Students Work Behind the Scenes at Traverse City Film Festival

Several Michigan State University student-produced films were screened at the 2016 Traverse City Film Festival (TCFF) scheduled for July 26-31 in Traverse City, Michigan. The films featured the work of MSU’s College of Communication Arts and Sciences, College of Arts & Letters, and College of Music.

Here is a complete list of all the MSU student-produced films that will be shown at the festival.

Feature-Length Film

Sorta Late

A Theatre 2 Film project, Sorta Late is a collaboration between the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, College of Arts & Letters, and College of Music. The feature-length film follows a late-night talk show in Detroit that has hired a new group of fresh-faced interns, who get their first taste of the chaotic and unpredictable world of the entertainment industry. The small-time talk show is turned upside down as two local celebrities vie for the role of the late-night host. Mayhem ensues as everyone fights for the right to be the king or queen of Sorta Late.

The film was written by students from the College of Communication Arts and Science and the College of Arts & Letters. It was performed first as a theatrical production and then shot as a film during the 2016 spring semester. More than 100 students from all three colleges served as actors, directors, editors, composers, producers, and art directors.

Shorts by MSU Students

The following four films were shown together on Friday, July 29, at 3 p.m. at The Buzz, 301 Seventh Street.


In Blacktop, an overworked, mentally exhausted paramedic happens upon a mysterious woman whose guidance spirals his troubled mind towards a sense of peace after failing to save a young boy on the job.

The film crew is composed of students from the College of Arts & Letters Fiction Filmmaking minor. The class collectively brought the story to life including writing, production, editing, marketing, and distribution. The film was shot completely in East Lansing and Lansing and was composed of actors from the surrounding areas.

“It was essentially 20 people coming together and using all of their creative power to make a piece with meaning and importance in the world we live in,” said Director Trevor Ferla. “Even though it can be a great deal of hard work, nothing beats the feeling of creating something special with others.”

To learn more about the film, visit the Blacktop website.

Run, Jump, Paddle

The idea behind this film, funded by the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, was “to focus on the environmental aspect of what athletes experience during extreme sports,” said Jennifer Berggren, the film’s director and 2014 ComArtSci

With that in mind, the crew of students found their subjects: an ultra-runner making the journey from Florida to Michigan on foot; a water athlete and Michigan surf shop owner paddling the waves of Lake Huron in February; and first-time skydivers and the instructors who teach them how to jump.

“There is so much emotion and strength in these characters, and even though they never meet, they all relate on so many fronts,” Berggren said. “Their stories of how they push past their physical boundaries and how they overcome the mental challenges – they are so powerful.”


The Media Sandbox Street Team began working with nonprofit organizations and documenting their experiences a few years ago. This past spring, the team of students volunteered to work with charities in the mid-Michigan area. They mentored homeless youth in Lansing with “Pictures of Hope,” an organization that encourages children to find and express themselves through photography.

The team used their talents in graphic design, photography, and more to promote awareness through a social media campaign.

“On behalf of the team, we hope that people see just how easy it is to volunteer their time,” said Advertising senior Eric Schwartz, who worked on production and design of the film. “Sometimes it’s scary to put yourself out there in order to help someone you don’t know, but it doesn’t take money or experience to be of help to someone – you just have to be yourself.”

From Flint: Voices of a Poisoned City

From Flint: Voices of a Poisoned City tells the stories of Flint residents affected by the water crisis. The crew, made up of students completing the Documentary Studies capstone class, traveled to Flint and met with people who have faced tragedy or are actively pursuing justice for their city.

“It was important to give (the people of Flint) the platform to speak out about their experiences during this crisis,” said Liv Larsen, the film’s producer. “I became so close with each person and really grew connected to their story.”

Larsen warned that some of the stories were difficult to tell, but she hopes that they will help motivate people to continue to fight for change in Flint.