Film Studies major Tessa MacDonald, who is preparing to graduate this spring, has gained real-world experience as the Producer of the 2020-2021 Fiction Filmmaking Capstone film, Varnish, which is about an elderly father seeking reconciliation with his son after abandoning him a lifetime ago to travel the world.
Work on the film began in September and it is set to be released this spring.
“Making a short film in a pandemic is a lot of work, and I’m sure it’s a lot of work without the challenge of a pandemic,” MacDonald said. “We’re all very excited for the public to see this.”
As a producer for the film, it was MacDonald’s job to keep everyone on task.
“On the days we had class, I created an agenda to see what everyone was working on and assigned crew members due dates to have tasks done by,” she said. “On set, I was one of three producers that crew members reported to if they needed someone to pick something up or needed an extra set of hands.”
Making a short film in a pandemic is a lot of work, and I’m sure it’s a lot of work without the challenge of a pandemic,” MacDonald said. “We’re all very excited for the public to see this.
MacDonald also gained experience in her field by working as a Creative Production Intern for HOMTV and as a Film Prep/Print Traffic/Social Media Intern for the Traverse City Film Festival. Currently, she is part of the Global Remote Internship Program and is doing an internship for the Screen Directors Guild of Ireland as a Special Projects Management Intern.
“All my internship experiences have taught me about the many different ways my major can be applied,” she said. “All the internships I did were very different from each other, but I never felt under-prepared for them due to the skills I learned in the classroom.”
Another highlight of MacDonald’s MSU education was her study abroad trip to Dublin, Ireland, where she studied at University College Dublin in spring 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she had to leave her study abroad early, but continued her classes online until June.
“If I had to do that whole experience over again, I would, COVID included,” she said. “On my study abroad trip, I learned so much about myself and about international and Irish cinema. I was also exposed to so many different people, like my flatmate and one of my best friends from exchange who is from Thailand and lives in Australia. I would recommend studying abroad to anyone who is interested.”
During spring break 2019, she went on the Creativity Industry and Culture study away trip to Los Angeles, California.
“My study away experience was also amazing. I learned so much about life in L.A. and working as a creative there,” MacDonald said. “I got to meet the producer of one of my favorite films, Coraline, and I even got to hold Coraline herself! Also, the group of people I went with I am still in contact with today. We are even having a reunion Zoom call this weekend, and the roommate I had in L.A. is now my roommate in Lansing.”
I have loved being an MSU student. I am so lucky to be a Film Studies major here because all of my professors are very knowledgeable and passionate about film and it has been such a privilege to get to learn from them.
Other highlights of MacDonald’s MSU education include the professors she has worked with and the clubs she has been a part of.
“I have loved being an MSU student,” she said. “I am so lucky to be a Film Studies major here because all of my professors are very knowledgeable and passionate about film and it has been such a privilege to get to learn from them. I have also loved the clubs I am a part of, like MSU Telecasters. I produce a show for them called Giraffe House, and that has introduced me to so many of my friends as well as created so many different opportunities for me.”
Along with the great memories and experiences, MacDonald’s MSU education has helped her feel more confident in launching her career. “I do feel my MSU education will help me launch my career post-graduation, partially because of all the opportunities I took advantage of, but also because the education I have received is really top-tier,” she said. “After graduation, I plan on moving to a big city to work for a film company. I would love to move back to Ireland and work there, but L.A. or Seattle would be wonderful as well.”