Students, professors behind short film 'Dead Ends' talk production
Michigan State students premiered their thirty-minute film "Dead Ends" Friday at Wells Halls. Media and Information senior Bradley Coster directed the film, and the rest of the student team has been working on this film almost all school year as a part of their capstone fiction filmmaking class.
"Dead Ends" follows the journey of Melanie, who gets into a car crash and ends up in a supernatural world, where she meets Z. Melanie and Z keep each other company until they both decide their time has come to an end.
Though co-producer Mallory Maxton — a senior majoring in Media and Information — has been a producer before, she said it was never on a set this big.
"Also, I haven’t been a producer on a set this long-term," Maxton said. "This is really interesting to see — how this project can really be magnified and seeing how the steps really come together when you have a full year to make, produce and create a film."
Maxton said people started planning out the film in class, the first step being to choose writers. Production took place from November through the end of the fall semester. Maxton said they were shooting nearly every weekend in November.
"For the nature of this film, we are shooting a lot of nights, often times shooting until ungodly hours in the morning," Maxton said.
Students working on the film were supervised by their professors — Jeff Wray, Rola Nashef and Pete Johnston — who acted as executive producers. They provided them with guidance and tips.
“We would watch over the production — it was led by them, but we would step in if there's any major problems or if ... we needed to steer them back in (a) certain direction,” Nashef said. “It was an inspiration to see the students hone their talents and skills and really take a leap, and put their heart into this project.”
During the film's premier, the audience participated in a Q&A with the cast and crew. The actress for Melanie — Christine Elliott — was not in attendance, but Darion Brown — who played Z — was able to participate.
Coster and Brown were connected through Brown’s acting teacher, who is also a friend of Coster at Lansing Community College. The two have worked on previous films together, and he immediately jumped on board when he got the call.
“I wanted him (Z) to be outgoing, energetic but not overbearing — where it’s like, 'Dang, you always talking,'" Brown said. “Everyone around him is down and out, and he’s just trying to keep the energy going."
Brown discussed how this role was different than many of the roles he previously played.
“Playing someone who is super goofy all the time — I got beat up. I asked Brad, 'Can I get a punch?'" Brown said. “He was like, 'Nah, no punch — you gotta just take it.' I think that was kind of difficult in itself, but acting is taking a fraction of who you are and turning it into a whole and portraying that character.”
Nashef addressed the success these students have had and how they have grown.
“They had an opportunity to problem solve on a daily basis,” Nashef said. “To use new software programs and systems of efficiency that we always are creating and honing as filmmakers. ... We really got to see them grow in all those skills throughout the year.”
FLM 435 — the fiction filmmaking capstone — is not just for film students. It's a capstone class for film minors, and students studying marketing and public relations can join as well.
“It’s a great way to learn in a professional setting, but still be safe enough for you to make mistakes, learn and grow,” Nashef said. “I would encourage students to take a look at the class and see if they would be interested.”
Maxton said "Dead Ends" will be shown at the Traverse City Film Festival later this summer. It will also be screened at Blue Owl Coffee later this month.
"Blue Owl has been a really great resource for us, they donated coffee and they are huge component for the Lansing film community," Maxton said.
Brown reflected on his experience on set.
“My favorite memory, I think, (was that) the cast was super committed and we shot for a lot of long hours. Just showing up to work everyday and nobody having a bad attitude was a good environment.”