Jarrett Slavin thought “The Spiral Project” was just a high school pipe dream – it turned out to be something more, earning a MTV Movie Award nomination.
The LSA senior premiered his first feature-length film, “The Spiral Project,” at the Michigan Theater this past March.
Slavin completed the first draft of the script in high school and spent the past two and a half years filming and editing it with the help of his former Resident Advisor-turned-producer Sultan Sharrief, a University alum.
Shot entirely in Ann Arbor and metro Detroit, the film features 60 University student actors and cost a tidy sum of $100,000 – the majority obtained by the Slavin family’s fundraising efforts.
Based on the basic “wretched excess” plotline, “The Spiral Project” tells the story of a promising high school playwright seemingly caught in a prostitution ring. Produced on 35-mm film – standard for Hollywood fare but rare for student filmmaking – the movie was also the first high-definition film shown at the Michigan Theater.
The icing on the proverbial cake would have been national recognition by MTV’s college-centric sister channel, mtvU, at the MTV Movie Awards in Los Angeles.
Slavin was nominated for the “mtvU Student Filmmaker” prize.
But as Slavin found out, he would not be in the company of past winners like Selma Blair and Sarah Michelle Gellar (“Best Kiss”) or Jared Hess, whose quirky “Napoleon Dynamite” cost little more than “The Spiral Project” to produce.
Slavin did not attend the awards ceremony, taped Saturday night and set to broadcast this Thursday on MTV, because he was told in advance that did not win.
“We’re not celebrities yet,” Slavin said with a laugh. “They only fly the winner out to Los Angeles,” he said.
The “mtvU Student Filmmaker,” a new addition to the awards show this year, is presented during the taping alongside other unorthodox film awards, including “Best Fight Scene” and “Best On-Screen Duo.”
Joshua Caldwell, a student at Fordham University in New York, won for his film “A Beautiful Lie.”
“I knew my film was the only feature film and only 35-mm film in the competition,” Slavin said. “I thought that would make it either a shoe-in or eliminate me. There’s two sides of the coin.”
Either the judges would see Slavin as a moneyed filmmaker with more resources, he reasoned, or as someone who simply strove to reach greater heights.
“I guess they saw it as the former, but I’m not really bitter about it at all,” Slavin said.
Instead, Slavin is in talks to bring his sophomore script, tentatively titled “Frat Star,” to celluloid life. Although a screen arts and cultures major, Slavin did not consult professors or other departmental resources when making “The Spiral Project,” nor does he plan to when “Frat Star” gets underway.
As actress-host Jessica Alba was taping the MTV Movie Awards Saturday, Slavin was meeting with a “pretty big Hollywood producer” to discuss budgeting and casting for the new film.
The greatest windfall to the attention “The Spiral Project” has garnered is Slavin’s new leverage.
“(‘Frat Star’) will be a much more professional shoot,” he said. “It’s going to be a lot different than the last film.”
Slavin’s ultimate goal is to submit “Frat Star” to major theaters nationwide. Slavin also plans to shoot the film on location in Ann Arbor.
“It’s lighter but it definitely has a dramatic aspect to it,” he said.
Slavin has his eyes set on bigger endeavors, but for other University student filmmakers, MTV’s elusive “golden popcorn” suddenly seems more attainable.
“I do know there are a number of productions that are currently being attempted along the scale of ‘The Spiral Project’ that wouldn’t have been attempted previously,” Slavin said.
“People are thinking, ‘Oh, I can actually do this,’ ” he said.