Fiction Filmmaking Capstone Class Premieres Its Most Ambitious Film Yet

This year’s Fiction Filmmaking Capstone Class, the largest to date, took on its most ambitious film project ever in the history of the course, exceeding the annual class budget of $5,000 to create the 30-minute film, The Broken Diamond, which will premiere on Saturday, April 30, at 7 p.m. in Room B115 of Wells Hall. 

The premiere is free and open to the public, but attendees are encouraged to RSVP through Eventbrite. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and concessions will be available for purchase. There also will be a display of the props used in the film. Following the film screening, a behind-the-scenes video will be shown and there will be a Q&A session where attendees can ask The Broken Diamond crew questions. 

The Broken Diamond teaser trailer was created by Cherished Kirkland, Media and Information senior.

Work on the short film took place over the course of two semesters, when students in the class applied their expertise gained from all their previous filmmaking courses. With the support of two Film Studies faculty members, the students built the film from the ground up, handling everything from the production, promotion, and premiere of the film. And when they knew they were over budget, the class launched a fundraiser campaign to cover expenses.

The capstone class challenged the entire student-run crew as they wrote, cast, shot, directed, edited, and marketed the film, providing the budding filmmakers with an enriching and collaborative experience.

“I had the privilege to work alongside some of the hardest working people I know and seeing their commitment to the film just motivated me to work harder for them and the film.”

Sarah Kutchinski, First Assistant Director and Co-Writer of The Broken Diamond

“I had the privilege to work alongside some of the hardest working people I know and seeing their commitment to the film just motivated me to work harder for them and the film,” said Sarah Kutchinski, a senior double majoring in Film Studies and Media and Information with a minor in Fiction Filmmaking, who served as First Assistant Director and Co-Writer of the film. The other two writers of the film were Dannie Nguyen, Media and Information senior, and Raveena Mishra, Psychology senior. 

The Broken Diamond tells the story of Rae, a minor league baseball stadium janitor who finds a beaten and bloodied man in a closet at the stadium where she works while making her rounds after a late game. This discovery launches the film into a story of conspiracy, friendship, and redemption. “I’ve worked on hundreds of narrative projects, many as the director, so much of my pitch was based on the promise of finishing the project.”

Filmmakers with audio and film equipment attempt another take of extras sitting in the stands of a baseball stadium.
The Fiction Filmmaking crew capture film and audio in the stands at Jackson Field, home of the Lansing Lugnuts.

“I knew that I would have a production role when I joined the class, but the role of co-writer was a surprise to me,” Kutchinski said. “After I had spent some time with the script, it’d get passed to Dannie or Raveena and we kept following this pattern. The interesting thing about working on a team is that you start to forget who brought what idea to the table as they all start to blend into this larger story.”

Harrison Orwig, a senior majoring in Media and Information with a minor in Fiction Filmmaking, is the film’s Director.

“I’ve worked on hundreds of narrative projects, many as the director, so much of my pitch was based on the promise of finishing the project,” Orwig said. “I also come from an educational background, so another one of my selling points is how I train new crews.”

The Broken Diamond movie poster

When production was officially set in motion in mid-November, Orwig and Kutchinski began to work tirelessly alongside the rest of the Fiction Filmmaking class.

“My main responsibility was to get the film from pre-production to production and handle the scheduling,” Kutchinski said. “I was tasked with making sure the shoot ran as smoothly as possible and that we stayed on time. I did my best to anticipate obstacles and handle any complications so they did not affect actors or our shoot schedule.”

“While I have a lot of experience in the director’s seat, I have only had the chance to creatively lead independent productions, and when pay is low and crews are learning, the most important thing a director can do is not waste time.”

Harrison Orwig, Director of The Broken Diamond

One of the challenges the crew had to deal with was juggling the various locations utilized in the film, the most memorable being Jackson Field, home of the Lansing Lugnuts.

“Because we had so many locations, we only had a limited time at each, meaning I could only get a handful of shots per day with very little time to give actor’s notes,” Orwig said. “While I have a lot of experience in the director’s seat, I have only had the chance to creatively lead independent productions, and when pay is low and crews are learning, the most important thing a director can do is not waste time.”

A crowd of young people with popcorn cheer in the stands of a baseball stadium.
A crowd of extras cheer at an imaginary home run at Jackson Field, home of the Lansing Lugnuts.

COVID-19 safety was an important component during all phases of the filmmaking process. Funds for face masks and sanitation products were taken from the film’s budget. Additionally, the month of January was especially difficult because it temporarily forced the class back into a remote setting.

Since the film wrapped in early April, two Fiction Filmmaking students Akhil Arora, Computer Science senior, and Dylan Burg, Media and Information senior were tasked with editing the film while Cherished Kirkland, Media and Information senior, cut together a trailer. The final version of The Broken Diamond will be sent to the Traverse City Film Festival among other film festivals.