Lights, Camera, Action!
The upcoming alumni of Cleveland State’s School of Film and Media Arts see promise in the future of filmmaking– and they have much to offer.
Written by Lauren Koleszar
Students at the School of Film and Media Arts are as multi-talented and diverse as they come, and the class of 2022 is marked by their unabashed pursuit of the reasons they love filmmaking. Among budding directors, screenwriters, editors, and cinematographers, there are too many accomplished and promising students to describe. Each upcoming graduate has spent the last two semesters working on thesis projects, completing internships, and offering their skills and projects to the world. As the film scene continues to brighten back to life in Cleveland, there are many names to keep an eye on that are sure to join the spotlight.
Not many people are as determined as Valerie Garrett, who started her own production business at only eighteen, and has had enormous success throughout her college career working as a freelance videographer and lead cinematographer for Flex Media. She especially loves creating video content for local businesses, driven by her business motto, “Creating content with a passion.” When stepping onto set, Valerie brings not only great skill and experience, but incredible enthusiasm and positivity. She lends her time to both commercial and student films, and the Cleveland film scene no doubt holds a place for her upon graduation.
Fellow seniors Brian Lachoski, Patrick Grealis and Sarah Bene recently produced a short film with Valerie called “Man in the Box” that received the high honor of being selected for the Cleveland International Film Festival, an Oscar-qualifying festival making its return to an in-person show for the 2022 season. Patrick is a screenwriter with sharp intuition for comedy, and his script brimming with potential became a hilarious reality when brought to life by an all-student cast and crew. The five-minute short tells an entertaining story with a cynical twist about an “aspiring mime who struggles to entertain people in a world where everybody hates mimes.”
Brian cast a team of CSU actors and expertly directed the film, which relies heavily on actor movement and mise-en-scene. The film’s success with an audience starts and ends with Sarah, whose gift at producing shines on every set put into her hands. Sarah’s ability to quickly and efficiently organize tasks, bring warmth to any new environment, and manage all sorts of communication makes her an invaluable strength to any project.
The film was edited by Davis Chu, who is as talented and ambitious a filmmaker you’ll ever meet. Davis has been reaching for the stars since his first year at the film school, and his accomplishments have grown year after year. He specializes in acting and editing, and his senior thesis project has taken the form of a half-hour comedy special, with intertwining skits and bits about the existential terror of growing up, all parts played by Davis himself. Beyond the film school, Davis is finishing his degree with a minor in Graphic Design, which he has used in many of his films, including more than a handful that have been consistently featured in the student showcase. He serves as the president of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) at the arts school and has made heartful efforts to build connections between the film and arts schools and their students at CSU.
Speaking of the arts, Abby MacDowell and Carlie Wotton have reopened a door to the past and begun creating and working with celluloid film. Both Abby and Carlie created experimental documentaries shot on film for their senior thesis projects, for a while each not knowing the other was doing something so similar.
In her film, Abby tells the story of her late grandmother’s
life in the 50s using a voice recording of her grandmother narrating old photographs. She recreated the scenes on a 16mm Bolex camera with actors from the film school. The result is a stunningly sentimental tribute to her grandmother that is sure to awe audiences once complete.
Carlie’s thesis project is in a similar style to Abby’s, but has a groovy new flavor as she tells the story of her uncle who grew up in the hippie culture of the 70s. Using interview footage with her uncle and recreated footage on a vintage Super8 camera, Carlie’s film is a psychedelic homage to her love for the 70s, fittingly titled “Far Out,” complete with a trippy dance sequence. Both Abby and Carlie are now completing internships with Robert Banks, a world-renowned experimental filmmaker based in Cleveland dedicated to working with physical film and preserving its legacy.
These students have taken a passionate hold of filmmaking and made it into something meaningful for each of them and their stories. After four years of classes and film projects, all of the graduating seniors at the film school have learned how to share their voices through film to entertain, provoke and inspire audiences. Before you know it, these names and many more from CSU will be in the spotlight for the Cleveland filmmaking industry — and beyond.