Studio 22 Premiere broadens programming to emphasize diversity, inclusivity


Source: Vivek Venkatraman

Actors perform in the short film “Fighter Kites.” Communication junior Jack Birdsall collaborated with Revanth Levaka, a student from the Annapurna International School of Film and Media, to direct the film, which will be screened at the Studio 22 Premiere.

Kelley Czajka, Reporter


Communication junior Jack Birdsall spent his 2015 spring break in Hyderabad, India, collaborating on small film projects with other students from Northwestern and the Annapurna International School of Film and Media.

After completing a stop-motion animation film, he and his friend, AISFM student Revanth Levaka, decided to pursue something bigger — a cross-cultural short film called “Fighter Kites,” which will be shown as part of Studio 22’s annual premiere on June 4.

The premiere is a chance for Studio 22 to present the films it has produced over the course of the year. The event will also feature works from other student groups as part of the group’s initiative in promoting diversity as well, said Studio 22 outgoing executive co-chair Marion Hill, a Communication senior.

Like previous years, the premiere will showcase a film produced by the Northwestern University Women Filmmakers Alliance and the Niteskool music video in addition to the eight Studio 22-funded films, Hill said. But for the first time, the premiere will also feature films produced by Inspire Media, the Multicultural Filmmakers Collective and Studio 20Q—Studio 22’s sister production company at NU’s Qatar Campus.

“We have been working really hard to promote more diversity in what we’re including in our programming and being more inclusive and especially just trying to get away from this sort of old system of just screening our own films,” Hill said.

Studio 22 provides grants for students to produce 10- to 20-minute films outside of class, while providing financial oversight and general support throughout each film’s production process and making sure everyone involved in each production has a learning experience, Studio 22 executive co-chair Erin Manning said.

“We promote ambition, quality and education,” Manning, a Communication junior, said. “Because we’re providing extracurricular opportunities that they’re not getting in production classes, we are just seeking to make sure that everyone can learn something.”

A different number of films is produced each quarter, and the grants are given the quarter before shooting begins, Manning said. All films created over the course of the year are showcased at the annual premiere before Finals Week.

Birdsall and Levaka’s film was the recipient of Studio 22’s special projects grant. “Fighter Kites,” came out of Birdsall’s spring break trip which was part of the Indian Cinema Seminar. In this program, which is now-discontinued, RTVF students could take a class on Indian film during Winter Quarter before traveling to India to work with students at AISFM, Birdsall said.

Birdsall’s film is a drama about a woman in the United States and a man in India who are in a long-distance relationship, and how their complete reliance on technology to sustain their relationship ultimately fails them.

Half of the film was directed in the language of Telugu by Levaka in Hyderabad, while Birdsall directed the other half in English in America.

Birdsall said co-directing a film with someone on the other side of the world was incredibly challenging, but that he learned a great amount about directing and communication throughout production.

“Getting past cultural barriers and language barriers, I learned how to be 100 percent clear with everything that I wanted to communicate about the movie because I could have just sent them my script and told them ‘translate it, shoot it, do whatever you want,’” Birdsall said.

Levaka, as well as the film’s Indian co-star and cinematographer, hope to come to the premiere, making it the first time in over a year the two directors would speak face-to-face, Birdsall said.

Manning and Hill said they are excited about all of the films at the premiere, and that it always brings together a wide range of people — from RTVF students to young child actors and their families to NU professors to, now, film students from across the globe.

“There’s red carpet, there’s a photographer, there’s snacks,” Manning said. “We kind of just like to make it a big celebration of all the work that all members of the film community, whether you’re a film major or not, have put in over the past year because this is how we spend a lot of our time, this is what we’re passionate about, and having a way to celebrate that in one confined space is really exciting.”

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