The final scenes

May 29, 2018

Motion Picture Arts students wrapped up academic year 2017-18 with two final screenings.

On May 16, junior and senior students presented their thesis projects, which gave them the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of visual storytelling. Each student was responsible for writing, directing and editing their own thesis film, collaborating with peers of all majors to create the finished project.

On May 18, four motion picture arts students presented their capstone projects. Capstone projects are produced by three-and-four-year motion picture arts students as a synthesis of their artistic and academic training at Interlochen Arts Academy. The capstone is an independent project that challenges the student to conduct research on a topic and develop a creative response in the genre of new media, writing, non-fiction or narrative productions. Congratulations to Luke Broyles, Tairyu Hirayama, Davey Huang and Ye Michael Ma on the successful completion of their capstone projects!

Collaborating on camera

  • A student holds the clapboard during a recent filming.

  • A motion picture arts student adjusts the lights before a scene.

  • A motion picture arts student checks his framing while the director looks on.

April 19, 2018

With Spring Break behind them, student filmmakers spent the first few weeks of April filming their final projects of the academic year.

Joining the young filmmakers on set as on-screen talent were several theatre arts majors. These students, who presented A Fire Just Waiting in early March, had spent the past several weeks learning the original screenplays for their respective films.

These young filmmakers will debut the films at the Thesis Film Screening on May 16 and the Capstone Film Screening on May 18.

Alumni films attract national attention

March 13, 2018

Three Arts Academy Motion Picture Arts alumni have made headlines with their recent projects.

Ellie Sachs (IAA 08-10) was mentioned in The New York Times for her new film, a remake of the Woody Allen classic Annie Hall. Sachs’ film, called My Annie Hall, stars members of the Lennox Hill Neighborhood House senior center in New York City. The film premiered in December.

Christina Xing’s (IAA 15-17) new film, How the Moon Fell from the Sky and Nobody Even Noticed, will debut on June 29. The 40-minute musical was written by fellow alumnus Jack Fossett (IAA 15-16) and stars Peter Carroll (IAC 14-15, IAA 16-17, IAC St 17) and Nick Trivisonno (IAC 11-15, IAA 15-17). The film’s choreography and soundtrack were also created by Arts Academy students and alumni. The film has been featured in Out Magazine and Instinct Magazine, among others.

Gus Péwé (IAC 10, IAA 10-11, IAC St 12-17) has also received recognition for one of his recent films. Péwé was selected as a finalist in the Francis Coppola Director’s Short Film Competition for his film, “This Vacuum is Too Loud.” The film was selected as the Viewer’s Choice Award winner.

Congratulations to our alumni!

Looking back and moving forward

  • Matthew McGaughey (second from right) looks on as the students share their progress.

February 20, 2018

On Feb. 2, Motion Picture Arts students celebrated a successful Fall Semester and Inter*mester with a screening of original films.

First-year motion picture artists showcased their one-minute films that either revealed a hidden world or personified an inanimate object. Students of Matthew Arnold’s post-production course demonstrated their new skills with short documentary or mockumentary films. Several students also showcased their Inter*mester projects, in which they teamed up with singer-songwriters to create music videos. The evening concluded with “teaser trailers” for the seniors’ thesis projects.

The second semester also saw the arrival of DeRoy Testamentary Foundation Filmmaker-in-Residence Robert Milazzo. Milazzo is the founder of The Modern School of Film, a series of event-cinema presentations in which notable filmmakers and artists show and discuss the films that influence their work. Notable guests of the series include documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, actor Willem Dafoe, composer Danny Elfman and novelist Salman Rushdie. Milazzo will be in residence at Interlochen through the end of the spring semester.

Motion picture arts students also welcomed alumnus Matthew McGaughey (IAC/NMC 90, IAC 91-93, IAA 93-95) back to campus on Feb. 12. McGaughey, a film score composer, spent six days collaborating with a small group of motion picture arts and visual arts students to create an animation of the new music complex.

Motion Picture Arts student receives Fulfillament grant

November 27, 2017

Senior Motion Picture Arts student Luke Broyles has received a $500 grant from the Traverse City community storytelling event, Fulfillament.

According to a feature in the Traverse City Record Eagle, Broyles will use the grant to create a documentary film about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

“I’ve been wanting to make this film for a while,” Broyles told the Record Eagle. “My grandfather had dementia. It’s also something that a lot of people can relate to.”

Broyles’s goal is to use the film to explore the emotional toll that these illnesses have on those suffering from them, as as the impact upon their loved ones. The film will begin production in early 2018 and has a tentative completion date of May 2018.

Video: How to Make an Origami Crane

  • "How to Make an Origami Crane," a short animated film by Interlochen Arts Academy student Phumakorn "Tyler" Srikeawski.

November 17, 2017

Motion Picture Arts student Phumakorn "Tyler" Srikeawski created short animated film titled "How to Make an Origami Crane." The film was shown to members of Interlochen's Board of Trustees at a recent board meeting.

