Alexander Stockton ’15 discusses upcoming feature film

by Hallie Huffaker | 9/21/14 3:45pm


Alexander Stockton ’15 planned what he wanted to accomplish at Dartmouth even before he set foot on campus. As a junior in high school, the McAllen, Texas resident knew he wanted to study and produce feature-length films. And he has stuck to that plan.

A film studies and economics double major, Stockton spent the summer co-producing his first feature-length picture, “Transient,” which he also directed and wrote. Stockton’s Dartmouth classmates and friends filled critical roles on set, from technical positions to costume and set design.

“Before coming to Dartmouth, I planned out everything that I wanted to accomplish in detail, what classes I was going to take, how to structure my D-Plan, when I wanted to do an internship,” Stockton said. “One of the things that was on the plan was to make a feature-length film my junior year.”

Stockton spent his junior year building up his producing credentials, interning at The Bindery in New York City, which produces advertisements for national brands and non-profits as well as films. He also traveled and worked on the script for “Transient.”

In March, Stockton launched an $11,000 fundraising campaign on Kickstarter to support the film, and the project was fully funded by the end of June. Casting calls began in late May, and filming took place five days a week throughout June and July.

Along with co-producer Mariana Gonzalez, cinematographer Taylor Washington, lead actor Michael Ocampo and close to 30 other actors in major roles and crew members, Stockton shot “Transient” in Austin and the Rio Grande Valley, Texas, from mid-June through July.

Stockton completed post-production, editing, coloring and sound design in August, though final edits and promotion for the film will continue throughout 2014 and 2015. Stockton said he plans to submit the film to festivals in 2016.

“Transient” follows Franky DeLuna, an undocumented immigrant who emigrates with his mother to the U.S. when he is a child to escape cartel violence in Mexico. As an adult, DeLuna is deported to Mexico after he reports the attempted rape of a co-worker to local police, forcing him to come to terms with conflicting notions of home and belonging.

Stockton said he was motivated to produce a film that illuminated the experiences of his friends growing up in McAllen. Many traveled to the U.S. without documentation as children, he said, and have struggled as young adults to take advantage of opportunities afforded to those with documentation.

“A film’s story can be really powerful social force, and I’m trying to learn how to use [my experience] to affect people in the way that I was affected by movies growing up,” Stockton said. “This film is one that matters to me.”

Varun Bhuchar ’15, Stockton’s roommate and one of the film’s producers, said that Stockton’s “fingerprints” are visible on the film, especially in his crafting of DeLuna’s character.

“He loves hero characters,” Bhuchar said. “You can tell that with this movie — it’s very uplifting and the main character Frankie is a good, decent guy who’s had some hard times and is just trying to make things right.”

Stockton co-founded Stories Growing Films, the first film production club on campus, his freshman fall, and participated on the film studies foreign studies program to Edinburgh the summer after his freshman year.

Stockton said his love for film blossomed after watching “The Matrix” (1999). He tried out filmmaking in high school, making short movies on weekends.

“I’ve watched [“The Matrix”] a bazillion times,” Stockton said. “Everything I did was always related to movies until eventually I thought, ‘Why not turn this into a career?’”

Stockton lists producer and director Michael Mann (“Public Enemies” (2009)), director and writer Rian Johnson (“Breaking Bad”) and actress and writer Brit Marling (“Another Earth” (2011)) as storytelling inspirations.

“Mann is just a good director, he knows how to tell a story and I appreciate that,” Stockton said. “Marling’s definitely one of my favorites — she tells these stories that you’ve just never heard before.”

Film and media professor Jeffrey Ruoff described Stockton as “mature, responsible and trustworthy” behind the camera and in the classroom. Ruoff recalled how Stockton set an “unofficial record” for most films viewed by a Dartmouth student at the Edinburgh Film Festival — 33 over about two weeks.

Stockton is working as a teacher’s assistant in two of Ruoff’s classes this term.

“[Stockton] strikes me as the Olympic high jumper who jumps 5 feet 4 inches, and then raises the bar another three-quarters of an inch and sets a new task for himself,” Ruoff said. “After he jumps that height, he raises it again and keeps challenging himself.”

Ruoff described Stockton as a “tremendous” example to younger students interested in pursuing film because he has actively sought out opportunities to study and make films.

Randi Young ’15, costume designer for “Transient,” said Stockton was constantly encouraging and positive on set.

“Even if you could see on his face that he did not like what was going on, he was always like ‘Great, now can you do this?’” Young said. “He was a very nice person to work with.”

Hugh Sagona ’15, who worked on sound for the film, called Stockton “extremely even-keeled,” even given the high-pressure environment of shooting a film within set time and financial constraints.

The clarity and strength of the film’s message attracted Sagona to working on the project, he said.

“[Stockton] has an uncompromised message that he wants to send, particularly with this film. He knows what he wants to say and how to say it,” Sagona said. “The message is really key to him, and when it is on the big screen, I really think that it will really show.”

Bhuchar is a former member of The Dartmouth staff.

Final Word (with Alexander Stockton ’15):

Favorite color: blue

Favorite singer: Bruce Springsteen