A Filmmaking Community

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We’ve all heard the phrase “it takes a village” used to describe all the efforts of creating something great. Filmmaking at MSU embodies the phrase with film production and film studies programs that stretch across campus and continue to produce great films every year. From the College of Arts & Letters to Communications Arts and Sciences, students with a passion for film are chasing their dreams behind the camera.

Film programs at MSU offer students with diverse opportunities to study the field. Senior Zoe Kissel has immersed herself in many of these opportunities by pursuing two degrees in Media and Information with a concentration in Film and Media Production and Film Studies, as well as a minor in Documentary Production. 

“MSU has provided many creative and professional opportunities for me. As a film student in two different colleges, I get the best of both worlds. Media and Information provides me with the on-set, technical production that I crave, while Film Studies gives me the film history, theory, and watching experience that is crucial to successful filmmaking,” said Kissel. 

The MSU Film Collective, or FLM 200, is one of the more notable courses in the film studies programs available both to students and the public. The Film Collective meets weekly to watch a wide variety of films from different cultures, as well as classic films. For students like Kissel, this community discussion is a great way to get inspired. 

“I love the Film Collective because it brings together people of all types and places them in the intimate space of a theatre as they share in the collective experience of cinema,” said Kissel. “I believe that collective viewing is essential to truly appreciate the effect film has on the spectator.” 

Students in the Documentary Production minor, or “The Doc Lab,” are also making great strides to the big screen. While the minor is still relatively new, this does not reflect how established students in the program are. Over the past two years, seniors in the documentary production and design capstone have created films that cover heavy-hitting topics like the Line 5 oil pipeline conflict and the Flint water crisis. Both films were well received and featured across the state in various festivals and fundraising events.

Zachary Barnes, a senior in the program, is currently working on a short film covering the Richard Spencer speaking event that happened on campus March 5th. Barnes, as well as the other seven seniors in the capstone will screen their films at the end of the semester during an annual screening event held at Studio C! in Okemos. 

“We completely immersed ourselves into the world of production by creating our own films. It’s been a great experience in tackling a tough subject and working in a production team.” said Barnes.

While Sundance may be the goal for these filmmakers, in the meantime area film festivals have been very receptive of the work submitted from MSU students. In addition to producing short films, students learn the ins and outs of submitting to the festival circuit.

“Last July, I completed a documentary film, Composing Our Stories, that first began in class. I have submitted Composing Our Stories to festivals and the film most recently won the award of Recognition of Documentary Short at the Impact Doc Awards,” Kissel added. “I think the key to being a good filmmaker is constant creation. I’m always working on the next project.”