'Film bootcamp': Summer Film Project's short film in post-production with an eye toward spring premiere

The annual GVSU Summer Film Project, halted in 2020 like so many projects due to the pandemic, returned this year with a short film that is now in post-production.

Joel Potrykus, affiliate professor for film and video production, was at the helm for the project that marked its 25th anniversary in 2019 with the feature film "Driftless," which is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

Potrykus, who also has several releases on Amazon Prime Video, combined his industry expertise with that of others working in the film industry to give students the hallmark Summer Film Project experience of being part of a professional set.

"Film production really throws you into film bootcamp," Potrykus said. "The theory is gone. This is just 'do.'"

This film, titled “Thing From the Factory by the Field” is set to premiere in April. Potrykus said he is already fielding inquiries from film festival representatives asking to see it.

The outside of the Calder Art Center, including glass-paneled walls and a tree.
Many people from the Department of Visual and Media Arts are involved with the film.
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills

Potrykus kept details about the film sparse, but said it is about some teens auditioning a bass player in a field. "The audition involves a crossbow and the arrow does not strike its target," he said.

The teen actors came from Michigan, Georgia and Wisconsin, Potrykus said. Industry professionals and students worked on the crew.

A recent Grand Valley graduate served as producer and set herself apart as highly focused, organized and responsive, Potrykus said. In fact, Breana Malloy, '21, had tended so well to every detail before the shoot that she actually found herself with time on her hands during filming, Potrykus said.

"I told her that a bored producer is a good producer," Potrykus said. "She prepared everything so well she could kick back and wait for problems to arise, and they didn’t."

Malloy, who received a degree in film and video production, said after her recent graduation she went from working as a professional producer in the Summer Film Project to now working with a West Michigan video production company.

She said she loves being involved in every aspect of film production. She said she had background working in business, which she grouped with her organizational skills and emphasis on connecting with people to have success on the set.

"A lot of it is just interpersonal relationships and making sure people know they matter on set," Malloy said. "As a producer you absorb everyone's stress and learn how to deal with it. Knowing what people can handle is important -- where to push and where to step back."

Now that the film is in post-production, Potrykus said he wanted to be hands-off so someone with fresh perspective can finish off the film. That work falls to Suzanne Zack and her post-practicum class.

Zack, affiliate professor for film and video production, said the students work as a group to edit the summer film, giving them a deep understanding of editing.

"The most fun is when they see how much the story evolved from their first edit at the beginning of the semester to the end, when their last version feels like a film," Zack said. "They get a visceral sense of the way each stage of production and post production adds to the film, transforming it from an idea to a moving experience for audiences."


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