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Oh, the Horror!

Written by Meghan Swope

Oh, the Horror!

Saw producer Dan Heffner '78 screens his new film at IC: It’s 4:30 p.m. on a gorgeous Friday afternoon, yet the auditorium in the Park School of Communications is packed with students, some of whom have been waiting anxiously in their seats for over three hours. Why? Because Dan Heffner ’78, best known for his work as the producer of the Saw horror film franchise, has returned to campus to host a special sneak preview screening of his latest film, Repo! The Genetic Opera, a rock opera horror that Heffner describes as Rocky Horror Picture Show meets Blade Runner, with an eclectic cast ranging from Sarah Brightman to Paris Hilton.

This screening is a direct result of a previous visit to campus to talk about his career and the Saw franchise. During that event Heffner showed a small clip of Repo, sparking interest in his new film. “Everybody was excited, and as the night wore on I started getting more questions about Repo,” he says. The students urged him to bring the film, which is a limited theatrical release, to IC. Heffner decided to take it one step further by bringing the film to Ithaca as a sneak preview screening -- one of the first in the country -- before its official release.

Watch the official "Repo" trailer:

Screenings like this are not the only thing Heffner does for IC students. Next spring, for the third year in a row, he will sponsor a postproduction seminar for a group of select students chosen by the Park School faculty. Heffner pays for the students to stay in Toronto for a two-day whirlwind look at Saw's postproduction process.

“The experience is really valuable because it’s one area that no film school can give you the full story on because it’s so technically difficult,” he explains. “Last year, it happened the week before we started shooting Saw V, so I gave them a tour of our stage. I think next year it may actually happen while we’re filming Saw VI.

Heffner talks to students during his most recent visit to Ithaca.

Heffner talks with Park students during his most recent visit to Ithaca.

To Heffner, giving back and mentoring students is incredibly important. “Throughout my career, there’s always been somebody out there who gave me that little extra—a production manager who spent a little extra time teaching me, somebody who, when I was young and made a mistake, would overlook it and help me get past it, even here at Ithaca with [former professor] Skip Landen’s support and help. I’ve been very fortunate in my career and in my life to have many good people go that extra step for me, so for me this is my payback.”

The common bond formed between Ithaca College students, regardless of their class year, is also something Heffner appreciates. Fellow IC alumni Mark Berg ’81 and Carl Mazzocone ’81 are two of Heffner’s colleagues at the production company Twisted Pictures. In fact, it was Mazzocone who helped Heffner reconnect with the College. “When my mentor and guiding light Skip Landen retired, I kind of lost touch with the school. Carl had been in touch with Park School Dean Dianne Lynch because there was an event coming up honoring Skip in Los Angeles,” recalls Heffner. “I was in Toronto working on Saw III, and he invited Dean Lynch to come to our set. That was the first time I met her, and she did her amazing pitch of the school and where it was today. We became close and she invited me to Ithaca, so when we finished Saw I made my first trip down here in some time. I’ve been here five or six times since then.”

Heffner has also taught a weekend-long production course in the Park School, an experience he hopes to repeat in the future. “I always find that coming back here -- whether it’s teaching a mini-course, lecturing for a couple of hours, talking in a couple of classes, or even bringing one of my movies here -- is just so invigorating to me, just seeing everybody and how enthused they are, whether they’re freshmen or seniors. It’s just so exciting to be able to share my experiences and keep that enthusiasm alive.”

1 Comment

This sounds really really cool!


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