Motion Picture Arts student documents Comparative Arts trip

  • Nathan Ginter documents the Comparative Arts collaboration with Oscar and Grammy award winning songwriter Luis Resto at his Detroit studio. Credit: Matthew Arnold (

  • Nathan Ginter documents the Comparative Arts collaboration with Oscar and Grammy award winning songwriter Luis Resto at his Detroit studio. Credit: Matthew Arnold (

November 16, 2017

Senior Motion Picture Arts student Nathan Ginter and Filmmaker-In-Residence Matthew Arnold accompanied the Comparative Arts division on their recent trip to Detroit, Michigan.

During the trip, Ginter and Arnold captured behind-the-scenes footage of the Comparative Arts students, who had traveled to Detroit to present readings of their original play, Kenzoku, in the city’s historic Eastern Market.

Ginter also had the opportunity to conduct an on-camera interview with Luis Resto, an Interlochen Arts Camp alumnus who has been working with the Comparative Arts students to develop the music for Kenzoku. Resto, an Oscar-winning musician, had hosted the two readings at his loft.

Ginter will edit his footage into a short documentary film later this year.

Alumni headline Future of Cinema Film Festival

  • Chad Engel gives a demonstration on special effects makeup.

  • The banner for the 2017 Future of Cinema Film Festival.

  • Chad Engel continues his demonstration.

October 17, 2017

On Oct. 13-15, the Motion Picture Arts division hosted their annual Future of Cinema Film Festival.

Guest for this year included Better Call Saul showrunner Peter Gould, Score director Matthew Schrader and Oscar-winning composers Mychael and Jeff Danna. In addition, several Interlochen Arts Academy and Arts Camp alumni who are now working in the film industry returned to campus to speak with students, including Dylanger Mychael Bates, Sara Nimeh, Chad Engel and Matthew McGaughey.

Each evening, the students enjoyed film screenings followed by Q&A sessions with those that worked on the production. Saturday evening’s session was particularly special: Bates, Nimeh and Engel screened an episode of the web series [Blank] My Life upon which they had collaborated, then offered perspectives on getting into the film industry after graduating from Interlochen. The three alumni also conducted master classes and demonstrations with the students during arts block, including a lifecasting class with Engel (pictured above).

McGaughey also returned during Saturday evening’s session. Over the weekend, McGaughey worked with music composition students to write and record one-minute tracks for a short film made by senior Luke Broyles. McGaughey and Broyles revealed two of the compositions at the end of Saturday night’s program, which had been performed and recorded by Interlochen Arts Academy students at Interlochen Public Radio.

Screenings and visitors round out the year

  • Motion Picture Arts students explain the concept and creation of their thesis projects.

  • An audience of Motion Picture Arts students and guests listen to the thesis presentations.

May 9, 2017

On April 20, 2017, Motion Picture Arts students participated in a master class with Cate Scott Campbell.

Campbell is the co-host of the popular Forbes podcast “The Limit Does Not Exist,” and was visiting campus to record the first-ever live episode of the podcast. Campbell has also worked as a performer and independent artist; she is best known as a guest star on How I Met Your Mother and for producing, writing, directing and acting in her web series Tutored.

Campbell spoke to the students in the afternoon about her personal experiences, then returned to campus that evening to co-host the podcast in front of a live audience of students.

On Wednesday, May 17, 2017 our filmmakers, friends and faculty members met in DeRoy’s lobby for their annual thesis film screening. On the evening of Friday, May 19, the group reassembled in the lobby for our capstone film screenings and presentations.

Thesis presentations are made by one-to-two year Motion Picture Arts students. Capstone projects are reserved for students that have attended the Interlochen Arts Academy three or four years. Students are asked to create an independent project that explores a topic or territory of their choosing. In its five year history, capstone projects have ranged from new media to writing; nonfiction to narrative productions. Congrats to all of our senior and post-grads!

Film and subculture collide on set

Tommy Valdez
April 17, 2017

Video shoots continue to pop up on and near campus as Motion Picture Arts students finish filming their thesis and capstone projects before the end of the Arts Academy year.

One such project, senior Alina Bobrova’s fashion video, took student filmmakers, actors and models to downtown Traverse City this past weekend.

Bobrova has spent this year studying the psychology and sociology of the skate culture in her hometown in Kazakhstan. Interested in fashion and design, Bobrova is using her capstone to tell the story of two opposing skater subgroups through their disparate aesthetics.

On the set with Motion Picture Arts

March 13, 2017

Motion Picture Arts students are continuing their studies and personal film projects. This semester, several students are working with DeRoy Testamentary Foundation Filmmaker-In-Residence Kyle Tesalona, who is teaching Interlochen’s first-ever class on sound recording, editing and engineering.

