A freshman’s first class can feel thrilling, but for Tyler Felts, a screenwriting and theatre arts major, his first motion pictures production class felt intimidating.
“The teacher came in, and it was so intense,” Felts said. “I was freaked out. When class was over and everyone left, I went up to him and said, ‘Look, I’ve never held a video camera in my life. Can I take this class or even do this?’”
Felts answered his own question as time went on. Now a sophomore, he is the chair of QuantUM Entertainment (QE), the University of Miami’s student-run theatre production program.
As chair, Felts decides whether directors can do, buy or use certain things for their shows. Shows produced under his tenure include “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “Little Shop of Horrors” from the fall 2014 semester. Felts oversees other productions such as talents shows, poetry showcases and shows by UM’s improv performance group UProv as well.
“He has incredible ideas that have taken us very far,” said Rachel Barrales, QE’s vice chair. In particular, she mentioned how Felts works to broaden the choice of UM-approved vendors, potentially allowing QE to buy more diverse props for different shows.
Outside of QE, Felts follows his passion for theatrical thrill through Delta Kappa Alpha (DKA), a cinematic-art-focused fraternity whose UM chapter he co-founded in 2014. Felts acts as the scholarship chair and the showrunner chair. As showrunner chair, he heads the screenwriting branch of the fraternity.
“Tyler is one of those people who came into UM and immediately started getting involved on campus,” said Josh Strone, president and co-founder of DKA. “To me, his tenacity really goes underappreciated. It’s something that really pushes him forward.”
According to Felts, his foray into theatre began in high school. One play in particular, “Laramie Project” by playwright Moisés Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project, left a lasting impression on him. The play portrays the reaction to the 1998 murder of a University of Wisconsin gay student in Laramie, Wyoming. Felts played the victim’s father.
“That was the hardest, emotionally draining performance I’ve ever done,” Felts said. “That’s what theatre was all about to me. It’s that emotional catharsis. This can truly be powerful work. You can use it to try to change the world.”
Felts’ involvement on campus is driven by his own curiosity of new environments. For Felts, coming to Miami “wasn’t a huge culture shock” as some may think of a person from northern Kentucky.
“There were so many new opportunities,” Felts said. “I wanted to try this, and I wanted to try that. I just want to go out and try a bunch of things. I’m going to go skydiving with one of my friends, and I’m actually terrified of that, but I’m going to go do it. I want to try all the new foods and experience all the different cultures.”
That love for doing new things was a boon for Felts in his production class freshman year. His final project, a three-minute long musical movie, involved direction, cinematography, editing, writing, lighting, sound design and choreography – all done by Felts in 24 hours, alongside “wonderful actors with amazing talent.”
“I decided to prove to myself and my teacher that I could do lighting, sound, direction, shooting, writing and everything,” Felts said. “I’m never doing that again, but that was one of my most rewarding experiences. I actually made something that was decent. I did it to prove that I could do it and that I belong in this major.”