Lipscomb and Town Square Productions also benefits the community.
“The collaboration between Town Square Pictures and Lipscomb highlights the importance of investing in locally developed film projects,” said Bob Raines, executive director of the Tennessee film, entertainment and music commission. “This partnership provides a training model, which can build upon our assets and develop a long term sustainable infrastructure for the state of Tennessee’s production community.”
“The Secret Handshake” is set for release in theaters this fall.
The Lipscomb University Department of Theatre, Film and Creative Media is “dedicated to training the next generation of believer artists who seek to have a positive influence on the world and become leaders in the entertainment industry,” said Fernandez.
The department offers undergraduate Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees in musical theatre, directing, acting and design tech as well as Bachelor of Arts degrees in theatre ministry and theatre education and a graduate program in film and creative media. Each year the program produces a series of award-winning performances including “Les Miserables” this past fall, selling out all four evening performances for a total audience of more than 4,000; “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat;” “Hair Spray;” “Shrek the Musical” and many others. The theater also hosts the award-winning Blackbird Theater as its theater troupe-in-residence. Fernandez has been named the best theater director in Nashville, and the placement rate for theatre students in the first year after graduation is more than 90 percent.
For more information visit www.lipscomb.edu/film, www.lipscomb.edu/theater or www.thesecrethandshakemovie.com. Follow production information on Twitter at @TSHmovieinfo, on Instagram at thesecrethandshakemovie, on YouTube at YouTube.com/secrethandshakemovie and on Vine at thesecrethandshakemovie.