Senior and junior students are working on their major film projects, which will debut at the Arts Festival in May. While senior students wrapped up the filming for their capstone projects, junior students began working on their thesis projects. Two thesis films are in production at the time of this writing; casting begins for two more next week, with actors being selected from Interlochen Arts Academy’s theatre program.

Lastly, details for the 2017 Future of Cinema Film Festival are beginning to take shape. Guest artists—including Interlochen Motion Picture Arts alumni—for the event will be announced soon. Stay tuned for updates!

Showcasing student works

February 14, 2017

On Jan. 27, Motion Picture Arts presented their first showcase of the 2016-17 academic year.

Prior the program the student filmmakers gave audiences a chance to view student works that were not on the evening’s main program. Audiences then returned to the DeRoy Commons for free popcorn and the evening’s main event.

The program began with 60-second shorts created by first-year Motion Picture Arts students. These shorts, designed to reveal a “hidden world,” ranged from alien encounters to daydreams.

Next, returning students showed off the skills they acquired in DeRoy Testamentary Foundation Filmmaker-in-Residence Lydia Hick’s Nature Cinematography class. The audience enjoyed each student’s interpretation of the class material, from stunning montages of nature to documentaries about ducks and human classmates.

The highlights of the evening were four music videos produced over Inter*mester in collaboration with Singer-Songwriter students. The final films of the evening were two trailers for senior thesis films, which will be presented later in the year.

The standing-room-only crowd enthusiastically applauded as the lights came up. Motion Picture Arts students were available after the program to answer questions about their films and receive congratulations from their peers and guests.

Anatomy of a scene with Our Lady J

December 14, 2016

“This is called a bubble scene,” Our Lady J (IAA 94-96) said while gesturing to the screen behind her in the DeRoy Center for Film Studies Lobby. Lady J (or Jonnah) went on to explain the anatomy of the scene she had written for season 3 of the Amazon show Transparent.

Since season 2, she has served as the only trans writer on the critically acclaimed Jill Soloway show. Earlier this year, she added the distinction of producer to her writing credit.

After breaking down the scene and the techniques used to create an effective “bubble”, Jonnah explained to the room of young filmmakers how producing has changed her work. “It’s challenging, certainly, but it’s rewarding, too,” Jonnah said about the process of pitching the upcoming season of Transparent to executives at Amazon.

Before wrapping up, Jonnah mentioned a meeting she had with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos shortly after he announced his Blue Origin rocket program. She told him, “I want to be the first trans person in space!” Best of luck, Jonnah!

A museum in Classroom A

November 16, 2016

Young filmmakers spend most of their time creating their own films. However, it’s equally important for them to study the history of their craft.

Instructor Leslie Tye brought a hands-on approach to the study of Film History by transforming her classroom into an interactive “museum” of film history. Each student was assigned to create an “exhibit” about a filmmaker, genre, event or invention from 1930-1965. The resulting presentations were presented on students’ Apple laptops. As soft 1930s jazz wafted through the room, the students moved from station to station, with topics ranging from Alfred Hitchcock to 1930s Hollywood Fashion to Horror Films.

Case study: The Traverse City State Theatre

  • Students pose outside the Bijou Theatre (left) and receive a tour of the the theatre's projection room (right).

October 11, 2016

Students in the Film History class visited the Bijou Theatre in downtown Traverse City on October 13.

Instructor Leslie Tye is utilizing the Bijou Theatre, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, as a case study of the eras of film that she is teaching the students. The students received an overview of the theatre’s history--including its restoration by the Traverse City Film Festival--and a tour of the theatre from basement to projection booth. The tour, led by Traverse City Film Festival Executive Director Deb Lake, wrapped up with a private screening of several films to give the students an idea of the Bijou as a screening venue.

Throughout the semester, the students will continue to use their experience at the Bijou Theatre as a reference point for their studies of film in America and the influence of film on the American public. Deb Lake will also visit campus several times to discuss the current state of film and film festivals.

All-American filmmakers

  • Christina Xing and Shane Bagwell on the "blue carpet" at the All American High School Film Festival.
    Photo Credit: All-American High School Film Festival

October 10, 2016

Motion Picture Arts students were well-represented at the All American High School Film Festival in New York.

Senior Christina Xing was awarded Best Drama for her short film, “Goldfish.” Christina also received nominations for Best Overall Film, Best Direction and Female Rising Star. “Goldfish” has also been accepted into the Second Asia International Youth Short Film Festival in Wenzhou, China.

Senior Shane Bagwell and alumnus Oliver Howell (IAC 14, IAA 14-16) were also nominated at the festival. Shane and Oliver directed a music video of singer-songwriter alumnus Connor MacDonald’s “Lifetime” for an Inter*mester project. Shane also produced and filmed “Goldfish” alongside director Christina Xing.

Alumna Kira Bursky (IAA 11-14) was also present at the festival: her drama “Really Looking” earned her a nomination for the Best Super Senior Award (for filmmakers age 19-25).

