(313) Choices is the first feature-length film to be produced at Michigan State University. It was a huge endeavor, from adapting the original theatrical production to the screen to the race to finish in time for it's big-screen premiere.
- 2015 Official Selection - Traverse City Film Festival
- 2015 Official Selection - East Lansing Film Festival
My story behind the story
In the middle of winter, I remember making my way through the basement made of the Michigan State University auditorium. A large number of students crowded into a small black box theatre to see the stage production of a then untitled Theatre2Film Project for the first time.
The room was still and silent as we sat through each of the six vignettes that make up the narrative structure. We saw sisters and brothers, Skype calls and call-backs, lovers and dreamers. Then, we were off.
From that moment on, we were non-stop with weekly production meetings. Racing from the very beginning to the first shoot date, from one weekend of filming to the next until the school year was suddenly gone. Our large numbers suddenly became a small band, working to finish a landmark production in the history of our college and of the university as a whole.
We pushed production right up to the last second. We pulled a all-nighter to finish the audio. I picked up the color graded picture that morning and after putting on the finishing touches, I shipped the film off to Traverse City for our premiere the day before it was due, right before the Kinkos on Michigan Ave. picked up the parcels for the day.
The film itself has its own iconic moments, a kitchen tirade, a game of two truths and a lie. But there are so many more iconic moments that happened behind the scenes that stick out in my mind over what was otherwise a lightning blur of production.
I remember scouting out the diner location, but mostly having some good breakfast while we were there. At that meal, we asked question after question to our waitress, calling attention to all the things that in day-to-day life you would never notice. How loud is your fridge? Does the clock tick? Do you mind if we switch out all your lightbulbs? I remember overhearing them talk about us in Spanish through the kitchen door and laughing about it the rest of the ride home.
I remember being late to set because we were hurrying to finish dinner at Steak 'n Shake. (Although, it's hard to tell who's late when you're with the producers and assistant director.) I remember drawing crowds of children in the trailer park to see what was going on, while all their parents were convinced that we were shooting an adult film, blacking out the windows and all.
I even remember, after all my friends and colleagues were gone and everyone else's work was done, eating Taco Bell while watching the final export bar tick forward, pixel by pixel.
When I asked to produce and direct on the film I did it for myself, because I thought I had something to prove as a senior, that I had truly accomplished something during my time in college and that I had the talent to face the world. But in the spring when it came time to select a post-production supervisor, I asked for that job for everyone else.
I knew that everyone had left a little bit of themselves in this film, from their own vinyls on the wall to the tears they shed both on and off-screen. I wanted to preserve those moments, the memories we all shared together, by taking the film to the next level in the editing room and by creating a finished product that represented each one of us and our unique contributions.
Like the film, I think that was the most important part of the production behind the scenes. We brought together students from three departments on campus, all with different interests and goals, and we made a film. But more than that, we made memories and friendships. It was the relationships that made the film stronger and the relationships, in all their complexities, that shine through on-screen.