By Jenny Collins '05
The Electronic Media Communication (EMC) major now has an official track in film production, under the direction of Associate Professor of Communication Ann Sorenson, MFA. From producing award-winning short films and working on film sets to studying in Hollywood and starting their own production companies, NWC film students have expanded their course assignments—and ambitions—well beyond the classroom.
Last summer, Eagle Honors Scholars Erin McGregor ’11 and Micah Murray ’11 worked as assistants on the Washington, D.C. film set of For the Glory, a Christian film based on the true story of athlete Kurt Kuykendall. But neither student entered Northwestern with declared film ambitions.
Murray transferred to Northwestern as a sophomore after moving back from Zambia, Africa, where his parents are missionaries. Also, as a husband and father, Murray’s nontraditional path has motivated him to succeed. He started out as a graphic design major but found his real passion in film.
“I’ve changed from being that insecure, out-of-place sophomore,” admitted Murray, “to being in the position I am now—extremely confident in what I’ve learned, already working professionally, with projects lined up for me to work on. It’s what I came to college for—to get a job to support my family. But much more than that, I found a passion.”
Murray’s work has received recognition and awards beyond Northwestern. He wrote, directed and produced the short film The Obituary of Richard Cory, based on the classic poem. It won Best Drama in NWC’s 2010 Five16 Film Festival, Best Student Production from the International Christians in Visual Media Crown Awards (2010), second place for Narrative Student Film from the National Religious Broadcasters (2010) and honorable mention in the student category from the Broadcast Education Association at the 2011 BEA Festival of Media Arts.
Captivated by the art of cinematography, Murray aims to work as a director of photography, which oversees camera movement and placement, as well as lighting. “When I’m directing a film I feel like I’m doing what God created me to do.”
For his newest short film, Belong, Murray cast seasoned actors Ted and Bonnie Johnson, a Christian couple who have played minor characters in Evan Almighty, Leatherheads, Big Fish and more. Belong won “Audience Choice” and “Best Drama” in the 2011 Five16 Film Festival.
Erin McGregor had never even touched a video camera before coming to Northwestern, but she had a secret desire to learn filmmaking. She eventually declared an EMC major her second semester after taking Story Structure with Sorenson. “The reason I love film is because of story,” McGregor said. “That’s the heartbeat behind it for me.”
She confesses she used to think, “‘Oh man, if you could get into movies, what power you’d have!’ But now I’ve seen that’s a utilitarian approach [and a] major downfall of the Christian [film] industry right now. Some think you can just insert [Christian themes] into a film and it’ll have a magical impact. Film is an art form in and of itself; you have to treat it respectfully and see God working within it, not just in how it influences others.”
At the 2011 Five16 Film Festival, McGregor accepted the Best Music Video award for Like It, which she produced with Derek Holt ’11 and Holly Aunan ’13. After graduation, McGregor plans to start a production company in her hometown, be available to work on films and hopes to attend Act One, a film and TV writing program for Christian entertainment professionals.