Congratulations to Christina, Shane, Oliver, Kira and Connor!

Alumnus Kit Williamson offers web series advice

May 16, 2016

“If you build it they will come” is a wonderful sentiment, but rarely does it hold water as our web series students learned from Interlochen alumnus, writer, director, actor and marketer Kit Williamson.

Williamson’s Daytime Emmy Award-nominated series EastSiders successfully funded the remainder of its first season and the entirety of its second season through the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter.

During his visit, Williamson impressed upon our students that you can promise amazing content, but if you don’t know how to reach the right audience you will never build traction. He spent time explaining to students the need for both meaningful grassroots guerilla marketing and traditional media methodology.

After class Williamson joined our students on several campus location shoots for their own upcoming web series. For the past few months, Williamson has been working remotely with our students as they worked through preproduction through their roughly minutelong episode series. Needless to say, students were grateful to finally meet Williamson in person.

Future of Cinema Film Festival 2016

April 14, 2016

Every year, the Future of Cinema Film Festival at Interlochen Arts Academy provides a setting for student filmmakers to meet peers and industry professionals to discuss trends and changes in the quickly evolving world of film. 

This month, the FOCFF returned for its 10th anniversary with special guests: Chad Engel (IAAA 07-09), Todd Mueller (IAA 84-86), Julio Macat, Kira Bursky (IAA 11-14), Ali Scattergood (IAA 06-08, IAC 06), Rich Delia and Michael Scheffe.

During the festival, students had the chance to speak with Kira Bursky on making the most of a gap year between school, learn tricks of the trade on the soundstage with lighting, haze/smoke effects, and exposure from Julio Macat and practice life cast and mask making from makeup effects artist Chad Engel.

It's not uncommon for students to leave the FoCFF inspired to try new techniques and to explore new filmmaking possibilities. This year was no different.

Filming begins on the latest student film

March 14, 2016

After revisions, rewrites and rehearsals filming has begun on Love is a Flower. The student produced short film focuses on 18-year-old Hope and her too good to be true boyfriend Hugh. The story includes love, poetry, flowers and lots of heartache.

Alina Bobrova- Director
Shane Bagwell - AD
Max Hardman - DP
Emily Tegel Assistant Camera
Colter Fellows - Gaffer
Luke Broyles - Grip
Julien Dresbach - Grip
Rosee Park - Continuity
Ye (Michael) M - Sound
(Ben)Weon Joong - Grip
Olly Howell - Art Director
Kel Burchette - Stylist

Web series help from Kit Williamson

  • Interlochen alumnus Kit Williamson Skyping with students.

  • Students preparing for their Skype session with Kit Williamson.

  • Genres class with Lesley Tye.

February 11, 2016

This winter, students began working together to produce their own 14 episode web series. To help kick off their brainstorming session, students Skyped with Interlochen alumnus Kit Williamson (IAA 02-04) from his home in New York. Kit wrote, directed and starred in his own successful web series EastSiders back in 2012.

Working from Kit’s advice and words of encouragement-students developed their own original web series concepts and pitched them to each other. Next week, students will begin the process of narrowing down their list of concepts.

Stay tuned for more on final concepts, shoot dates, and the eventual web series launch later this winter.

MPA on assignment: Lighting

  • Motion Picture Arts students set up a shot that re-creates a scene from a Vermeer painting for an assignment called "Lessons for the Masters."

  • MPA students set up lighting to try and re-create a scene from a Vermeer painting.

  • This is the image students were working to re-create: Vermeer's "Mistress and Maid."

December 11, 2015

MPA students worked recently on an assignment called "Lessons from the Masters." Students are re-creating paintings in short scenes. This is Vermeer's "Mistress and Maid."

MPA director named to Michigan film council

December 4, 2015

Interlochen's Director and Instructor of Motion Picture Arts Michael Mittelstaedt has been appointed to the Michigan Film Office Advisory Council by Gov. Rick Snyder. The responsibilities of the Michigan Film Office Advisory Council include:

        • Advise the office, the fund, the governor, and the legislature on how to promote and market this state's locations, crews, facilities, and technical production facilities and other services used by film, television, digital media, and related industries.

        • Encourage community and Michigan film, digital media, and television production industry participation in, and coordination with, state efforts to attract film, digital media, television, and related production to this state.

        • Assist the office and the fund in promoting, encouraging, and facilitating film, digital media, television, and related production in this state.

        • Develop strategies and methods to attract film, digital media, television, and related business to this state.


Lighting students are beginning to collaborate on their Lessons from the Masters exercise.  Student crews are asked to select a master painting to re-create as a live tableau in lighting, contrast, costume, color, and character.  The result is a micro-short film whose lighting style is based on artists such as Caravaggio, Edward Hopper, and John Singer Sargent. 

