Actors, crew members and production staff gathered at John Schneider Studios on March 5 following a full day of shooting scenes around Livingston Parish for Schneider’s newest project: three, 30-minute films.

With the project one day closer to fruition, the group took a break from the cold weather before heading back out after 6 p.m. to continue shooting a scene involving “flipped” cars.

“We’re on our 17th day, and we’ve had someone every day (here to help),” Schneider said about the volunteers who have signed up to work on the film in exchange for receiving hands-on instruction — a rare opportunity for many trying to break into the movie industry.

It didn’t take long for Schneider to realize that the partnership — a marriage of students and film industry veterans — was a perfect fit for his studio.

It “was a great opportunity to get people to come do work for free,” he said.

“And, it helps the community’s spirit,” he said.

Schneider started the Louisiana Film Fellowship, which takes people interested in the movie industry and trains them to do everything from set design, music, electrical work and acting. The concept is not only much cheaper than attending an elite film school for rookies but it provides hands-on, real-life experience, Schneider said.

“I want that person that recorded crickets at 2 a.m. in the morning and thought it was the best sound of crickets they’ve ever heard,” Schneider said.

William Stradley, 25, a native of Baton Rouge, has a passion for writing scripts and on March 5 donned a fur hat and sank ankle deep into wet mud to learn the best camera angles and lightening to shoot a series of scenes involving horses. While the job wasn’t exactly glamorous, Stradley said, it’s just the experience he needs to become a filmmaker.

“I’m learning how to write a script, pitch it, and about cameras and lighting,” Stradley said.

Schneider, best known for his role as Bo Duke in the “Dukes of Hazzard,” also played Jonathan Kent on “Smallville” and now Judge Jim Cryer in the Tyler Perry hit “The Haves and the Have Nots.” He has starred in numerous television, movies and big screen films for more than 35 years and brings a wealth of experience to independent filmmakers in Louisiana.

The Louisiana Film Fellowship includes 10 people of all ages. While there’s no age requirement, and no previous professional experience is necessary to become part of the program, Schneider was adamant that the students must have dedication.

“It takes being willing to work for nothing,” Schneider said.

Schneider first started the fellowship program after a Southeastern Louisiana University professor asked him to mentor some of his television and film students, Schneider said.

Alicia Allain, Schneider’s producing partner, also selects people for the program and recently mentored a mortician to do special-effects makeup.

“Two years from now, I want 10 people who can fill the role of 60,” Schneider said, adding that while it may sound selfish, his goal is also to give back to the Livingston Parish community.

He hopes the people he mentors will mentor others — all in an effort to grow the film industry in Louisiana.

“They’re doing a film (not a school project), and that’s a huge difference,” Schneider said.

For information about John Schneider Studios, visit www.facebook.com/johnschneider studios/.