Students, professionals race clock to produce film

Elijah Brumback

Grand Valley State University’s summer film project began production recently on “Horizontal Accidents,” an adaptation of a short story written by GVSU alumnus Michael Salisbury. Written while Salisbury was an undergraduate, the story was first published in GVSU literary journal, the “Fishladder,” and later published in the national publication, “Black Warrior Review.”

The film, which is to be shot as a 25 to 30 minute short follows the story of a grave-robbing funeral worker, Boeve, and his aimless partner, Brandon, who encounter existential troubles and insurance companies to find out that some policies only cover “horizontal accidents” after a suicide jump lands on Brandon’s car.

The story was written for film by GVSU writing major Tom Castillo, who worked closely with Salisbury and the film’s director Tom Seidman, son of GVSU founder L. William Seidman.

With more than 20 years of media experience, Seidman is mostly notably known in the Directors Guild of America for his work as first assistant director on Peter Weir’s “The Dead Poets Society,” Robert Redford’s “Ordinary People” and Clint Eastwood’s “Honkytonk Man.” Seidman’s latest project, a film titled “The Bunny Lady” featuring Florence Henderson, was shot in Grand Rapids in February. Seidman also won an Emmy for his documentary piece “Lost Angeles,” which aired on PBS.

GVSU film student Greg Kort works directly under Seidman on the summer film project as the first assistant director. Kort’s job is laden with crucial time management and production flow, which Kort said is where the valuable experience lies. Kort also mentioned the difference in directing styles between Seidman and last year’s project director Eric Yang, who produced “The Darkroom.”

“Getting to work with another person who has a new style of directing is great because that’s how work goes in the industry,” Kort said “It’s a chance to follow two different processes in film making.”

Senior Dan Campbell is the unit production manager. He also worked on “The Darkroom” and he agreed with Kort about the importance of the experience.

“The project is the closest reality to a full professional production,” Campbell said. “Students are working alongside industry professionals; new and veteran students to the program all learn together in this setting.”

Work on the project is rigorous and organization is key to the whole process considering the film is produced in a maximum of 12 weeks. Kort, Campbell and Jake Bowen, the production designer, all stressed the crucial time element of the project.

“Time management is definitely the most challenging thing about this project,” Bowen said. “Making decisions and getting people together is always an issue. Some people have second jobs and some people have to commute a bit of distance, but it’s all part of filmmaking and it’s still exciting.”

Bowen said his next major task is meeting with the entire art department to discuss props, wardrobe and some set design. This year the art department has been allotted a budget of $3,000.

“My goal is to make it look as good as it can for as little as possible,” Bowen said. He added that he enjoys the artistic side of production design and wants to really try and stretch his budget.

Kort and Campbell have been entrenched almost entirely in location scouting and casting. Kort looks forward to getting involved in storyboarding and developing a shooting schedule as filming will begin in late July.

“It falls to me to keep the ball rolling on this (project) and I want to do the script justice because it is really good,” Kort said. “I’m looking forward to the second round of casting and call backs, after that we’ll probably have pretty good idea of what we need going ahead.”

Bowen said casting for extras is open to the public; those interested can e-mail the production at [email protected] with contact information.

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