MPA hired Jonathan Ade as our second semester Filmmaker in Residence.  Jonathan will host a course in cinematography and camera movement along with taking a role in the Production Workshop class as one of the team of Motion Picture Arts instructors helping students develop their visual stories. 

MPA had two merit award winners in the YoungArts awards: second-year MPA Major John Chigas received a Merit Award in the category of Cinematic Arts; and first-year MPA major Emily Zumchak received a Merit Award in the category of Cinematic Arts.


Interlochen films featured at Frankfort Film Festival

October 23, 2015

The Frankfort Film Festival is showing the following shorts from Interlochen students:

  • Multiplayer - Demitri Makeig
  • Solo - Gintare Zukauskaite
  • Monkey Noodles - Karenna Lief
  • Girls Don't Cry Wolf - Music Video / Song by Madison Douglas / Directed by Anna Kotyza and John Chigas

Motion Picture Arts students featured at the All American High School Film Festival

October 13, 2015

MPA students past and present attended the film festival, held Oct. 9-11 in New York City.

Winners from Interlochen Center for the Arts included:

Finalist, Music Video (Anna Kotyza and John Chigas): Girls Don't Cry Wolf by Madison Douglas.
Winner, Best Score: Seong Hwan Lee, composer, for Anna Tubbs Capstone's No Story Time.

Also highlighted was Miles Carey's Border Woods, Demitri Makeig's Multiplayer and Luna Guerra Solano's music video for Allie Kessel's song, Canopy.

Motion Picture Arts ready for "Action!"

  • Motion Picture Arts and Theatre students workshop while family members look on during Interlochen's Family Weekend.

October 9, 2015

Here's what has been happening in the MPA division so far this year.

Motion Picture Arts students are working on the finishing touches of their thesis screenplays. We begin productions at the end of October and will continue through March.

We started the season with a video scavenger hunt in which students were asked to capture a series of 16 shots with very specific content and then cut it into short narrative film.

Some current and former MPA students are in the news:

  • Luna Guerra Solano and John Chigas are being honored at this year's All-American High School Film Festival in New York City.
  • Ali Scattergood was hired as an assistant producer with Ken Burns' Florentine Films.
  • Kira Bursky's film Tree Hugger was featured at the Cannes Short Film Pavilion.

Directing for Camera II - Spring Term

Andrew Hiss
May 18, 2015

Directing II builds on the basics of progressive shot design studied in the fall in Directing I.  In the spring, students focus on scene analysis and breakdown; they study the role of performance in film, and they practice and workshop directing the actor.  Students learn how to weave performance and camera together, each complimenting or opposing the other (and, in some cases, getting out of the way of the other, allowing the moment to shine though unencumbered.)  The focus, as in the first semester, is on the clear articulation of drama and story, starting with individual moments, and building to satisfying climax. 

To accomplish these goals, each student works in two groups; acting in one group and directing the other.  This term, students have broken down, rehearsed, directed, acted in, produced and are now in the process of editing scenes from Ordinary People, Happiness, Smoke Signals and Moonstruck.  In the final week of class, students will present their completed projects – an entire semester’s worth of work – and will receive final feedback and criticism from me as well as providing feedback to and critiquing each other.  (Feedback is based on the criteria of story and directing we have been studying all year.)  

For fun, we will also look at the original version of each scene as a way of comparing the different choices actors and directors can make.  (Students are given scenes at the start of term they have not seen and are asked not to look at original scenes while preparing their projects.)  On the last day of term, the completed projects will be screened as part of in-house celebration of MPA work done this year.  This has been a very good directing class this year!  I'm excited to see their final projects.

FIR Animation

Joe Stucky
April 22, 2015

In FIR Animation, we have screened several films showcasing different styles and techniques of animation. So many varying types of animation have been made, but as a class we have viewed a range that encompasses a diversity in forms. Students have chosen their own style to utilize. Some have found inspiration from William Kentridge, “Apache” (a Danger Beach animated music video), “Music scene” by Anthony Shephard, “Motion Graphic Music Sonar” by Renaud Hallee, “Take on Me” (a music video directed by Steve Barron), and visual artist Vik Muniz’s to name a few. Students have begun to create storyboards for a short animation project showcasing the technique that they find most inspiring. They will then begin to make their concepts move. I am very thrilled with the range of choices and ideas that are in progress.

MPA Alumna Preparing for Cannes

Motion Picture Arts
April 14, 2015

“Tree Hugger”, the latest film by eighteen-year-old Kira Bursky, has been selected for the 2015 Short Film Corner held at the Cannes Film Festival.

A 2014 graduate of Interlochen Arts Academy’s Motion Picture Arts program, Bursky has been working as an intern at documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock’s New York-based film production company, Warrior Poets. Bursky won the Best Overall Film at the 2014 All American High School Film Festival for her film “We’re Okay”, was a 2014 National YoungArts Finalist in filmmaking, and was named a 2014 Presidential Scholar in the Arts Semi-Finalist.

