Grand Valley's 15th Summer Film Project ready for viewing

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Grand Valley State University's 15th annual Summer Film Project, "The Darkroom," is ready for viewing.

Thanks to the generosity of Loeks Theatres, the film will be screened locally on Thursday, March 25, at 7 p.m., at Celebration Cinemas North, located at Knapp St. and East Beltine, in Grand Rapids. The public is welcome with a suggested $5 donation for admission to the film and reception to follow.

The film, about an aging photographer fighting for his craft and his livelihood, was produced through a unique program in the School of Communications. The Summer Film Project provides film and video production students the opportunity to work alongside industry professionals on every aspect of a short film, from start to finish.

Producer Zac Page, production manager Kathryn Postema and assistant director/casting director Chris Kotcher have worked on the film for nearly a year, along with more than two dozen other students. Learning the entire script-to-screen process included a few more lessons for the three students, who made a field trip to Florida during the recent semester break. They accompanied faculty member Z. Eric Yang, who wrote and directed the film, to Cineworks Digital Studios, in Miami, to complete final post-production work - the digital intermediate process.

"To put it simply, DI is mastering all the color after converting the edited film and sound to a digital format," said Kotcher, who is from Pontiac. "Seeing this process of color grading really shed light on how to also use color to effectively aid storytelling."

The film is set in the world of photography with many scenes inside a working darkroom, where colors are naturally dark. "By adjusting their tones and enhancing the faint whites and blues that appear when the main character flips on the enlarger lamp, the audience will now experience a visual aesthetic while also entering the magic of the world the character lives in," said Kotcher.

His fellow students were equally impressed. "We had exactly eight hours to go through the entire 25-minute film," said Page, a native of Grand Rapids. " Eric and our cinematographer Julie Hotz had all of their homework done beforehand, and knew exactly what they wanted to tweak and how." Page also noted learning several techniques, such as minimizing distractions - like a bird flying through an outdoor scene, and how to draw the viewers' eyes to a specific part of the frame.

Postema, also a native of Grand Rapids, recalls working on the film's sound editing and mixing as part of the Post-Production Practicum class last fall. "After working all that time with a low-resolution mini-DV transfer, it was so rewarding to finally see the film in full HD quality and color-corrected," she said. "All of us learned techniques that we can now apply to our own films."

The Summer Film Project for 2010, "Horizontal Accidents," will be directed by Tom Seidman, managing partner of Honey Creek Pictures, based in California. Grand Valley film and video production student Tom Castillo has been selected as screenwriter. He is adapting a short story, written by alumnus Michael Salisbury while an undergraduate, that was first published in Fishladder.

For more information about "The Darkroom," contact Z. Eric Yang at (616) 331-8169. For more details about Grand Valley's Film and Video Production program, contact coordinator Kim Roberts, or visit http://www.gvsu.edu/filmvideo/.