MSU filmmakers win Student Academy Award
The film started as a capstone project, media and information senior and director of the film Elise Conklin said.
Producer Liv Larsen, a 2016 journalism alumna, and director of photography Izak Gracy pitched a documentary about the Flint water crisis to their classmates.
“As soon as that idea was on the table, there was nothing that could compete with it in my eyes,” Conklin said. “There was no question in my mind that we had to make something about Flint.”
The team chose the focus of “From Flint” partly in response to media coverage of Flint that didn’t focus on how individual people’s lives have been affected.
“All the major news outlets were covering the crisis from a governmental perspective and we felt that there was something missing from these stories,” Larsen said. “We decided very early on we were going to do it differently.”
Documentary allows audiences to follow a story for a longer period of time, Larsen said.
“If you look on the news now, you don’t see anything about Flint, that’s just how the news media functions,” Larsen said. “In documentaries, you’re allowed to look at it longer. It’s a more classic medium.”
Larsen said documentaries do more to preserve a story.
“What I want more than anything from this documentary is to keep the story of Flint alive,” editor Lauren Selewski said in a blog post on the film’s website. “I want everyone to know what’s happening in Flint.”
Once the documentary was finished, Conklin said she submitted it to The Academy on a whim.
“I didn’t even tell the rest of the crew that I had submitted it,” Conklin said. “I didn’t think we would even be a semifinalist.”
“From Flint” was not only a semifinalist — it was one of three winning films in the documentary category. All five team members plan to attend the ceremony in Los Angeles on Sept. 22.
As a winner, the film can now be considered for an Oscar in the 89th Academy Awards. It has been submitted to several festivals as well, including the Flint Youth Film Festival, which it won.
“We have big hopes for this film,” Conklin said.
The awards aren’t just a personal success for the team.
“I was overwhelmingly happy that the story that we were telling was being listened to,” Conklin said. “People don’t see Flint in the news so they assume that the water crisis is over, but it’s not. I’m happy that our film can serve as a reminder to people that Flint will be feeling the effects of lead for generations to come.”