Written and directed by Kira Bursky, “Tree Hugger” is a short fantasy drama that tells the story of Clara, a high school freshman who is in search of magic in her life. Clara becomes involved with Leo, a senior boy at the school, but the fantasy world in her head darkens when Leo takes advantage of her. The film was shot on location in Asheville, North Carolina; Weaverville, North Carolina; and Greenville, South Carolina.

Organized by the Cannes Film Festival, the Short Film Corner is the essential rendezvous for filmmakers. Since 2004, short film producers and directors have chosen the Short Film Corner as the place to present their films, make meetings reality and take decisive steps for their future careers.

“I am more excited than I can express to have the opportunity to share my film ‘Tree Hugger’ at the Cannes Short Film Corner, which will be held during the Cannes Film Festival,” says Kira Bursky. “This is truly a dream. Traveling to Cannes would be amazing and a big step forward for my career as a filmmaker.”

With limited funds and less than one month to coordinate her arrangements for Cannes, Bursky has mounted a GoFundMe campaign with the intention that individuals will contribute the funds that will transform her dream of participating at Cannes into a reality.

The Cannes Film Festival will be held from May 13-24, 2015 and is anticipated to attract around 35,000 film professionals and over 4,000 international journalists coming together for the world’s biggest film event.

Great Directors, Great Films – Spring Term

Andy Hiss
April 9, 2015

Students in the spring class of Great Directors, Great Films examine the lives, processes and film work of important and influential directors of World Cinema. Issues of story and design, cultural and artistic relevance, creative process and drive, as well as visual and narrative style are explored and discussed for each director and each film. In January, we began the semester examining three films by Italian director Federico Fellini: La Strada (1954), The Nights of Cabiria (1957) and, Fellini’s masterpiece - and one of the great pieces of art in any medium -  8 ½ (1963). We then moved on to three films by French director, Claire Denis: Chocolat (1988), Beau Travail (1999) and 35 Shots of Rum (2008).

Students are now in the process of proposing, creating and presenting to the class projects that demonstrate an aesthetic, technical and thematic understanding of either Fellini or Denis. (It’s their choice). To accomplish this task, some students are choosing to do shot-for-shot analyses and recreations of exemplary scenes. (This is akin to painters copying to works of masters – how light or fabric or shadow is handled – in order to better understand technique in their craft.) Other students are responding to Fellini or Denis with original work (screenplays or films) that addresses, reflects or reinterprets the themes and shooting style of either director. These projects, undertaken with seriousness and passion, offer enormous opportunities, not only to demonstrate an understanding of the course and the directors and films we are studying but also for each student to stretch and strengthen his/her own filmmaking muscles.

Students present their projects in the next week or so. After that, we move on to three films by American director, John Cassavetes. I’m excited to see what the rest of the semester brings!

Exploring the Mash-Up

Leslie Tye
March 19, 2015
The students in the New Genres in the Digital Age class have culminated our exploration of the Mash-Up with a creative project where they had to create their own mash-up or remix. The assignment was to appropriate at least two existing works (created by someone else) and transform them by remixing them into something new. They were also required to explain their process and their piece and why they felt they could claim Fair Use for their creation. They could use any medium for the project. Here’s what Marieke de Koker created using photoshop and two images that she manipulated. You can read about her project here

Many of the students chose to work on videos, and the content ranged from parodies to political commentary to pure play with juxtaposition of sound and image. Here is Anna Kotyza’s explanation of her project: 

“My mashup video, “What a Wonderful World?”, created by combing archival videos from and, combines music and footage to create an new ironic interpretation of Severn Suzuki’s speech. By combining Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” and Severn Suzuki’s speech, I made sure that the sound in this video had an idealistic feel to it. However, I chose to juxtapose the quixotic soundtrack with (sometimes grotesquely) realistic footage of the world. In this juxtaposition, I created a new, and somewhat satirical interpretation of the footage and the sound. I am also not distributing nor making money off of this mash-up video.

The reason my work differs from the original is because I transformed the footage onto an animated television screen and economically used different snippets of footage. Also, I used an instrumental of “What a Wonderful World”, and instead of having Louis Armstrong’s lyrics, I chose to overlay Severn Suzuki’s speech onto the track.”

Spring Update

Michael Mittelstaedt
March 16, 2015

MPA is running headlong into the last quarter. Anna Kotyza just wrapped the last of eight thesis productions that run the gamut of storylines from the haunting of insomnia to the rebellious nature of both the punk and the jazz age. And production took place in temperatures spanning 80 degrees (-30 to +50 degrees F).  

Students are just beginning to learn their college acceptances, as they make plans for the future. The list of schools is diverse: University of Central Florida, Czech Film School, and Royal Scottish Academy, to name a few.  

