Student Films Featured at Traverse City Film Festival

collage of six different movie posters that will be discussed in the article

Several Michigan State University student-produced films will be screened at this year’s Traverse City Film Festival (TCFF), which runs July 25-30. The films feature the work of MSU’s College of Arts & Letters, College of Communication Arts and Sciences, and College of Music.

The following is a list of all the MSU student-produced films and when they will be shown at the festival.


stay with me movie poster: close up of eyes overlaid with starry sky

An MSU Theatre 2 Film project, Stay With Mewill premiere at TCFF on Wednesday, July 26, at noon at the Old Town Playhouse, 148 E. Eighth Street.

This full-length feature film is a psychological thriller in which a struggling Midwest farm family descends into dysfunction when threatened with the loss of their home.

Stay With Me is the product of a creative collaboration between more than 100 passionate and enthusiastic student actors, directors, editors, composers, producers, and art directors. It is a collaboration between the College of Arts & Letters, College of Communication Arts and Sciences, and College of Music.

This is the third year in a row that MSU’s Theatre 2 Film project has premiered a feature-length film at TCFF.


A collection of five short documentary and fiction films produced by MSU student filmmakers will be shown together on Friday, July 28, at 3 p.m. at Kirkbride at the Commons, 700 Cottageview Drive.

The World is Beautiful

pencil sketch of house with a person in the front window

Written and directed by Amy Wagenaar, who recently graduated with a double degree in Film Studies and Media and Information, this animated short is about a boy named Charlie who lives in a country, on a map, at the edge of a town, at the of a wood, in a world void of color until he meets Colette.

Creativity: A Gut Reaction

gut reaction movie poster: woman looking out into the distance over water and trees

This experimental film is a visual experience inspired by the poem, Gut Reaction, by Nicole Bush, who is pursuing a second degree from MSU in Journalism with a focus on visual communication. Bush also has a Humanities Interdisciplinary Studies degree from MSU, with concentrations in English, Religion, and Geography.


amorphous movie poster: image of a woman repeated three times horizontally in blue then red then green

Written and directed by Preston Swarthout, who is majoring in English and Fiction Filmmaking, this film, inspired by the stories of American author H.P. Lovecraft, is about an unconventional hypnotist who ventures into a motel room to help a disturbed young woman and her older brother but gets more than he signed up for.

On the Way Up

image of a distraught woman

Directed by Stuart Heinlein, who recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Media and Information, this film is about a young woman named Sophia who is forced to reevaluate her own life and her relationship with her boyfriend after he attempts suicide.

Immiscible: The Fight Over Line 5

immiscible movie poster: outline of michigan with text below "everyday 64 million gallons of oil pump through a six-decade old pipeline under the largest source of surface freshwater on earth. is it a risk worth taking?"

This environmental documentary takes a look at the 64-year-old Enbridge Line 5 pipeline that runs underneath the Straits of Mackinaw and in which 23 million gallons of oil is pumped through every day. The film explores the growing tension between water activists and big oil companies. It features interviews from leading organizations in the fight to decommission the pipeline, including members of indigenous communities at risk and concerned residents.

Olivia Dimmer, who recently graduated from MSU with a B.A. in Journalism, produced and directed the film. Media and Information student Daniel Stephens was the co-director and editor.


MSU students also helped with other films being shown at the festival, including the following:


This film was created as part of the MSU class, “The Television Pilot,” taught by Artist in Residence Timothy Busfield, who created the class to show students how to make a TV pilot. Students in the class worked on all aspects of the film.

“They ran the sound. They ran the cameras. They did wardrobe. They acted parts in it. They did everything except for the four lead roles, which we did. And they played small roles,” Busfield said.

The four leads were played by Busfield, his wife Melissa Gilbert of Little House on the Prairie fame, and New York actors Marin Mazzie and Dylan Baker.

The film is about a theatre professor, played by Gilbert, who is promoted to provost and must find the balance between her career, friendships, and love.

Tenure will be shown as part of the “Shorts: All the World’s a Stage” programonThursday, July 27, at 9 a.m. at Milliken at the Dennos Museum, 1701 E. Front Street.

Hubert: His Story

Several MSU students worked on the film, Hubert: His Story, which will be featured in the “Shorts: Fork in the Road” program on Wednesday, July 26, at noon at Bijou by the Bay.

Flint resident Hubert Roberts is the hero and antihero of this documentary. Roberts is a former inmate who uses his story and history to teach students in his city about their Black cultural heritage. This film is also a story of his redemption.

The MSU students who worked on Hubert: His Story includeWilliam Bridgforth, cinematographer and reporter; Dakota Johnston, editor, cinematographer, and reporter; Chloe Kiple, cinematographer and reporter; Lizzy LaFave, cinematographer and reporter; Cheyna Roth, reporter and sound recorder;andKelley Waterfall, assistant cinematographer.

Hard to Swallow

Part of the “Faces of Flint” series that aired on WKAR, this spoken word piece by Flint hip-hop artist Mama Sol will be featured in the “Shorts: Inside Flint” program on Friday, July 28, at 9 a.m. at Central High School Auditorium.

The MSU students who worked on this film include Valerie Dorn, field producer; Maria Braganini, cinematographer; and Dakota Johnston, cinematographer.


For more information on MSU at the Traverse City Film Festival, visit TCFF.MSU.EDU or follow #MSUTCFF.