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Film Studies Program

Film Studies Grad Making a Name for Herself in the Film Industry

Before graduating this past spring with a dual degree in Film Studies and Media and Information and a minor in Fiction Filmmaking, Amy Wagenaar made a name for herself among MSU’s Film programs.

During her time at MSU, her films were featured at a number of film festivals and her work was recognized by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters (MAB).

Her short film, The World is Beautiful, which she wrote and directed, has been featured in five film festivals and currently is in the finalist selection process for another five. She also worked on three films that were screened at the 2017 Traverse City Film Festival.

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Amy Wagenaar

For her work as Director of Photography on the film, RECLAIM, Wagenaar received statewide recognition by winning second place in the Mini-Documentary category of the 2017 MAB Student Broadcast Awards.

Her animated short, The World is Beautiful, is deeply rooted in Wagenaar’s personal life. It is about a boy named Charlie who lives in a country, on a map, at the edge of a town, at the edge of a wood in a world void of color until he meets Colette.

“At the time, I was dealing with some personal struggles both internally and in terms of a relationship I was having, and Charlie was actually a version of myself at that time,” Wagenaar said. “I was trying to externalize the idea of alienation and dissociation that comes into play when you're in a personal situation that makes you exist in a state of contradictions – neither here nor there, but existing in multiple dissociative views of yourself. Charlie and Colette are essentially two versions of myself, and I wrote them externally as two voices in order to bring them together through the medium of film. I'd say it was a creative healing process.”

The World is Beautiful is made up of drawings that come together to create 550 to 600 individual frames. Ken Hunter, a recent MSU graduate, created the drawings. Wagenaar, Hunter, and editor Elise Conklin then made the frames, took photos of each one, and edited them together.

The Fiction Filmmaking minor was, without a doubt, the best part of my MSU education.

Since its creation in the basement of the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities, The World is Beautiful has been featured in the Traveling Shorts Festival in Italy in which it traveled throughout the country throughout the month of June 2016. It also was shown at the Yale Student Film Festival (2016), Traverse City Film Festival (2017), Metropolitan College of New York Film Festival (2016), and the Spartan Film Festival (2016).

As part of her Fiction Filmmaking minor, Wagenaar helped create two films with her fellow classmates, and worked on a third one for the general degree. For the Fiction Filmmaking capstone course, she was the lead cinematographer on the film Stay With Me. She served as gaffer (lighting), production designer (sets, color, props), colorist (post production aesthetic colors of film), and music supervisor for On the Way Up; and she did cinematography for Amorphous.

“The Fiction Filmmaking minor was, without a doubt, the best part of my MSU education,” Wagenaar said. “It combined the best elements of both the College of Arts & Letters and  the College of Communication Arts and Sciences. Without that program, I would not have had the skill set to exist as a filmmaker in the indie circuit. The minor teaches you how to actually make the films, as opposed to how to use the gear, write a story, or analyze a film. It's exciting and relevant to get your hands dirty.”

Wagenaar is now working on the script for a new animated feature film, The Eberstarks. She started work on the film during her semester-long independent study with Professor Jeff Wray in the fall of 2016.

“He is an amazing instructor and patiently helped me create the bones of the script,” Wagenaar said. “The film involves a multidimensional antique shop and the quirky family who lives inside it. It's definitely a trip and Professor Wray was extremely helpful in motivating me, providing professional advice, and shaping who I am as a screenwriter and storyteller today.”

Wagenaar hopes to have the script completed by the end of this fall.

This article was originally posted on cal.msu.edu