Between now and the end of the season the freshman/sophomore and junior/senior classes will be producing their own longer work as a peer group, taking on the weight of a full production. Before break, each group got together to collaborate on the ideas and then handed them off to screenwriters and partnered to complete the script in time to cast when we return from spring break. The amicable nature of the conversations showed the strength of the groups’ abilities to collaborate and share creative work.   

Meanwhile, I am in the homestretch of my sabbatical summers, preparing for my western, working title, Chasing Daylight. It’s an invaluable experience to be the student again: script, directing homework, workshopping, fundraising and casting. An experience as both the Executive Producer and the Artist. It’s a refreshed perspective on everything that I ask of my students; the courage, the humility, and the abilities to both brush ourselves off after failures and not getting too puffed up on the successes.  

Good News from the Scholastic Awards

March 16, 2015

Congratulations to MPA majors Karenna Lief and Abbey Sacks who won Silver Medals in the Scholastic National Art and Writing Awards. Karenna won in the personal essay category and Abbey won in the Art Portfolio category. It was particularly exciting to see MPA students do well in disciplines that are "outside" of their major. But their success in writing and visual arts also serves as a great reminder that the Motion Picture Arts program attracts students with a wide variety of interests and passions. 



Getting Started in Animation

Joe Stucky
February 12, 2015

Utilizing hand-drawn techniques, students are beginning to understand the fundamental aspects of animation. They are currently analysing the physics of a circular form that bounces in place, and the same object bouncing across the page. An example of this can be seen above.

Next we are working with follow through and overlapping action. Students will capture reference video to study this concept. The question they are attempting to answer is two parts: what happens to the extremities of an object when it moves, and what happens when this main force comes to rest? We are excited to see how they answer these questions visually in their own work.

Storytelling in the Digital Age

Lesley Tye
February 10, 2015

This semester the Film Genres class is doing something different. As we are exploring New Genres in the Digital Age and as all of our content is actually digital the class has been created to be “blended,” meaning much of our classroom experience will be digital. This enables students to choose the order in which they move through the materials and gives them some flexibility as to how they use their class time. We will gather as a group fewer times throughout the semester, but hopefully make those gatherings more meaningful as the students share their discoveries and the progress on their work.

The first genre we are exploring is the Mash-Up. Students began by reading the articles Something Borrowed and Copywrong and watching the documentary Good Copy Bad Copy, all of which explore the complexities of the creative process and how things have continued to get more complicated in the age of digital art and commerce. The students then had to write a response on their film blog to all of these pieces and a list of questions. Check out the blog response by Jonathan Evans here. During our next meeting the students gathered in small groups to share some of their thoughts in a discussion, then as a full class we continued our conversation and looked at some other examples of appropriated work.

Next students are charged with taking a closer examination at copyright laws and “fair use” in order to decide if they think revisions would help some of the issues we’ve identified with work in the digital age. I’m looking forward to seeing the examples they find of fair use claims and copyright lawsuits that illustrate how these issues are tricky and sometimes puzzling. After their research, which includes looking at how other countries and industries handle intellectual property rights, the students will be building a wiki that includes their own take on copyright and fair use. They must also find mash-ups that they believe illustrate clear transformation of appropriated works. They’ll conclude this unit with the creation of their own mash-up or remix in a medium of their choosing.


Inter*mester in Motion Picture Arts

Motion Picture Arts
January 13, 2015

There is so much potential for creative collaboration at Interlochen. Intermer*mester gives us yet another opportunity to partner with our fellow artists across campus. Our student filmmakers made the most of the last two weeks by working with Interlochen's musicians to create original music videos. It is a type of visual storytelling and a set of skills that we do not really explore in our day-to-day work in the MPA program, but our students jumped at the chance to work with their musician peers. The projects are still in the works, but I can't wait to share the result of their hard work. 

MPA in Crescendo

Michael Mittelstaedt
January 8, 2015

In case you missed it, I just wanted to share a story I wrote for the January/February issue of Crescendo that highlights some of our recent, and not-so-recent graduates. It is amazing to follow our students' journey after they move on. Congratulations to Kira Bursky and Abbey Sacks on their success at the Mosaic Film Experience, and to the many other students I mentioned in the story as well! Here is the link to the full story.  

YoungArts Awards

Motion Picture Arts
December 11, 2014

Congratulations to the six MPA students who received recognition from YoungArts this fall! Due to the collaborative nature of our program, this recognition also speaks volume about the hard work and dedication of Interlochen’s MPA students.

  • Kathryn McCarthy (Honorable Mention)
  • Abigail Sacks (Honorable Mention)
  • Demitri Makeig (Honorable Mention)
  • Miles Carey (Merit)
  • Su Wan Kim (Merit)
  • Anna May Tubbs (Merit)


Conversations with Filmmakers

Aggie Ebrahimi Bazaz
December 5, 2014
In November, students in the Motion Picture Arts division had the chance to speak with two professional filmmakers who visited via Skype conversations. 

