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Student filmmaker brings science fiction, diversity to independent project

April 1, 2019

Devin Durocher has spent the better part of the year writing, producing and directing his own short film called “Reggie” — a science fiction comedy about a robot and the ups and downs of the world he lives in. Seeking to create a well-made film, Durocher worked to teach himself how to fundraise for his projects and incorporate a diverse cast and sophisticated props.

When faced with having to complete the required class-wide capstone film project, Durocher said he desired more creative control. He opted to instead create his own film as an independent study.

“The one thing I wanted to do and would make this absolutely different than any other film class they offer was I wanted to pitch this film and get some training," Durocher, a media and information senior, said. "Standing up in front of people telling them the idea and either getting rejected or getting money to help make this film."

After pitching his idea to various businesses in the Metro Detroit and Greater Lansing areas, CASS Sheet Metal and Complete Mechanical Contracting contributed to the project, as well as a few of Durocher’s family members. The final budget for the film was $3,100.

The film features two students from Michigan State's theatre department — junior Brandon Drap as Reggie and senior Camille Thomas as Arri — playing two friends navigating through a fictional world. The project is being filmed in the Lansing and East Lansing area, familiar scenes include downtown Lansing, the area surrounding the Capitol Building and P.T. O’Malley’s, where Arri works as a bartender.

Having seen Drap's work in a lot of different film projects on campus, Durocher reached out to him personally. After Drap saw what the headpiece for Reggie looked like, he knew he wanted to get involved. However, he said the process of creating the robot costume was an added element for him.

“He needed to get all the dimensions of my body so he could make the suit," Drap said. "So he took old clothes and I wore all these old sweats and he duct-taped my entire body."

Afterwards, he cut Drap out of the mold with surgeon scissors. Working with a limited budget, Durocher said making the costume mold this way was the most cost-effective method of getting the suit to fit perfectly to Drap’s body. Durocher used foam-smithing to craft the costume, which he later painted to look like metal.

However, during the main casting process, Durocher ran into some issues.

“I was a little disappointed with the diversity I got. I don’t think I got a single girl to audition. And on top of that, they were all white males that came,” Durocher said.

He wrote Arri as a gender-neutral character, which opened the audition pool to everyone. Durocher reached out to diversity art groups in the MSU community to increase the reach of his casting call. Durocher gave Thomas the role of Arri after she sent in an audition tape.

“That was something that really drew me to it," Thomas said. "I saw that Devin was really trying to get diversity in his project and I think that’s really cool."

She said she likes that her character is not just a token diversity character. She sees Arri as someone who is more than a stereotype.

“She’s a fully fleshed out individual and she is also black,” Thomas said.

Media and Information junior Ilene Gould has worked on the project as the assistant director. She said she's happy with the direction Durocher has taken with the film, especially with the characters.

“Having someone who is a person of color, who is a female as the lead is really important to me," Gould said. "Especially because I love seeing women behind the camera, women in front of the camera and I think that that's something that's super important and a way to progress Hollywood forward and to progress filmmaking."

While much of her role has been determining film locations and schedules, she has also worked to make sure they're moving along with filming.

“Devin really tries to make very specific decisions that are important to the story and he doesn't like to settle. He definitely works hard for the locations he wants, for the cast he wants and the characters,” Gould said.

The cast and crew finished their last day of filming on Sunday. Durocher plans to have the film edited and completed by April 19.

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