When junior film studies studies student Dan Stewart started shooting a film for his expanded media class project, he didn't have a set plan or idea of what he wanted his work to entail.
That film played a professional film festival two weeks ago in London.
“I rounded up a bunch of people, said, 'Let's go film some stuff,' and then by the end I had figured out exactly what I wanted it to be,” said Stewart, a St. Charles, Missouri, native. “So I said, 'Okay, let's do this specifically,' but it came out of sort of an improvised nature.”
Stewart's film, now titled “No Gods, No Managers,” takes place in the Midwest, and examines teenagers in the suburbs and how they deal with the dark and mysterious situation of living in a dystopian society.
While shooting, Stewart found out that the content he was getting from his filming sessions were dark and expressive.
“My first seed of an idea was to create something very chaotic,” Stewart said. “Like an expression of anger...the rest of the pieces kind of fell in after that.”
Once Stewart decided that anger was something he wanted to focus on, he sat down with two friends who served as his main actors and started to figure out what specifically they wanted to express in the film.
“We kind of figured out what it is about being here in this place that makes us angry,” Stewart said. “What things make us angry? And we kind of based these characters off of those things.”
After finishing the film, Stewart decided to enter the film into local and international festivals. Two weeks ago, his project was screened at “Underneath the Floorboards,” a festival based in London that examines and celebrates the best in experimental film.
Although the festival screens less traditional films, Stewart stressed that this film isn't just subject to abstract thinking.
“I think when something becomes too abstract you can't really engage with it as well,” Stewart said. “While [my film] is strange and abnormal, I wouldn't say that the layman couldn't watch it and find something to enjoy. I like to strike a balance between some kind of experimental and some kind of regular narrative.”
Because Stewart has submitted his project to more than 30 festivals, the film itself remains unlisted on YouTube until he can make it public.
"Usually festivals don't like when something is already available," Stewart said. "So I just keep it under that [listing]. If somebody wants to see it, they can ask me, and I'll send it to them."
Stewart's hard work on this film has seen recognition from the festivals he's submitted it to and from Benjamin Rosenthal, an associate professor of expanded media at the University.
It was in Rosenthal's class where Stewart was assigned the project that eventually led to the production of “No Gods, No Managers.”
Rosenthal said that Stewart has a strong work ethic, and his success is reflected in his ability to work hard, refine and constantly submit his work to different places.
Rosenthal also said that he expects students to create works that show investment in their own vision, something that Stewart does well.
“Dan is an exemplary model of this ethic,” Rosenthal said. “And I am sure we will continue to see the success of both his videos, and videos produced in class on the international, professional stage.”
— Edited by Ashley Hocking