Students Debut Feature Film at Traverse City Film Festival

Imagine audience members forming a line outside the theater, waiting to get in to see the next big movie. Your movie. The one you helped write, film, edit and produce as part of 100-person production as a student. Popcorn is purchased, seats are located and anticipation hangs in the air.

All of this is possible at the College of Communication Arts and Sciences. In addition to a film and media production concentration from the Media and Information Department and minors in fiction filmmaking and documentary production, ComArtSci has a unique opportunity for budding filmmakers: Theater2Film.

The Big Production
Last year’s Theater2Film feature, “Stay With Me,” debuted at the Traverse City Film Festival this summer. Throughout the entire 2017 spring semester, students were managing budgets, staying on top of production schedules, designing shot compositions, shooting on the weekends and discussing performances with actors (who were also students) among dozens of other tasks - there was an overwhelming amount to do. Luckily, the cast and crew was comprised of nearly 100 students.

“Working with [that many] students on a film is a big undertaking, but it gives you a good picture of what it’s like in the professional world,” said Anna Young ’17, a recent Media and Information graduate and one of the supervising producers of the film. “You have to have great communication skills.”

While Young managed budgetary details and coordinated the overall process, other students like Kim Labick ’17, one of the film’s directors, oversaw the details of the story itself. From pre-production to filming to post-production, she was involved in every step of the film’s creation.

“Being a director for any film is essentially balancing the chaos of the creative side with the organization of the production side,” said Labick, a recent media and information graduate. “It’s definitely hectic and sometimes seems overwhelming, but to me it felt like absolute mental freedom.”

Organized Chaos
Though distributing tasks to a large number of people can ease the workload for some, working with that many individuals can bring new challenges. Media and Information graduate Amy Wagenaar ’17, who was one of the directors of photography, remembers feeling nothing but resilience as the group worked to overcome every obstacle.

“In the face of constant setbacks and external and internal issues, the students were able to come together to make a feature-length film,” said Wagenaar. “The film community of MSU is a tough crowd. We know how to deal with almost every single setback, because we’ve experienced it firsthand.”

Media and Information sophomore Hannah Byrd dove into her passions as a freshman and became the youngest of the assistant directors for the project. Byrd admitted that finding her passion within the industry wasn’t easy, but she has advice for other budding moviemakers.

“Follow your gut feeling as to what you want to pursue and start with that,” said Byrd. “It’s okay if there are some twists and turns and you decide you want to do something different later. If you’re passionate about something, go for it, and if you’re passionate about something different later, that’s fine. At least it’s a path to get there.”

“Stay With Me” was only Theater2Film’s third feature. As the program evolves, there will be plenty of room for future student filmmakers to find their place and their passion in the chaos of it all.

By Kaitlin Dudlets