For the Intermediate Film Directing (FILM 361) course taught by Thomas S. Turgeon Professor of Drama Jonathan Tazewell, students were assigned a final project perfectly suited for the class — to direct a movie. Collegian Arts Editors Grace Wilkins ’22 and Fredrike Giron-Giessen ’23 write about two of these films. Classmates and filmmakers Liv Kane ’22 and Abby Navin ’23 made their respective films in accordance with Kenyon’s COVID-19 guidelines, and wrapped up shooting in the last month. Navin and Kane expect their films and those of their classmates to be posted online by the end of the semester.
As an English and film double major, Liv Kane ’22 is accustomed to crafting a strong narrative. However, for this project, Kane took a unique approach and made a dance film entitled “Terrarium.”
When the pandemic began, film productions came to a startling halt, sparking concern over when the industry might return. On more low-budget sets, many, including Kane, have found creative ways to accomodate for COVID-19 restrictions like mask mandates. Instead of actors with speaking parts, Kane cast dancers — Claire Goldberger ’23 and Jennie Berlin ’23 — who gracefully donned paper masks with nose and mouth framings.
The plot follows Goldberger and Berlin, one acting as a figment of the other’s imagination. Kane collaborated with a friend, Megan Hasenfratz ’22, to craft the dance which would be featured in the film.
The film is set to a five-minute-long song composed by Dani Martinez ’22, another friend of Kane’s. The dance was rehearsed for weeks before filming, allowing for a very quick shoot which gave Kane ample time to edit. Kane anticipated it would take three days to shoot, but they managed to swiftly wrap up production after just two.
“I think Kenyon is so narratively driven,” said Kane. “in a lot of ways, the [film] department puts heavy emphasis on narrative over visual … I wanted to try something that was more visual, less narratively driven, and the dance film seemed like a good place to start.”
Kane is no stranger to the world of directing, as this is the fourth film she’s directed during her time at Kenyon. In order to enhance the experience, Kane aimed to create her desired working environment, one composed solely of women. For Kane this meant women “in more cinematography roles, in editing roles, in producing roles and also all of the dancers as well.”
The class also offered Kane the opportunity to work with underclass students who she hadn’t been previously introduced to. Shea Humphries ’23 served as the cinematographer, and Abby Navin ’23 was the production manager. Together, Kane, Humphries and Navin developed the vision for “Terrarium.”
Kane’s careful selection of the crew and her partnership with the dancers and choreographers fostered an ideal production site filled with fruitful creativity and collaboration. “Everyone who worked on the set was so wonderful, and it was a great team to work with,” she said. “The dancers were super talented, and Megan was wonderful.”
As the semester draws on and community members are faced with quiet period restrictions, on-campus creators like filmmaker Abby Navin ’23 are responding creatively to the challenging circumstances. Navin, a film and environmental studies double major, is in the process of producing a short film titled “Lucky Day.” The film, deemed a drama by Navin because of its gradually darker plot progression, focuses on a character who discovers a penny that can transport him into his old memories.
Inspiration for the basis of the film, Navin admits, originated from late-night, pun-based rumination. “It’s going to sound really silly,” she said in an email to the Collegian, “but my idea for the film actually came out of a 3am lying-awake-in-bed thought. I was thinking about petty theft when I immediately thought of a pun… penny theft! And thus the film was born.”
Navin credits her cast, composed of Will Sayegh ’22, Maddie Vonk ’23 and Caleb Stern ’23, with bringing the project together, emphasizing the excitement she felt at their collective performance. “It is so much fun to see the characters you wrote come to life by the actors,” she said. She also noted the significance of the assistance she received from her production crew, including Jack Roman ’23 as cinematographer, Shea Humphries ’23 as production manager and Liv Kane ’22 as sound recordist.
Filming earlier in the semester, when there were fewer COVID-19 cases on campus, allowed for Navin’s actors to play their roles unmasked, outdoors. However, she shared, “With cases rising our guidelines have become much stricter. I believe most films that have yet to shoot have had to rewrite their scripts to include masks.”
Navin is grateful for the opportunity the filming process has given her to branch out during an otherwise socially distant time. She also praises the growth that teamwork has inspired in her as a filmmaker, saying, “I think the best part of this experience has been working with new people. A film set is so collaborative and inclusive that I grow in my abilities each time I’m on one.”
Though the creation of “Lucky Day” was motivated by her film class, Navin has been an active independent filmmaker since age 10, and doesn’t anticipate an end to her projects anytime soon. “I can’t really imagine not making films, even if it’s not my actual job,” she said. “The process brings me too much joy.”