Summer Film Project marks 20th anniversary

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Filming is underway for the Summer Film Project, now in its 20th year at Grand Valley.


The film, Lucky Jay, was written and is being directed by John Harper Philbin, associate professor of Film and Video Production at Grand Valley. There are 22 crew members with Brian Gotberg and Alyssa Pecoraro serving as crew leaders; Gotberg is the producer and Pecoraro is the assistant director.

The comedy-drama will be produced as a Web series of eight short episodes about one semester in the life of a young film professor at a fictional college in the Midwest. Philbin wrote the script, along with collaborators John Dufresne, a novelist and creative writing professor at Florida International University, and Angelo Eidse, a Vancouver-based screenwriter.

“They say ‘write what you know’! Lucky Jay isn’t an autobiography but rather a synthesis of true stories gleaned not only from my experiences but also from many professor friends around the country,” said Philbin. “Our student film crew worked very hard for 14 days, 12-hours-a-day, to complete filming of Season One. Will there be a Season Two? Time will tell.”

Filming took place at various locations on Grand Valley’s Allendale and Pew Grand Rapids campuses, as well as private homes in Grand Rapids and Fenian’s Irish Pub in Conklin.

Lead actors are Michael McCallum, from Lansing; Ralph Lister, from Grand Rapids; Morlan Higgins, from Los Angeles; and Kat Evans, from Chicago. They all play film professors.

Faculty and staff working on the project include:
J. H. Philbin, associate professor; director
John Schmit, associate professpr; sound designer
Vinny Walsh, ’00, adjunct professor; director of photography
Scott Vanderberg, adjunct professor; additional cinematographer
Dwight Hamilton, associate vice president for Affirmative Action, plays an adjunct professor

Lucky Jay is scheduled to premiere in April 2015.

The Summer Film Project was established to offer junior and senior students an opportunity to work side-by-side with professionals to produce a short film during a six-week practicum course. Post-production is done during a 15-week fall course, with a premiere screening in the spring.

Barbara Roos, associate professor of Film and Video Production, founded the Summer Film Project in 1995. Grand Valley was one of the first universities to create such a program and many other film schools have followed in the past 20 years. Productions have ranged from short films (20-40 minutes) to a feature film that was 85 minutes. The films have won various awards over the years at film festivals across the country.