It’s that time of year again: time for the stars to grace the red carpet and receive their accolades for their cinematographic endeavors. No, this isn’t the Academy Awards — it’s Wheaton College’s Class Films, a “film festival” showcasing the work of some of Wheaton’s most creative minds. With the help of College Union and a stipend of $200, writers, actors and directors from each class work several months on these films, scoring and editing them to produce the perfect short movie lasting 30 minutes.
Today at 7 p.m. in Edman Chapel, each class will present their feature film to the student body and a panel of judges. The judging panel is comprised of eight students, from various classes, as well as faculty members who are selected by College Union. Awards for best film, best actor/ actress, best supporting actor/actress, best editing, best soundtrack and best director will be given after the showing of each film.
The senior directors are prioritizing the element of surprise in the weeks leading up to the premier. Joey McKenna left a lot to the imagination when asked about the details of his class movie. “The title of the film is ‘Senior Class Film,’ and it was chosen because we are seniors and it is our film.” The synopsis revolves, obviously, around seniors at Wheaton as they humorously navigate through their last days of college. Viewers will be delighted to see many a cameo from their fellow peers. “It’s been really great being able to cast so many different people from different social groups and what not on campus,” said McKenna. “I tried to not stick with one group but get a lot of different circles. That’s been nice as well to know that hopefully more people will enjoy it and be invested because they’ll get to see their friends or themselves, even.”
McKenna has had plenty of help along the way: His brother helped with the score, and fellow seniors Nick House, Josh Ryken and Zach Peterson also played prominent roles in the making of the movie. McKenna took an unconventionally spontaneous approach to the casting of the movie: “I would write scenes or jokes with specific (seniors) in mind, and then I would ask them if they’d like to be in the movie.” He also expressed how he felt it was important to have adequate and equal representation of the sexes in the film as much as possible.
“It’s hard to schedule so many people around to be at the same place at the same time and know their role, etc. etc. But it’s been a blast,” Mckenna said.
The directors expressed the confliction of balancing school and film production. “I wish I could just focus on this all the time, but that’s unrealistic,” Mckenna said.
The title of the junior class film is “101,” but don’t worry — ambiguity is intentional. “As the audience views the film, our hope is that they continuously go, ‘Ah ha! There it is,’” screen-writer Marisa Tirado said.
“This film has a great mixture of artistic appeal along with the typical formula of a likeable Wheaton film — corny jokes + recognizable actors + surprising details — and lots of realistic humor. My hope is that we move beyond the typical Wheaton jokes into the guts of making some people squirm in their seats because inside they’re going, ‘Oh. Been there. Haha. Shoot.’ Also, the chemistry between Larryon and Tommy in their roles brings their characters’ bromance to a whole new level. That adds a wonderful dynamic to the film,” Tirado said.
The film is a rom-com commentary on Wheaton’s dating culture set in present day, on Wheaton’s campus. Ted (Larryon Truman) is a Wheaton student who has a rough break-up and has trouble getting over his ex. He hits rock bottom and, to help him out, his best friend Steve (Tommy Hekma) along with his bros, try to help him get over his ex and they make a deal that Ted can’t resist.
Director Andy Suk started working with Marisa Tirado and Taylor Schuster last April to start working on the film. “Taylor and I collaborated throughout last summer,” Tirado said, “and finished the script together in August. In September/October we casted, and by November we were filming. We filmed in multiple locations, from Upper Wisconsin to downtown Naperville.”
Besides Larryon Truman and Tommy Hekman, look for performances from Katherine Braden, Hannah Kellner, Lydia Kang, Katie Beull, Olivia Wilder, Abby Amstutz, Tanner Muzikowski, Charlie Hekma, Christian Woodley, Ben Nussbaum and many more.
“Andy’s passion has helped drive me and Taylor into putting our best foot forward throughout this whole year,” Tirado said. “I can say that it’s a relief to know that I can submit this movie on Friday with enough confidence to show our entire campus. It really is a well-made, well-written and hilariously relatable film.”
