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WMU students help make independent film

July 15, 2009

KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University students in communication, theatre, creative writing and business got a glimpse of independent filmmaking this summer by taking part in an innovative film project shot in Kalamazoo, Covert and South Haven.

The film, titled "The Lake Effect," features the talents of writer and director Tara Miele and producer and Kalamazoo native Jennifer Westin. Various area landmarks were featured in the film, including Heritage Guitars, Bell's Eccentric Cafe, Fenn Valley Winery and Sherman's Ice Cream. The film was shot from mid-June through early July.

Current WMU students who took part in the film and their hometowns are:

  • Elizabeth Quinlan, of Fraser, Mich.
  • Lisa Bridenstine, of Galesburg, Mich.
  • Ryan Michael Besch, of White Lake, Mich.
  • Brian Lane, of Ann Arbor, Mich.
  • Phillip Wright, of Fremont, Mich.
  • Michael J. Markel III, of Waterford, Mich.
  • Megan Stokes, of South Haven, Mich.
  • Andrew O'Reilly, of Beverly Hills, Mich.

Quinlan, Bridenstine, Lane, Wright and Stokes are majoring in film, video and media studies. Besch is a creative writing and marketing student, Markel is specializing in public relations and O'Reilly is a business major.

The students worked as interns in pre-production and on the set as the film was being made. Students assisted in everything from casting and coordinating extras to working with sound and camera units.

Several other people with WMU ties also took part in the project.

  • Graduates Andrea Flader, of Flushing, Mich., and Emily Pignataro, of Battle Creek, Mich., took on significant production and production design responsibilities.
  • Dr. Arnie Johnston, who retired in 2008 as professor and chair emeritus of the WMU Department of English, had an on-camera speaking role.
  • Matthew Runyan, a former WMU student, also participated.

"Working on this film provided an incredible professional opportunity for students, recent alumni and faculty. We were welcomed into a unique professional situation, which provided experience in all aspects of cinema production. The Los Angeles based producer, director and director of photography were incredible mentors and inspiring professionals," says Dr. Jennifer Machiorlatti, WMU associate professor of communication in the film, video and media studies program and first assistant director on "The Lake Effect."

"It was a unique experience for students to partner with professionals on a film project. I hope this can be a regular summer learning experience for students, faculty, community and professional partners in cinema production," adds Machiorlatti.

The film, a "dramedy," tells the story of a father suddenly facing the prospects of caring for his estranged, pregnant 18-year-old daughter, who shows up with her rock musician boyfriend.

"I've been looking for a project to bring back home for a long time and I finally found the right script," Westin says. "I'm thrilled to be able to showcase the natural beauty, local landmarks, and tremendous artistic talent of Southwest Michigan."

The film is currently in post-production.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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