Take Three: Broadcasting majors set sights on film
By Jenny Collins ‘05
Four years ago film wasn’t in Dan West’s sights at all. As a freshman, he planned to become a news anchor, but a video production and editing class found him looking at his future through a different lens. Literally.
West ’08 immersed himself in video production and took opportunities to apply his skills. While a broadcasting student, West began his own business on the side, shooting live recordings, short films, documentaries, music and training videos and a dozen weddings, one of which required him to skip class to shoot in Aruba. (Last summer he filmed his first international wedding in Germany.)
“I had to juggle it just right,” said West of talking to his professors about it. “Skipping class—they didn’t like that much, but they were really supportive of the opportunities [I had], especially Ms. Sorenson [associate professor of film]. She’s been that person on the sidelines telling me to go for it.”
His senior year he “realized this isn’t just a hobby or something fun to do on the side.” He began to sense a calling to use his gifts for writing and producing “to tell stories not in a worldly way but in a real way. Entertainment and media are so saturated with garbage,” said West, who registered his business, Dan West Productions (www.danwestproductions.com), this year. “As Christians, we need to have input in that field. We have a message that the entire world needs to hear, and film is a huge way to do it.”
While some of their peers studied abroad, Bethany Armstrong ’09 and Matt McCrorey ’08 attended the Los Angeles Film Studies Center (LAFSC) to “study domestic,” according to Armstrong, “to get a taste of living and working in Hollywood.” The LAFSC equips Christian students to serve in the film industry and to integrate a biblical worldview with mainstream Hollywood entertainment.
“Hollywood is not that glamorous—they just have an amazing ability to make it look that way on film and TV,” said McCrorey.
“We were able to openly discuss some of the difficulties of being a Christian in Hollywood with professors in the industry and really delve into what that looks like,” said Armstrong, who interned at Focus Features.
“I think a lot of Christians go to Hollywood to transform Hollywood,” said McCrorey, “but I believe God brought me [there] to transform me. Christians in Hollywood have a lot to teach the rest of the world about the unconditional love and grace of Jesus Christ.”
For a class, they worked together with fellow students to produce a short film they screened at a movie theater. “Filmmaking is all about collaboration,” said McCrorey. “You learn to work together as a team…because you are required to walk through the entire process from script to screen.”
But they didn’t just make movies. They watched them, too. One of Armstrong’s highlights was attending screenings for Bella and The Kite Runner and Q&A sessions with the films’ directors and producers. She plans to move to L.A. after graduation to pursue her dream of becoming an independent film director.
McCrorey will freelance as a video producer and pursue acting in the Twin Cities.