Student Film Soars Through Festivals Following Graduation
Walk the Moon, a short film created last year by third-year Media Arts students, has been featured on Air Canada flights as part of their 2013 En Route short film festival, and received the festival award for “Achievement in Cinematography.”
The film was produced as the students’ final portfolio project at Sheridan College, which “definitely gave it an added element of pressure to not go out with a stinker,” joked writer and director, Roman Tchjen. They certainly succeeded in that aim, ultimately screening at the Cannes Short Film Corner, the LA Shorts Fest, Montreal World Film Festival, Calgary World Film Fest and on all Air Canada flights as part of the En Route Festival.
The film is about a young deaf girl who returns home from a boarding school for the deaf. She has to reintegrate herself into a ‘normal’ school environment, as well as get to know her estranged mother.
Roman Tchejen initially developed the concept for the film two years earlier, but the story changed drastically from inception to completion, as these things tend to do. Roman wrote and directed Walk the Moon, and he spoke of his artistic vision for film:
“A lot of my work is characterized by a lack of spoken words. I think those moments can be the most introspective. I saw someone communicating with sign language and I found it to be one of the most artistic and emotive languages because it’s all about body language, expression and the eyes. I knew then that I wanted it to be a part of my next short film. It was, however, extremely important to me that I not make deaf culture a gimmick, but instead incorporated it organically. In other words, the film is not about what it’s like to be deaf; it is about a teenager who is lonely and frustrated who also happens to be deaf.”
Cinematographer Chris Lew and the team chose to use a handheld camera, saying that they wanted the film to look “as natural as possible.” Roman and Chris enjoyed shooting in a spontaneous way, “letting the actors inhabit their characters then finding the angles with the camera that work best. It not only gives the film a raw/real feeling, but it gives the scenes a certain energy.” The team also used mostly natural lighting by planning for where the sun would be at each location.
The production team was supervised by Sheridan faculty Michael Kennedy, David Barlow and Stephen Barden. “Having the faculty to bounce ideas off of and to guide us was very important to everyone,” explained Roman. “It also gave me a taste of what it would be like working with a studio. The constant push and pull and the need to compromise was definitely something that took time getting used to. I couldn’t always have things the way I wanted, but in the end I think it made me stronger as a person and as a filmmaker.”
When I asked how the students translated their classroom experience to real exposure on Air Canada flights and in festivals, Chris said “It’s all thanks to our producer Vaishni! She did an amazing job keeping the film alive and well after we completed it. It’s such a shame that so many student films never find an audience beyond their friends, family and class mates.”
Vaishni Majoomdar first signed up for an account on Withoutabox, to share the video link privately with festivals, and then the team met up with faculty to get recommendations on which festivals to apply for. After that, Vashni scoured the internet and made a list of festivals she wanted to enter the most, and then she went about contacting them. “The cost of festivals all add up pretty quickly,” cautioned Vaishni, “so it’s important to budget for it right in the beginning so that, as Chris said, it’s not a film that we put a lot of work into but never sees the light of day.”
“Now our film is on all Air Canada flights and has been since September,” explained Chris. “Now we have a bigger audience than we could have ever asked for! It’s the most humbling and satisfying feeling knowing your work is being seen. I guess what I want to say if any other filmmakers are reading this is, get your work out there! ”
At the moment Walk the Moon isn’t publicly viewable (since this would disqualify it from entering festivals), but you can preview the film here.
Partial Credits for Walk the Moon:
Director/Writer: Roman Tchjen
Producer: Vaishni Majoomdar
Cinematographer: Christopher Lew
Editor: Ray Savaya
Location Audio/Post Sound Supervisor: Andrew Chalk
Lead actress: Nina Iordanova
To learn more about Sheridan’s new Bachelor of Film and Television, click here.