Media Arts and Design

SMAD students' film wins national BEA award of excellence


By Jessica Kronzer, staff writer

“Michelle,” a film produced by a trio of SMAD students, won an award of excellence in the national Broadcast Education Association's “narrative” category at its virtual ceremony March 1. The film premiered at SMADFEST in December 2020.

Chase Downey, a senior double major in SMAD and theater, directed and wrote “Michelle.” Ryan Rush served as cinematographer and editor, and Jamir Hudson, a senior SMAD major, was co-cinematographer. The students produced the project during their SMAD 405 course last fall, and Prof. Rustin Greene entered the video in the BEA contest after consulting with the producers.

“You could really tell that we were serious about it through watching the piece because it had a lot of very strong cinematography,” Downey said. “We had strong direction, we had strong lighting… I think every ounce of energy that we put into it was able to be seen.”

Downey said the film is a horror thriller inspired by the character Nancy Drew. The story follows Michelle, a college student in Indiana whose friend Julie goes missing. Michelle and her best friend Emily investigate her disappearance and suspect it is related to a string of serial kidnappings.

Although the project was produced in fall 2020, Downey had the idea for “Michelle” in 2017, during his senior year of high school. Downey’s friend made him a playlist with music including The Beatles. When Downey heard the band’s song “Michelle,” it reminded him of a man stalking a woman he’s in love with. This inspired him to write a draft for a film, which he finished during his freshman year of college, but he shelved the project until taking a screenwriting class with Prof. Kevin Reynolds. 

“I realized that I wanted to do it justice,” Downey said. “But in order to do a justice, I needed to learn more about how to how to screen-write before I could do that.”

Hudson said the film had a lot of potential and the group altered Downey’s original script. He said the creators also made an effort to avoid “clichés.”

“Michelle” was the first film Hudson has worked on, and while he had to overcome production challenges — such as one of the actors contracting COVID-19 — he enjoyed the process.

“It was a roller coaster, but it was a great ride,” he said.

Downey and Hudson said they are grateful for the recognition of their hard work. Hudson said he thinks the three filmmakers have a “bright future ahead.” Downey hopes to write and direct projects after graduation and hopes this award will help him reach those goals.

“It was amazing to be able to work on something that I dreamed of for five years,” Downey said. “It felt great and I'm really, really thankful for everybody that helped out on the journey with us.”


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Published: Friday, March 5, 2021

Last Updated: Tuesday, January 3, 2023

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