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Wayne State College film school premieres students movies in red carpet screening

Wayne State College film school premieres students movies in red carpet screening

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WAYNE, Neb. -- Somewhere on the Wayne State College campus, Sigmund Freud was diagnosing a patient with "hysteria" in an office designed to look like early 20th century Vienna and decorated with knick-knacks contributed by Shelby Hagerdon's grandma.

Are you confused? Well, don't be. 

Hagerdon, a Wayne State College student from Smithland, Iowa, was simply offering behind-the-scenes perspective for "Sigmund & Dora," which dramatizes historic case of patient Ida Bauer.

The short film, which starred Rob Merritt, an actor from Cedar Rapids playing Freud, and Abby Lincoln, an actress from Sergeant Bluff, will be among the Hot Attic Film School presentations being screened at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Majestic Theatre, 310 Main St.

"The movie touches upon women's health, sexual assault and the male gaze," Hagerdon explained. "Even though it is set more than 100 years ago, the subject matter is as timely today as ever."

In addition to "Sigmund & Dora," the film showcase will also screen "Something Lost," which was directed by students Ally Boyd and Justis Hoffart from a script by Wayne State graduate Sean Dunn; "Connor & Annie," written and directed by student Blake Bodlak; as well as "A Day with Lily," which was written and directed by Michael White, a Wayne State communication arts assistant professor.

"We've been able to host a Wildcat Spirit Short Film Festival in spring during past years," White said. "Due to COVID-19 restrictions, we've had to cancel plans for the film festival and concentrate on a public screening of selected short subjects."

However, the pandemic won't dampen the hoopla associated with a movie premiere.

While dress for guests can be casual, the filmmakers, casts and crews will be walking down the Majestic Theatre's red carpet in dresses and suits.

Which is the way that White, a veteran filmmaker whose first feature-length movie, "Ever Fallen," and short subject, "The Ghost in Her," scored big at 2020's Iowa Motion Picture Awards, like it.

"It's been a rocky year for our film program as well as for our students," White admitted. "We wanted to do a red carpet screening as a way to recognized the hard work of our filmmakers."

To be fair, White's own contribution to the program came with a less-than-picture-perfect back story.

"I had written 'A Date With Lily' (a story about a successful young woman and abuse survivor who unexpectedly has to care for a 5-year-old girl) with no intention of filming it," he said. "I didn't want to work with a child actor."

That was until White cast a talented child actress (Nevada Arnold) in the title role, as well as actors Jessica Johnson, Tim Mantil and Paige Nola. 

"Everything just came together in the end," he said. "I'm very happy with the the result."

Luckily, White's shoot wasn't as protracted as "Something Lost," which, due to pandemic-related starts and stops, was in production for nearly a year.

According to Sean Dunn, he had originally written "Something Lost" -- a story of a man haunted by the death of his girlfriend after a tragic accident -- as a novel.

"Because of the cinematic nature of what is real and not real in the mind of the lead character, it ended up being a better movie," Dunn said.

Dunn saidf he had some trepidations well into the production.

"I thought certain elements weren't staying true to my vision," he said.

Dunn edited portions of the script while working closely with co-directors Justis Hoffart and Ally Boyd and producer Hagerdon.

"The script went from 22 pages down to 12 pages," he said. "It worked better when the it was tighter."

"Moviemaking is an art but it also about problem-solving," White explained. "You quickly discover the benefit of collaborating."

For a first-time auteur like Blake Bodlak, collaboration was key. 

Featuring actors Braden Kern and Miranda Trowbridge in the leads, "Connor & Annie" tells the story about a pair of estranged friends confronting the events that forced them apart over the course of a single night.

"It is basically two friends talking," Bodlak said, "but we made it very movie-like."

A Wayne State freshman, Bodlak said he'll be more than a little nervous seeing "Connor & Annie" on a big screen in a move theater.

White said that's perfectly natural.

"There's nothing like seeing a movie in front of an audience," he said. "We make movies to be seen and enjoyed."

Watching how other people react to your art makes the hard work worthwhile, Hagerdon said.

"We have regular families  but we also have 'film families,'" she explained. "We end up spending as much time with our collaborators as anyone else."

This is true for Boyd as well.

"When I talk about filmmakers like Greta Gerwig, Agnes Varda and Noah Baumbach, Shelby knows exactly who I'm talking about," she said.

White loved the enthusiasm his class of young filmmakers have about the medium.

"They understand that being a good director is being a good communicator and a good collaborator," he said. "Those are the things that will be beneficial long after they graduate from college."

Plus White knows it takes real commitment to bring a script to the screen and real vision to build a small set and see the offices of the great Sigmund Freud.

"We may not be Hollywood but who said you can't make movies in rural Nebraska?" he noted with a chuckle.  




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