Northwestern alums complete documentary honoring friend’s life


Source: Ben Prawer

Alums Jesse Swedlund (Communication '13) and Ben Prawer (Communication '12) film their documentary honoring the life of Tyler Lorenzi (McCormick '10). The duo recently completed their film and are in the final fundraising push.

Olivia Exstrum, Reporter

To coincide with the third anniversary of the death of Tyler Lorenzi (McCormick ’10), two NU alumni are continuing their final fundraising push for a documentary they created to honor Lorenzi’s memory.

“Ty’s List,” a documentary produced and directed by Ben Prawer (Communication ’12) and Jesse Swedlund (Communication ’13), started with an email in the summer of 2011. Last week, the two had their first private preliminary film screening in the McCormick Tribune Center.

When Lorenzi died at the age of 23 on May 13, 2011, the duo were inspired by a list Lorenzi had made of things to do in his home of San Francisco. Swedlund, who was a Project Wildcat counselor with Lorenzi, saw the list, and the evening after Lorenzi’s memorial service, decided to fulfill it.

“That’s when the list ended up in my inbox, because people were sending around things that Tyler had written,” Swedlund said. “I saw it and said ‘Wow, this is awesome, I’m going to do all these things.’”

Swedlund wrote the proposal that night and Prawer joined the project soon after. The two began their first meetings in the fall and filmed during August of 2012.

“At the time, Ty’s death really impacted me,” Prawer said. “It helped me understand I wasn’t living my life to the fullest. So when I heard of Jesse’s idea, I thought it would be a really cool and effective way to get other people thinking about their lives.”

Three years later, the film is completed and Swedlund and Prawer are using a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for distribution costs, which include fees to enter film festivals, legal expenses and marketing and promotion costs.

McCormick freshman Phil Meyers attended a preliminary film screening last week after hearing about them through a PWild counselor email list. Meyers said he attended to support the filmmakers.

“Going into it, I didn’t realize it was going to be a full, feature-length film,” he said. “So when I realized it was a full film, I was just very impressed that they had made the movie. It was very inspiring.”

For the filming process, Swedlund and Prawer enlisted three people who were all close to Lorenzi in some way — a college friend and fellow PWild counselor, a childhood friend and a former roommate — to go on a trip to the Bay Area to complete everything on the list. Prawer said they originally had planned to follow four people, but one of the individuals dropped out at the last minute.

In addition to having to adjust filming to accommodate the change in the number of people involved, both Swedlund and Prawer said the subject matter was difficult to work with at times.

“Working every day with this project was a constant reminder of Ty’s death,” Swedlund said. “It could be tough sometimes, but other times it was really inspiring. There were a lot of emotions on the trip.”

During the week of filming, the cast and crew of the film stayed in a house donated by an NU alum in Mill Valley, California — a town near San Francisco — and received food from people in the community.

After dedicating almost three years to the project, Prawer said there is no chance they would give up now. He said he and Swedlund are continually inspired by Lorenzi’s story and the people who have invested in the project.

“We definitely had our ups and downs, but Tyler’s story, his message and his way of life is something that continues to inspire and motivate us,” he said. “Also, so many people made an investment in us and this project and it was up to us to follow through.”

In addition to the cast, crew and production team, the film employed two interns who were both NU undergraduates. Communication freshman Emma Gordon became involved during winter quarter of this year, and helped primarily with the film’s music. Gordon was able to see the full-length film as it was being produced.

“They just finished the actual film, but watching it evolve has been really cool,” she said. “Ben and Jesse are just so genuinely kind with people. So many people believe in their project, and they’re doing good work.”

An earlier version of this story misidentified Jesse Swedlund. He is an alumnus. The story also misstated the documentary’s filming dates and information about the preliminary screenings. The Daily regrets the errors.

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