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Michigan State fiction film capstone finds new life

March 31, 2020
<p>Courtesy of Trevor Day.</p>

Courtesy of Trevor Day.

Students in Michigan State’s fiction film capstone could have let their final year conclude as a story of unfortunate events, instead they’re making it one of resiliency. 

Each student taking the capstone has one year to create a film. The class’ original film "Rum and Coke" generated excitement from those involved.

“When I first got the script I really loved it,” actor Chris Heeder said. “I remember I shaved a mustache for the audition because I was like ‘This is what this character is going to look like.’”

The entire cast geared up to make "Rum and Coke."

“I read 'Rum and Coke,' the script, probably 13 times all the way through before I even started memorizing lines,” Heeder said. “I just had a journal full of notes on the character Jude himself.”

After the first semester, the actress playing a main character left to pursue another opportunity. "Rum and Coke" was scrapped after having about a third of the film shot. The group adapted and wrote a new, shorter script to be completed in just one semester, "Taco Soup."

Heeder broke his collarbone in a snowboarding accident over Christmas break, but the crew felt he was too talented to replace. They constructed a shot schedule that would allow him to heal, putting scenes requiring physical exertion back.

“I just felt very important and not in an egotistical way,” Heeder said. “That was due to the kindness and the empathy of everybody working on this film.”

Then COVID-19 struck.

With two months of class time left, the class was informed filming would be halted. 

“We still had key scenes left,” Director of Photography Tanner Evans said. “It’s not like we had some small, little offhand stuff.”

The team was devastated.

“There was that week after where everybody in our entire capstone was feeling low,” Director Kristina Familara said.

Again, the team made adjustments. With one subplot shot all the way through, they decided to use that as the plot for the film. Crew members are reviving shots from "Rum and Coke" to make the new version of "Taco Soup."

“Just finding bits and pieces from whatever footage we have is what we’re gonna do,” Evans said.

Familara, the first female director in the history of the capstone, wonders what her initial vision would've looked like.

“I still want to see it how it was originally planned,” Familara said. “I still want to shoot, I miss production.”

"Rum and Coke" was expected to be half an hour long, while the first iteration of "Taco Soup" was expected to be 20-25 minutes. Now, Familara expects the film to be 10-15 minutes long.

“I think the process was very beneficial for all of us and I think I’ll be happy with the film, but there’s still going to be a part of me that is going to be sad,” Familara said.

Evans said film is all about the ability to adjust. He thinks this experience will be invaluable as much of the team graduates.

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“Going forward we are going to be absolutely indestructible,” Evans said.

Despite dozens of hours of work going to waste, the film brought the crew together. 

“I’m thankful,” Heeder said. “I know this isn’t how we wanted it to end, but I’m very thankful that I was able to be in on this process. I love you guys.”


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