May 08, 2013 | Myrna Anderson

The roster is long and the subjects—a local dairy, a bike accident, the Galapagos—are varied at the media production event.

Communication arts and sciences professor Brian Fuller is waiting on a phone call. “We have a blackout in Nairobi that’s really messing with us,” he said. “We’re waiting for a couple of films to come in from the Kenya Semester.” Where Fuller is waiting, in the editing suites of the De Vos Communications Center basement, the student lab aids are bustling. One is editing the titles on a film, another is polishing a promo and yet another is finalizing the list of films to be shown at the Media Showcase, held 7 p.m., Thursday, May 9, in the Covenant Fine Arts Center.

The event is a bi-annual screening of films from Calvin media production students: the culmination of a semester’s-worth of learning about the cinematic art. (There is also a fall showcase.) The frenzy leading up to Media Showcase is typical, said Fuller, but this Thursday’s showcase is not: “This is going to be a huge one,” he said. In addition to the offerings from Kenya, the event will feature more than 20 student films from many genres: There’s Moo, a documentary about a local dairy; Prison Ministry, a film that features an inmate being baptized and The Beaten Path, the story of a winter bike trip gone wrong.

Change of location

“It’s an adventure film set in the desert, but instead we had to film it in February here,” said senior media production major David Witwer who helped produce the film. There were a lot of challenges to winterizing the story, penned by fellow-senior media production major Nicholas Afton and filmed at parks in Kentwood and Rockford. Not the least of these challenges, Witwer said, was “trying to film it before our actors froze to death.”

The documentary Multimedia Internet Experience, on the other hand, took its student crew inside an environment fostered on the Web. The film is about cosplay, the practice of dressing up as cartoon characters and role-playing, and the cosplayers in the documentary are devoted to the Web cartoon series Homestuck. “Some of the people we talked to say, ‘I’m socially awkward. I’m not normally outgoing,’” said Chi Tran, the sophomore media production major who directed the film, "but getting into the character allows them to do what they wouldn’t normally be able to do.” the documentary allowed its creators to explore how the internet stretches the boundaries of human interaction, Tran said.

The score for Multimedia Internet Experience, was digitally composed by David Noa, one of several composition majors who created scores for the student filmmakers’ work. (Noa was also among the composers who pioneered the media production-music collaboration last year.) Recently, he switched his major to media production: “One day, I’ll be able to write the music for my own film,” he said. And Noa suggested, the interdisciplinary collaboration should work both ways: “Honestly, music is so important to film … I think every media production major should take an introductory music class.”

In the Crowd

The Media Showcase typically draws not only media production students and composers, said Fuller, but the student filmmakers’ friends and family and other interested people as well. It’s an important experience for media production students, he said.

“At some point in your preparation for your life as a filmmaker, you ought to watch and listen to people react to your film: not your church, not your mom, but a critical and educated audience.” He’s gratified that the students take the event seriously: “There are so many assignments that students do primarily for the eyes of professors,” Fuller said. “The stakes seem higher when you show it to other people. So it seems that “C”-level work is less acceptable to them.”

And for this very atypical showcase, Fuller is willing to bend his own rules about what constitutes quality. Though he generally thinks any student film that screens longer than four minutes is too long, Fuller is making an exception for the documentary on the Galapagos/Amazonia interim created by junior media production major Maria VanDyken: “Her 12-minute film is lovely,” he said. “It’s so beautiful, I’m closing the showcase with it.”

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