Would you choose love or freedom? That’s the quandary the lead character of the short student film “REFRACTION” finds himself in after the law becomes aware he’s cloned his wife in a world in which cloning is illegal. The film’s central question was compelling enough to earn it a coveted spot at the Seattle International Film Festival and the honor of being the first entirely student-driven film from SCC to make it to the festival.
The film was made in last year’s Production II class, which aims at emulating a working set as much as possible. “This is a group of students making a professional film,” said film and video professor Kris Boustedt. “And that professionalism is validated by virtue of it being admitted into one of the world’s premier international film festivals.”
Screenwriters in the class submitted scripts for review and the class debated over which one to produce. Chris Cook’s “REFRACTION” made the cut over 9 other submitted scripts.
“I wanted to write something different than what everyone else was writing,” Cook said of his sci-fi script that’s set in the near future. “I wanted to write sci-fi that deals with the people involved and their relationships rather than with special effects and technology.”
The film was shot over four days and then spent a year in post production. By the time SIFF’s deadline approached, editing was only 75% complete and the film’s director and editor, Bruce Stead, rushed to finish it in time for submission.
“There was a mad scramble to get it in and then for a few days after I tried really hard not to get my hopes up,” Stead said. “Then I got an email that it was accepted and I got really excited, which was immediately replaced by being nervous about all the work needing to be done to get it to a place where we could show it to an audience of 400 people.”
Stead and the team got it polished and the film, which was shot on a budget of just $4,500, showed this past Sunday as part of the Northern Exposure series at SIFF.
“It goes to show that Seattle-area filmmakers rely more on passion and skill,” said Jordan Tan, the film’s cinematographer. “You don’t have to spend a ton of money to make a film, you just have to be willing to put in the time and effort and surround yourself with great people passionate enough to do the same.”
Stead agreed. “Not having the luxury of a big budget forces you to be more creative. You don’t have an excess of money to throw at a problem so you have to think outside the box to solve whatever issues come up.”
That attitude about budget extends to the students’ choice of schooling as well.
“As far as Shoreline,” Stead said, “We’re Seattle’s default film school. I know people who went to the Art Institute and said it was fine but they look at people who came to Shoreline and know the same amount about film as them and they’re like, ‘why did I spend all this money on school?’”
And working on the film at Shoreline has helped set the students up for the next steps in their careers.
“There’s a really supportive community here,” said Stead about both Seattle and the college itself. “And it’s been great working with people like Kris and Tony Doupé who are working filmmakers themselves and have connections in the area and introduce us into that community by bringing productions and crewing opportunities to campus.”
“The workflow on the film was awesome,” Tan said. “It was the best shooting experience I’ve ever had and learned so much from it.”
“Collaborative work is challenging but rewarding,” said Kuper Sletcha, a producer on the film. “There are always things you can’t control but overall, without mind control or weather control, I don’t think the workflow on set could have gone better. And this experience will definitely help me on the next project.”
As for having a film in SIFF?
“Who knew?” said Tan. “It took a lot to get it done, but it’s definitely an awesome feeling.”
Since completing their Production II class, Tan has gone on to the University of Washington and is working on a career in live music show production. Sletcha is graduating SCC this spring and hopes to transfer to a four-year university to continue in film. This summer he’s producing a documentary in Jamaica.
Cook is currently taking the Production II class again, but this time he’s learning the ropes as a gaffer rather than writer so he can get a feel for multiple jobs on set. Stead is graduating this spring with an AA in film production and will venture into the local filmmaking scene as a producer and director.
10 of SCC’s current and former students also worked on the following SIFF films:
THE HOLLOW ONE, Starring Film Department chair Tony Doupé and produced by fellow Associate Faculty Lorraine Montez.