The sophomore class film combines nostalgia with adventure. Peter Fenton presided over the production of his class film entitled “Late Knight Request.”
“This title was actually suggested by my roommate, Brendan Jones,” Fenton said. “A bedtime story in and of itself is a late night request, but the story that is told is a knight quest. The bedtime story itself is an abbreviated reimagining of a knight quest tale I wrote when I was 13, titled ‘Good Knight and Goodbye,’ so the pun title is a little homage to its origins.”
“Late Knight Request” is a “high fantasy medieval story” in which the main character “imagine(s) his own classmates halfway dressed and halfway accessorized in this medieval quest, at various places around campus. Fenton explained that “the story itself is the story of Sir Galahad the Indifferent (Andrew Poindexter), who goes on a quest to marry the Princess Jacqueline (Alexa Dava) but finds out that the royal messenger, Lady Heron (Jillian Hedges), has a crush on him. He is joined on the quest by a fellow knight, Sir Tudor (Jake Biedebach) and a bumbling wizard, Merlin (Robert Didier). Sir Galahad must figure out what he really wants out of life as he goes on this life-threatening quest.”
Fenton directed and stars in the film and Robert Didier co-wrote the screenplay with him. The movie features appearances from fellow sophomores Brendan Jones, Wesley Braden and Erica Elzey as the king and queen, Jake Stauber as a priest, and Taylor Schaible, Bianca Wooden and Laura Jauch as loyal sisters who live on a mountain together. Elliot Leung, a music composition major and fellow sophomore, composed the score for the film.
Fenton and the crew started production last fall, sticking to a well-structured schedule that he had planned. It was initially difficult to get people interested in acting in the film, but Fenton felt blessed by the people who believed in his dream enough to embark on the journey with him.
The freshman class film, titled “Where,” “deals with what the future looks like,” Micah Ziegler said, one of the co-writers of the screenplay. “The film asks: ‘Where am I going?’ or ‘Where will I end up?’
“The film, for being only 15 minutes long and hopefully light enough to remain enjoyable still addresses a heavier theme,” director Paul Vermeesch said. “At heart, the film is about calling and vocation. These words are lofted quite frequently, but they’re never as concrete as we treat them. The film zooms into the messiness of calling and approaches it not as something we can define or pursue, but as an ongoing exploration of opportunities. ”
“The film is about two first-year students, an artist and a dancer,” Vermeesch said. “It explores the tension between two different perspectives on calling.”
“We were very intentional about keeping our cast small,” Vermeesch said. “As freshmen, we wanted to try drama, but keep the production simple, short, and manageable. Practically, that meant limiting our cast to only two speaking characters. The fact that it’s a small-cast dramatic vignette will certainly make it stand out from the traditional large-cast comedy productions that are typical class film fare. It’s a bit of a risky move, but I suppose freshman year is the best time to experiment a little and get a lay of the land.”
Ziegler was not alone during the three-month script writing process. “Josepha Natzke and I were introduced to the original concept, created by James Sharpe, in November last semester. We each took the concept our own way and came back and met with Paul Vermeesch and his producer, Valerie Tewell, with the completed scripts,” Ziegler said.
After hours of tweaking and editing, the team put their heads together to iron out a more cohesive screenplay than their initial one. “We decided on an entirely new concept that had a more structured plot and idea,” Ziegler said. “From there Josepha and I wrote new scripts and Paul took those and worked with John Ingraham to come up with the finished product which was used in the film.”
“Some will hopefully see it as an entertaining and contemplative film, while others may see it as the classic freshman flop that is too heavy-handed for its own good,” Vermeesch said. “Because it’s set in an artistic context with artist characters, I fear it may alienate some viewers from the start.”
“The goal of this film is not to be cute or entertaining,” Ziegler said. “It is meant to be touching and relatable.”
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