Q&A: Fiction Film & Documentary Production

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What is film? Film is a series of still images when shown on a screen to create an illusion of movement. Films are notorious for leaving viewers in mixed states of emotion as they leave a crowded, pseudo-comfortable-chair filled theater engulfed in the aroma of buttered popcorn. For this issue of ing Magazine, we decided to ask a handful of student filmmakers about their current films as well as ask their advice to both fellow filmmakers and moviegoers. Each of these films will be screened at the end of April at Studio C! in Okemos.

Hailey P.
Co-Director

What is your film about?

Our film, ‟Millions to One,” is about the addictiveness of social media and the affects it has on a person’s views of perfection and relationships.

How did you come up with the idea?

The director, Ian Courtney, and I came up with this idea because social media is something we use daily. We see people struggling with social media every day. 

What is important about it?

We need to get real with one another. We need to stop putting up this wall between one another due to false perfection and begin forming real life relationships to those physically around us, too.

What do you hope your film will accomplish?

We hope to inspire change to the culture we have created — where it’s weird to have a conversation with someone sitting next to you, but easy to glue your eyes to a screen. We want to alter how we as people compare one another through social media “avatars” that don’t tell the whole truth of one’s self.

Any advice for aspiring filmmakers?

[If] there is something you are passionate about, chances [are] there are others who care about it too. What you think is important, is important. Don’t be afraid to take a risk on getting what you care about out for others to see and enjoy.

Any advice to moviegoers?

If you are watching this film, come in with an open mind. Social media is something us directors use every day too, so we acknowledge that we are a part of the issue, but we can be a part of the solution as well.

Daniel S.
Videographer

What is your film about?

Our film* is about the Enbridge Line five pipeline which runs through the Straits of Mackinac.

How did you come up with the idea?

Olivia, one of the group members, came up with this idea and I got really interested in it because I like environmental films and this is a huge issue that’s happening in Michigan right now, both environmentally and politically.

What is important about it?

I think it’s an important topic to cover. There have been some short documentaries done on the subject, but they don’t really dive too deeply into it, and we want to go a little deeper. It’s important because it’s an environmental crisis. This is a pipeline that’s been underneath the Straits of Mackinac for over six decades — it was only supposed to last five decades when it was built. Oil in the Great Lakes would be devastating for the ecosystem, recreation and tourism; and the people that live along the lakeshore would suffer. 

What do you hope your film will accomplish?

I hope to bring an awareness to the general public about the controversy so that they might take a stand, or even just a political stance — who they are going to vote for in the next election — all that ties up into this controversy. 

Any advice to aspiring filmmakers?

Keep doing what you think you’re good at. Keep doing what you’re talented at.

Any advice to moviegoers?

See films that interest you. 

Dominic A.
Director

What is your film about?

Our film is titled, ‟On the Way Up,” and the logline of our film is “following her boyfriend’s attempted suicide, a young woman is forced to re-evaluate not only her relationship but also her life as well.” 

How did you come up with the idea?

At the beginning of the year we all had to pitch our ideas. Originally, the idea was going to have four different types of disorders and when we began writing it we wanted to narrow it down to one. We didn’t want to have multiple [disorders] and not give enough time to each.

What is important about it?

We’re trying to tackle the various stigmas and stereotypes of bipolar disorder; to understand what side it comes from. A lot of people either know somebody or live with somebody with bipolar disorder and we want to show them that perspective and help them understand that people are living their daily lives. We want to show them that this is a very real thing and bring attention to it through the main lead’s reaction to it.

What do you hope your film will accomplish?

[I hope it will] raise awareness, like ‘Oh gosh, is this real? How do I live my life with this?’, and to reassure the people with the disorder that there are people that do care about them and want to bring attention to it to show that we are all people, [so they won’t feel] alienated. 

Any advice to aspiring filmmakers?

If there is a film or topic that you are adamant about and you feel [is] very powerful, tell it—tell the story. Oftentimes, I feel that young moviemakers are scared to break out of [their] comfort zone. We wanted to step out of our comfort zone and tackle some really powerful messages, pushing us as filmmakers. Also, do your homework, really research it, [so] you’re not giving it a false reputation.

Any advice to moviegoers?

Go in with an open mind and understand that when you’re watching this —  maybe you’re not personally affected by someone with bipolar disorder, but understand that it’s a very real topic. There are stigmas that [you] need to be aware and conscious [of]. 

Lu. J.
Producer

What is your film about?

Our film* is about homelessness in the greater Lansing area. We are going to focus on this area, but may also [consider] all of Michigan. Because it can be a family, an individual, [or] a veteran, we want to scope out what we can do to help those homeless people.

How did you come up with the idea?

It’s from class. Everyone had an idea to pitch and we voted for the top three most welcomed ideas. One of the ideas was about a hotel called Homeless Angels Hotel and the founder and the homelessness issue. Compared to the other two, this one touches on humanity more. I am concerned about this issue and want to do something to help others. 

What is important about it?

[I want to] let people know there are those who struggle [through] life and need our help. For me personally, I want to know one of the real sides people don’t pay attention. They don’t want to chase any luxury, they just want to have their home, to have a warm place to stay during the winter. 

What do you hope your film will accomplish?

[I hope through this film] that we can advocate for or evoke people; to raise their awareness about homeless people or to at least have someone watch our film and they can diminish some misunderstanding or stereotype of homelessness and homeless people. 

Any advice to aspiring filmmakers?

Stick to what you are intending to do. At first I didn’t think I could do it, because I thought I’m not good at editing, at camera, at anything. But then after some assignments, I gradually learned more about these professional skills and I just found the saying “practice makes perfect” to be so true. No one is perfect at the very beginning. Everyone accumulates their professional skills step-by-step. If you want to do filmmaking don’t be timid, don’t feel that you know nothing or you’re such an amateur. Stick to what you want to do and just go step-by-step.

Any advice to moviegoers?

I used to be really picky about films and movies. I’d read those reviews and people would be so mean. But then after I started making my own film, I found it’s just not as easy as people imagine. Give those filmmakers some time to develop or to make [their film] perfect, or to make this whole industry go to wherever they think. 

* Films are currently untitled | These Q&A’s have been edited for length and clarity