In this year’s M-agination Student Film Festival, an experimental music video called “Legs” is just three minutes of dancing lower limbs, legs communicating with each other. Another one of the films is a sitcom pilot, following a pair of feisty twins as they wreak havoc through their boarding school by orchestrating a cheating business. Several of the films this year are musicals.

M-agination Student Film Festival

April 18, 7pm
The Michigan Theater

The M-agination producers are a board of 16 senior and associate members, all students. While most of them are studying film, other majors are represented, such as the sciences. They are responsible for putting out the call for scripts each year, deciding among the 30 to 40 usual submissions and putting together teams to make each film.

“It’s all about story and how do you tell a good story in an interesting way?” said President Anna Baumgarten, an LSA Senior. “We like to avoid cliché; there are ways to put a spin on things that we’ve seen before. It’s really about human connection, so good writing, even with tropes we’ve seen before like romance, can really make a difference. The writing comes through and you feel it.”

There are other things that help Baumgarten and the other producers filter through stories. In narrative films, the producers evaluate pacing, writing, the feel of the dialogue and how engaging the story is.

“Another thing we look for is producability. Are there creative ways to get it done? If it’s shot on the moon, can we shoot that and how do we do it? Resources are important,” she said.

After scripts are chosen, the writers typically become the directors. Then, the producers put out a crew call that anyone within the University is welcome to attend. There, writers/directors have the opportunity to pitch their script. During this meeting, other students may sign up for crew roles on the films. And M-agination is open to all students and all ideas.

“It’s the only film organization on campus where you can submit any idea, and we will consider it,” Baumgarten said. “I like how open the format is; every producer is assigned one of those scripts and productions, and they run their own little microorganism. Every production is different. There’s no set limit.”

The unofficial mentorship program within the organization also helps encourage less experienced students interested in film to get involved. Experienced people are put in department positions and partnered with newer crew members. This gives something to people that film classes can’t.

“When you’re in a production class, you’re with kids your same age and experience. Learning from (older students’) points of views of art has been so rewarding,” Baumgarten says.

This kind of mentorship fosters a strong sense of collaboration among M-agination members. It’s a theme that both Baumgarten and Vice President Anthony Kalil, an LSA Senior mention more than once.

“There are a lot of very talented and creative people associated with our group and the best works we see each year come from groups who fostered a safe space for people to express their creativity collaboratively,” said Kalil.

The collaboration that helps the filmmakers and producers improve their individual skills is also the driving force of a film’s beauty.

“Film is the ultimate collaborative art form. You have writers, designers, composers, acting; I can’t think of a single creative art form that it doesn’t include. Even if it’s non-narrative, you’re still conveying feeling and emotion. It’s so cool,” she said, laughing.

The obsessive excitement often seen in people with particular passions, like comics, Harry Potter books or, in this case, film, shines through Anna’s enthusiasm and ambition. Likewise, Kalil expresses the same sentiment towards the power of film.

“The cinematography, sound design, costume design, acting and everything else all try to convey the story in their own way. There are a lot of projects this year in the M-agination Films Festival that have achieved the sort of artistic synchrony and I’m excited for everyone to see them. It’s beautiful,” Kalil said.

M-agination leaves its door open to all ideas and all faces. As part of the University Activity Center, everyone is technically a part of the organization, Baumgarten noted. If your form of getting involved isn’t grabbing a camera or writing a script, simply sit back in the theater and let yourself be blown away. Remind yourself what students are capable of.

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