Nearly six months after beginning production, two teams of University of Michigan film students attended the premiere of their class projects at the Traverse City Film Festival 2013. They shared their filmmaking experiences after the debut at the Traverse City Film Festival 2013 Film School Confessions workshop on August 1.

Film School Confessions featured two student-produced Traverse City Film Festival 2013 shorts, “Fender Bender” and “Open House,” as well as the 2013 Student Academy Award-winning short film “Zug.”  The films were produced within the Screen Arts and Cultures program at the University of Michigan. More than 50 people attended the two-hour panel at Northwestern Michigan College’s Scholars Hall.

“It’s cool to see how everything actually works,” said University of Michigan sophomore Lauren Wood, who added that she hopes to pursue a career in TV film.

The workshop kicked off with a screening of the short film “Zug,” which shows two teenagers’ mythical adventure to Detroit’s Zug Island and explores the city’s stereotypes.

“The way Detroit is perceived affects the story,” said “Zug” director Perry Janes, who wrote the coming-of-age short story for a creative writing class and produced the film for his University of Michigan undergraduate honors thesis in production.

University of Michigan students comprised most of the “Zug” cast and crew, Janes said. He talked about the challenges of producing “Zug” as well as his attendance at the 2013 Student Academy Awards ceremony in June 2013.

Next, a panel of eight University of Michigan Screen Arts and Cultures students spoke about producing “Fender Bender” and “Open House,” which both premiered at the Traverse City Film Festival 2013 earlier in the day.

The two teams, each consisting of about 25 students, wrote, financed, filmed and produced the 30-minute shorts for a semester-long collaborative course project that began in January 2013. Senior lecturers Jim Burnstein and Robert Rayher of the University of Michigan’s Department of Screen Arts and Cultures advised the students and moderated the Traverse City Film Festival 2013 Film School Confessions panel.

“In many ways the university is like a studio,” Rayher said of the two student-produced films. “I knew we had the talent resources in front of and behind the camera.”

In the coming-of-age drama “Fender Bender,” college-bound Jack Reedy spends the summer in Michigan fixing his sick grandfather’s vintage car for the Woodward Dream Cruise. As Reedy tinkers with the car, looks after his disabled uncle and meets a local waitress, the film’s narrative transcends the damaged car to examine the characters’ broken relationships.

The “Fender Bender” crew’s greatest challenges included shooting the summertime story during the winter 2013 class. Foggy breath wasn’t a problem, but the actors struggled with the cold temperatures and the crew had to re-shoot some scenes with leafless trees in the background.

The other short film, “Open House,” is a comic high school murder mystery. When the school’s most popular jock is found dead at a party, a shy student tries to find the killer and save the victim’s girlfriend by the end of the night.

The “Open House” crew threw an actual party for the film’s major party scene one night until 3 a.m., using a crewmember’s sister and her high school friends along with college friends of their own as extras. They rewarded the actors with pizza and refreshments on set during filming.

“Film is collaboration, and you just see how well as the students work together in a professional manner,” Burnstein, the University of Michigan senior lecturer, said of the student-produced shorts.

—By Catie L’Heureux

Photo(s) by Brianne Munch