CLAS Acts June 2009

child actor in summer film

Director discusses scene with actor

On set for Walter's Wife        
Director discusses the script with Austin

June 2009
Volume 2, Issue 10

Our Mission: The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is a student-centered and diverse learning community that engages in critical inquiry extending knowledge to enrich and enliven individual and public life.  

CLAS College Office Monthly Newsletter for Faculty

Does it really matter if my grades are in on time?   Yes!  Save clerical time and avoid nasty consequences for some of your students (such as erroneous dismissal, dropped courses for the next term, as well as financial aid and scholarship problems) by entering your grades on time.    Banner will open for grading on June 16.   Banner will close at 12 noon on June 22.


Frederick J. Antczak, Dean, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

And what is so rare as a day in June? Then, if ever, come perfect days.  

~James Russell Lowell

In June, the College Office turns a corner.  Having completed most of the tasks of the previous academic year, the preparations for the coming one begin in earnest.  For instance, I will be working on integrating the recommendations of the Faculty Council and the Associate Deans into CLAS's ranking of the possible new position requests.  Hope springs eternal that we will be able to continue to hire for some of these still much-needed positions.  So that we can better fund the coming year, I'll also be making several fundraising trips.  And at this time of year, I consult the Provost's Office about the possibility of raises for next school year. 

AD Gary Stark will be directing the study abroad program in Krakow, Poland and teaching Polish history through June 27.  I'll take on the duties that Gary can't easily do while in Poland.  Meanwhile, AD Jann Joseph will be following up on facilities requests, planning summer moves, and doing some scholarly writing.  She is also preparing for new faculty orientation and mentoring.  AD Mary Schutten will be continuing work on the student summer scholar grant, collecting data for the NSF diversity grant, continuing to meet with individuals to gain in depth perspective of the AD position, serving on the task force for new units and new programs, and working on tasks related to student welfare such as veteran students' affairs. Over the summer, we'll continue to distribute grant announcements to appropriate unit heads.  I hear that many colleagues are finding this tailored distribution to be a useful service.  Work continues on a publication highlighting the scholarly and creative achievements of the faculty since those reported in the Quadrennial Report last year, a sort of matching pair with the publication on teaching.  Also in progress is a new web page to share expertise on the production of posters and other visual presentation methods for scholarly and creative work.  We hope this will be a great resource for faculty and students.  We're also making progress on the draft of the CLAS Inclusion Plan based on the hard work of our student, staff and faculty colleagues on GrIT.   So while these may not all be the "perfect days" that James Russell Lowell envisioned--and then only because Lowell didn't envision Lansing's budget processes--it is indeed June and we haven't lost momentum.  I hope this month brings you some time to plan, recharge and even reflect.     

Faculty & Staff Feature

Producing Walter's Wife

by Monica Johnstone, Dir. of CLAS Communications & Advancement 

Now in its 15th year, the GVSU Summer Film is a familiar feather in the cap of the School of Communications.  Unless you've been directly involved, it's hard to imagine just what goes into such an undertaking.  Jim Schaub, who wears many hats, knows.  And he's still smiling. Jim Schaub has worked as a producer, editor, writer, camera operator and technical adviser.  With a bachelors degree in business from Michigan State University and both a bachelors and masters degree in Communications from Grand Valley State University, he teaches film, video editing, and effects and is a technician in the School of Communications.   He is currently producing a documentary called "Up From the Bottoms: The Search for the American Dream", a story about African American migration to Muskegon in the 1940's and beyond.  It features Emmy award winning actress and humanitarian Cicely Tyson as the narrator.  And, germane to our story, he executive produced last summer's film, Walter's Wife. Recent GVSU alum and award winning filmmaker Andy Fortenbacher approached Jim (in his hat as a partner in Clear View Films) and GVSU to join forces to make the 2008 Summer Film from a script by recent graduate Joshua A. Kinne.  When all was said and done, the film was produced as a Grand Valley State University Summer Film by Clear Vision Films, in association with Orange Chair Productions ( ).  Walter's Wife is a short film about a failing marriage from the perspective of a young boy.  Therein, Jim thought, was the greatest challenge of the production.  After all, W.C. Fields once said, "Never work with children or animals."  Jim might now amend that famous quip to read "unless you find the right one." After casting auditions in Detroit, Chicago and finally Grand Rapids, director Andy Fortenbacher was starting to wonder if he had the right child actor to play the 10 year-old son of this troubled family through whose eyes the story unfolds.  In a rather Hollywood ending, the very last to audition was then 11 year-old Austin Belrose, already a veteran of GVSU's summer film Flickering Blue four years prior.  Despite the dark themes of this drama which is not what anyone would consider family fare, the only challenge proved to be working around the schedule of Little League during the voice overs, because Austin is also a talented athlete. Jim beams when he describes Austin's ability to take direction, project subtle emotions to camera, and perform the demanding automated dialogue replacement (known as ADR).  "Within three tries, he'd have it," Jim explains.  "Sometimes it's even hard for professional actors." The other three roles are deftly played by experienced pros:  Scott Lowell is best known for his lead role of "Ted Schmidt" in Showtime's groundbreaking series Queer As Folk; Suzanne Lang has worked in film, theater, commercial and voiceover in Chicago/the Midwest, Germany and the West Coast; and Tim Moriarty who recently made his NYC theatrical debut as "Prospero" in Shakespeare's The Tempest, and made his Los Angeles film debut last summer.  Extras included GVSU students and Jim himself. Andy wore multiple hats, too.  In addition to directing and casting the film, Andy turned his considerable talents to the final polishing of the sound design.   The original score is being produced by Duncan Blickenstaff, a graduate student at Columbia College in Chicago as his masters project.  Jim adds that four composers were auditioned on the task of putting the trailer to music.  The choice was clear. On locations in Caledonia (about 95% of the time) and in Cascade, Muskegon, and Allegan, the set was a lively place despite the small cast.  Walter's Wife  is producer John Otterbacher's 5th Summer Film Practicum with GVSU and his third as a staff member. John, in addition to operating the production company Orange Chair, is a part-time professor at Columbia College Chicago and GVSU, where he received his Masters in Communication in 2005.  Director of Photography, Michael Bosman, is also a GVSU alumnus.  Producer, Rebecca Fortenbacher brings her experience as an art director and graphic designer to the film.  And, of course, GVSU film and video students get hands-on experience on the production equipment. The beautiful shots from the production on the official web site ( ) suggest a rural summer beauty that belies its subject.  Reports from those who have seen an early cut screening suggest that the film is extraordinarily well acted and a strong candidate for awards.  The rest of us will have to wait for our chance to see it in the fall.