Choosing between Panavision film or Red Camera digital format is just one of the many decisions to be made for the production of Grand Valley State University's 2010 Summer Film Project, "Horizontal Accidents." Another decision was to use Skype to introduce the student crew to the film's director Tom Seidman, who lives in Los Angeles.
The Summer Film Project was established in the School of Communications at Grand Valley in 1995. It is unique in the country in that it offers junior and senior students the chance to earn credit working on a short film under the direction of professionals.
Seidman, who has worked in the entertainment industry for more than 20 years, is the son of the late L. William Seidman, founder of Grand Valley. Noted most prominently as a Directors Guild of America assistant director for Robert Redford's "Ordinary People," Clint Eastwood's "Honkytonk Man" and Peter Weir's "The Dead Poets Society."
Seidman is also managing partner of Honey Creek Pictures, an independent film production company based in California, that specializes in the creation of quality genre and art-house films. His most recent film, The Bunny Lady, starring Florence Henderson, was filmed in Grand Rapids in February and will premiere in time for the Christmas season.
Though Seidman is now in town, his work on the Grand Valley film started nearly a year ago, with his selection of "Horizontal Accidents" from a list of story possibilities. Written by Grand Valley alumnus Michael Salisbury, in fiction writing classes while an undergrad, the story was first published in the university's student literary publication Fishladder and later in the national publication Black Warrior Review. The screenplay adaptation was written by Tom Castillo, a Grand Valley writing major, working closely with Salisbury and Seidman in another real-world educational experience.
The dark, yet funny, story follows a week in the life of two modern-day grave robbers. Boeve is a shady, charismatic funeral worker who talks the bereaved into burying their loved ones with precious (and pawn-able) mementos. His partner is Brandon, whose aimless life is shaken by a suicide jumper who lands on his car, and later discovers his insurance only covers "horizontal accidents." Shooting to produce the 25-30 minute film will begin locally at the end of July and be screened locally before making the circuit of national film festivals.
Seidman's recent Skype session with the Grand Valley student film crew ended with a good laugh when he confessed that the three Oscars on the bookcase behind him were cardboard stand-ups. He had bought them especially for this occasion to impress the students and then stress the importance of inexpensive props and the power of illusion.