Showcase highlights year's worth of filmmaking ventures

By Jessica Zischke, The Dartmouth Staff | 5/28/13 9:00am

Stories Growing Films, a filmmaking club that counts among its membership students and Upper Valley residents, has produced an impressive body of work in the short time since its inception during Fall 2011. In that time members of the group have produced two short films — “Hey Tolu” (2012) and “Stickup Artist” (2013) — as well as a variety of their SNAPS (Super Neat Awesome Peachy Shorts), which can be viewed at the bottom of this post.

On Sunday, Stories Growing Films held their first showcase in the Loew Auditorium of the Black Family Visual Arts Center. The showcase featured showings of “Hey Tolu,” various SNAPS and the premiere of their most recent short film “Stickup Artist.”

“This is really a chance for us to celebrate what we’ve accomplished and show it to the Dartmouth community,” co-founder Alex Stockton ’15 said.

Club members hoped that this showcase would increase their visibility on campus and generate more interest in their club.

“I want [students] to see what we’ve been doing as a club for the past few months and that there is a club for this kind of stuff,” said co-president Varun Bhuchar ’15. “[I hope] that more people will join us.”

Although the event showed many different productions, the spotlight was on the premiere of “Stickup Artist,” the group’s second main production and their biggest and longest one yet. After having worked on the 30-minute short film for the past year, it was finally ready to be shown to the Dartmouth community.

“Stickup Artist,” written by Bhuchar, follows the story of Tyler, a recent college graduate who majored in studio art and is now struggling to live an artist’s life. After his rent increases, he decides to rob the convenience store he works at, but when actual robbers interrupt his plan, he’s thrown into a night of debauchery and discovery.

While the plot may seem unrealistic to students, the general idea is one that’s very much relatable for Dartmouth students deciding what they want to major in or what field they would like to work in after graduating.

“It’s about balancing other people’s expectations with your own dreams and desires,” Spencer Janes ’15, secretary-treasurer of the club and production designer for “Stickup Artist,” said. “It’s important for everyone to think about.”

Many of those involved in the film’s production wanted those to attend to find a lesson within “Stickup Artist” that they can apply to their individual lives.

“I hope that people take away an appreciation for taking risks that are worth it and not being afraid to take risks for the things you love and that are meaningful to you,” Jonathan Sigworth ’12, co-founder of the group and director of the film, said. “You can’t just align yourself to what everyone expects you to do, whether it’s what you choose as a major, job or the kind of person that you want to be.”

Of course, this film was not without its obstacles, and the students and community members involved all had to work very hard in order to overcome these issues, whether related to scheduling or allocation of responsibilities.

“It’s the first time I’ve had this experience of really delegating a lot of filmmaking responsibilities to other people who are learning or other people who have experience but haven’t worked with each other before,” Sigworth said. “With a film like this where everyone’s volunteering their time you really have to work well as a team and not let personal fears get in way of that collaboration. There’s a constant tension between wanting to be responsible and then having to trust other people.”

Actors in the film felt a similar tension in that the director and writer must trust them to portray characters accurately while the actors must also trust those in charge of the film to complete the editing and final touches well.

“Performing, especially like this, is a real blind trust,” Skip Cady, community member and actor in “Stickup Artist,” said. “You hope, as a performer, that you honor whatever the person’s vision is, whatever the medium.”

After this premiere and finalizing the film, Stories Growing Films will send “Stickup Artist” to film festivals and begin working on their next two productions.

While the showcase might not have turned the audience into aspiring filmmakers, members of the group enjoyed showing the crowd many examples of the amazing work that is produced through student collaboration.

“One of the greatest things about Dartmouth is the other people you meet, and these films are collaborations between such amazing people,” Stockton said. “Even if people don’t want to join the club or go to a movie at the Hop, this showcase shows what Dartmouth students can do outside the classroom, working with each other, and how much can be gained from that collaboration.”

Bhuchar is a member of The Dartmouth staff.

Jessica Zischke, The Dartmouth Staff