MSU Presence at the Traverse City Film Festival

Music Composition students write score for full-length feature film.

MSU flexes its creative mussel at the 2016 Traverse City Film Festival. Photo courtesy MSU Communication Arts and Sciences.
Deans of MSU pose with Sparty, left to right: Prabu David, College of Communication Arts and Sciences; James Forger, College of Music; and Christopher P. Long, College of Arts & Letters. Photo courtesy MSU Communication Arts and Sciences.
Michael Moore talks with the audience and MSU student producers of “Sorta Late” for the Traverse City Film Festival. Photo courtesy MSU Communication Arts and Sciences.

Everyone jokes about the grown child who occasionally comes home and hangs out in their parents’ basement. Will Savino did that last summer, but he came home with a clear purpose: to compose and record music for an MSU student-created, full-length feature film that later received high praise at the 2016 Traverse City Film Festival.

Savino was among five student composers from the MSU College of Music who wrote musical scores for the film “Sorta Late,” created through the university’s Theatre 2 Film project. The second year master’s student was also among more than 100 MSU students who served as actors, directors, editors, composers, producers and art directors in the collaboration between the College of Music, College of Communication Arts and Sciences, and College of Arts and Letters. See movie trailer below.

“It was great working with students with different backgrounds,” says Savino. “That’s what’s going to happen in the real world—you’ll be working with creative people from all different backgrounds and disciplines.”

Savino worked with a student director to compose music for particular scenes using a keyboard, guitar, drums and melodica (what he calls an “ugly accordion”). He then recorded and edited the various parts in a home-based studio using a technically-proficient digital system he had engineered himself.

“Since the movie was a comedy, the key goal for every scene was to do what I could to make it as funny as possible,” he says. “It was a great way to work on a professional level project since my end goal is to go into scoring as a career.”

VIDEO: MSU Takes Over Traverse City Film Festival
Courtesy Communication Arts and Sciences

All hands clapping

“Sorta Late,” was one of the stellar outcomes of the larger Media Arts Collaborative at MSU—a program that demonstrates how three colleges can work together to enhance learning opportunities for students. From the beginning of the project, students had their sights set on bringing the finished film to the TCFF—representing the second year that MSU had entered a student-created full-length feature film in the renowned festival.

The film, says MSU Associate Professor of Composition Mark Sullivan, met with a resounding reception, complete with a packed audience that included film festival founder Michael Moore. After the screening, the acclaimed documentary filmmaker stayed for a panel discussion with MSU students, participated in the Q&A, and led applause and recognition of the entire cast and crew in attendance.

“Moore had a lot of positive comments about ‘Sorta Late,’" says Sullivan who served as a film consultant and adviser. “He said it was technically impressive, and was astonished by the quality and production capabilities of MSU.”

Sullivan says the recent successes of the entirely student-created film raises the bar for students and student composers, and drives momentum for future projects through the MSU collaborative.

Undergraduate composition student Charles Cooper says the experience reminded him to fully leverage opportunities to collaborate with other students as he pursues his goal of becoming a commercial composer for film and TV.

“While working alone as a composer is often a necessity, working on student films is a great way to gain experience in this field,” says Cooper. “It teaches you a lot about give and take in the creative process. Being able to navigate feedback from directors, shifting deadlines and multiple creative visions is just as important as being able to write the music.”

VIDEO: Sorta Late Official Trailer
MSU Media Arts Collaborative

Five students from the MSU College of Music were involved in scoring scenes for “Sorta Late,” including Charles Cooper (composition), Markus Howell (jazz studies), Perice Pope (jazz studies), Will Savino (composition) and Leif Gearhart-Hall (jazz studies). Doctoral student Samuel Joshua (composition) coordinated the activities of all the student composers involved in the film.

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