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Odyssey Program lets students live out their Hollywood dreams

Odyssey Program lets students live out their Hollywood dreams"LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION!" Odyssey Program lets students live out their Hollywood dreams

When one thinks about all the glitz and glamour surrounding Hollywood, it’s merely a pipe dream for most to live out that fantasy.

Thanks to the CSU Odyssey Program, high school students can catch a glimpse of it.

Made possible by a generous gift from Lee and Ageleke Zapis, the Odyssey Program at CSU’s School of Film and Media Arts gets the creative juices flowing with a range of options for high school students interested in learning the art of cinematography. There, students can hone their skills in various behind-the-scenes inner workings of film, including acting and directing, screenwriting, and postproduction.

The session runs during June and July and includes an experimental three-week camp, followed by three one-week intensive camps emphasizing acting and directing, screenwriting, and postproduction, with residential and day options available.

Students who choose the residential option stay in dorm accommodations in CSU’s Fenn Tower and experience scheduled trips and activities throughout their stay. This essentially gives them an immersive taste of what life as a School of Film & Media Arts (FMA) student is like.

“Cleveland needs to attract and retain young people who can build an entrepreneurial community that will continue to lift Northeast Ohio’s economy,” said Dr. Ellen Rooney, Odyssey and Student Success Program Coordinator in the FMA and serves as a part-time instructor there for Acting and Screenwriting.

“A vibrant film school can function as a stealth literacy program as it motivates kids to get their high school diplomas and go on to college – if a job in the exciting entertainment industry is within reach!”

What better way to channel inspiration for filmmaking than at historic Playhouse Square, where a space featuring a 36,000-square-foot layout complete with 24-foot studio ceilings, two 2,000+ square-foot sound stages, and ample natural light awaits.

But, of course, the best inspiration lies outside the windows, where sweeping views of downtown Cleveland and Lake Erie are fully displayed. With professional, industry-grade equipment ready at the whip, it’s clear the Odyssey Program is an up-and-coming director's dream.

“Odyssey offers a diverse program that gives those interested students an in-depth educational experience and pre-professional training in film and media,” said Rooney. “Our approach is to see each Odyssey student as a young professional and emerging artist.”

When discussing support, look no further than hearing from professionals with real-world experience. The lineup of guest speakers includes:

  • Mike Wendt – Great Cleveland Film Festival
  • Shannon Ashlstrand – Headshot Photographer, Cleveland Actress with The Talent Group
  • Kevin Inouye – Screen combat instructor and choreographer, CWR
  • Frank Crim – Hollywood Actor and Producer
  • Ron George – Special Effects Creator

Eden Scigliano is a current freshman at CSU majoring in film and plans to get into the acting/directing track in future years. She participated in the Odyssey Camp during the summer of 2021.

“I always knew that I would go into film school ever since preschool, [so for] me, the Odyssey Camp was just a way of better understanding the film world from being on-screen to editing,” she said. “The Odyssey Camp was the reason I chose to attend CSU; it showed me how much the film program at CSU has to offer.”

According to Rooney, the program’s goal is to enlighten and broaden each Odyssey student's understanding of how the film industry works, all with the support of CSU Faculty and FMA Film Student Counselors who assist the students who hone their skills and support the creative process.

“When Odyssey students accomplish their goals – create their film vision – they begin to believe in their dreams of a career and future in the Arts and Entertainment industry,” she said. “We strive to build a community of artists and for campers to make a circle of friends who last long after the Odyssey program.”

The result is valuable first-hand experience doing what they love and the chance to have their creations used down the road to help them advance even further. Many in Northeast Ohio are taking notice.

“At the conclusion of each program, students will be provided with a copy of their film short or scene for their reels,” said Rooney. “Some plan on using their work for college admissions portfolios and others for possible submission into film festivals; in screenwriting, their ending script will be performed at a final table read on the last day of the program.”

Scigliano agrees that the program benefits those pursuing a degree in film.

“For high schoolers considering attending, I suggest they do,” she said. “The friends that you make all summer and beyond, [along] with the experience you get from professional headshots to filming and editing your documentary all by yourself, the hands-on activities open your eyes to the potential that the film industry has for each person.”

Those reading this who have students aged 13-18 that might be interested in signing up for this unique opportunity can visit

About Cleveland State University
Founded in 1964, Cleveland State University is a public research institution providing a dynamic environment for Engaged Learning. With nearly 16,000 students, 10 colleges and schools, and more than 175 academic programs, CSU was again chosen for 2021 as one of America’s best universities by U.S. News & World Report, including the #1 public university in Ohio for social mobility. Find more information at