Many young people grow up dreaming of winning an Oscar someday. For five student filmmakers from Michigan State University, that dream just got a lot closer to becoming reality.
On Sept. 22, the crew of the student-produced film From Flint: Voices of a Poisoned City formally accepted a Student Academy Award after winning Bronze in the documentary category.
The award qualifies the students to submit their film for a 2016 Oscar alongside other major motion pictures, and represents the first time in MSU's history that a student film has been honored with an award from the Academy.
The award-winning crew includes Liv Larsen (producer), Elise Conklin (director), Izak Gracy (director of photography), Jenna Ange (gaffer) and Lauren Selewski (lead editor). Bob Albers, a senior video specialist in the Department of Media and Information, mentored the students through the class for which they created the film.
“It’s a validation of the quality of our students,” Albers said about the award.
Albers believes the film went all the way because of the professional quality of what he calls “the documentary craft.” He said, too, the film's subject matter is a national issue that many people care about.
He added that the student awards handed out this year by the Academy were particularly remarkable since many new schools from a wide geographic area were recognized.
“This was the first time that more awards were won by non-West Coast people, so that’s really significant,” Albers said. “The winners are not just people from the big schools, the ones that typically get these (awards).”
The whole crew attended the ceremony in Beverly Hills, California, thanks to MSU, the College of Communication Arts and Sciences and the Department of Media and Information.
Larsen said the students had not been together since graduation in the spring of 2016, so the ceremony was a long-anticipated reunion.
Conklin shared her enthusiasm about the award, as well as about the publicity that has helped promote the voices of the people of Flint.
“I’m just completely overwhelmed and so happy that Flint trusted us with their stories and we were able to tell them in a way that’s helping to raise awareness about this issue,” she said.
The film was inspired by a desire to make people realize that the crisis in Flint is not over just because the major news coverage has ceased.
“We know we made something really special, but we weren’t sure if we’d be able to get it out there and distribute it properly,” said Conklin. “But it seems like it’s actually really starting to make a huge impact and we’re so happy that we’re able to get Flint’s story out there and people are actually listening to it.”
By Savannah Swix