We screened "Sun Songfor a class of post-production students. "Sung Song" premiered earlier this year at the Rotterdam International Film Festival and won the Best Cinematography prize at the Ann Arbor Film Festival. The film is a lyrical and observational documentary that depicts a full day cycle on one bus in Durham, North Carolina. Critic Darren Hughes, reviewing Rotterdam for Senses of Cinema, called the film “perfectly conceived […] a mature, surprising, and deeply human piece.” 

After a screening of the film, the film’s director, writer and editor, Joel Wanek, Skyped with our class to discuss the ideas that helped shape Sun Song. The film itself is silent, a conscious and controversial choice. Joel helped students to understand this choice by connecting his work to Zen poetry and haikus: the image as a visual snapshot, an expressive and meditative burst of color and light. Joel also touched upon the ethics of making an observational documentary, how to respectfully and transparently enter a community with the purpose of documenting. The same ethical questions underscored a screening and discussion. 


Poetic Collaboration

Aggie Ebrahimi Bazaz
November 4, 2014

At the Interlochen Opening Convocation, poetry instructor Francine Harris read a marvelous and moving pair of poems, “Why I Haven’t Written,” and “I Used to Write.” It was through her reading that I was struck with an exciting project to frame my Post-Production class as the Filmmaker-in-Residence in the Motion Picture Arts division: Poetry Videos, or short films that imagine a piece of written poetry. Such an exercise continues Interlochen’s excellent tradition of interdisciplinary collaboration and encourages the filmmaking students to consider the poetics of editing.

Over the course of the semester, my students have been reviewing some fundamentals of written poetry and looking at editing techniques that can capture the rhythms, juxtapositions, visual metaphors, and contemplations of the poetic form.

Students have by now identified poems that they will adapt into short films. They’ve chosen these poems largely from the work of former or current Interlochen students. Over the last couple of weeks, students were asked to snap six photos that capture the rhythms, tones, and tensions they’d like to explore in their films.

As an example, the following six photos were presented by Anna Kotyza. In them, she explores juxtapositions in color and geometries: angular, contained frames as juxtaposed with more open, undefined lines and contours. Her film will explore a young girl’s attempts to escape an illness through her imagination, and her photos perfectly capture these two psychic experiences: the containment of physical weakness and the freedom afforded by imagination.

All of the students’ images were as carefully elaborated. From here, students will finalize scripts for their films, shoot, and edit, applying the editing techniques we’ve been observing and discussing throughout the course.

Elements of Narrative

Andy Hiss
November 4, 2014

In Story class, MPA students examine elements of narrative as it exists across multiple forms and a length – poetry and songs, plays and films, comics and graphic novels.  

Recently each student wrote an original short dramatic narrative, with some students focusing on screenplays and others stage plays. Students read each other’s work, provided focused feedback and, from that feedback, rewrote their first drafts, improving their narratives.

We are now moving into a study of long-form dramatic story. Students have read and are now discussing David Auburn’s full-length play, "Proof."  For the next two weeks, we will analyze and discuss in-depth issues of character and conflict, escalating action, twists and reversals as well as the ultimate meanings and themes of the play.

After Thanksgiving, we will turn our attention to graphic narrative, to short-form comics and to Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel, "Persepolis." Students will examine the narrative qualities of image as well as the core elements of story we have been discussing all term.  After discussing "Persepolis," students will have a chance to write and revise their own original graphic narratives.

MPA Alumni Success

Michael Mittelstaedt
October 29, 2014

I just received great news from a couple of Academy MPA alumni. Academy Class of 2014 Filmmakers took high honors at the All-American High School Film Festival. Mida Chu won for Best Drama and Best Original Musical Score while Kira Bursky was recognized for the Best Overall Film.

Future of Cinema Film Festival 2014

Michael Mittelstaedt
October 6, 2014

One of the highlights of the fall semester is always the Future of Cinema Film Festival, a special event that we hold on campus for young filmmakers. The 2014 Future of Cinema Festival, which will happen in just a few short weeks, allows students to immerse themselves in screening short films from other young filmmakers from around the world and a chance to work with notable guest artists.  

This year, our first guest is Terence Nance, a film artist whose practice includes installation, performance, music, and moving images. His first feature film, "An Oversimplification of Her Beauty," is an IFP Narrative lab alumnus and premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and went on to play over 50 film festivals worldwide.  

Our second guest is Sam Cullman, Oscar-Nominated director of "If a Tree Falls" and most recently award winning director of "Art and Craft."  Art and Craft is a documentary following the story of Mark Landis one of history's most unusual and notorious forgers of fine art paintings and drawings.  He gave away all his fakes instead of selling them.  

It's both a great opportunity to celebrate filmmaking with the students and guests, but it is also a time, because of the nature of filmmakers, that we can share the events of this festival with other arts departments like Visual Arts, Comparative Arts, and the musicians of Singer Songwriter, who have interest in intersecting topics as Motion Picture Arts.