NU professor, alumni receive award for new micro-budget film


Source: Stephen Cone

Jessie Pinnick as the titular character in “Princess Cyd.” The film won the Chicago Award at the Chicago International Film Festival, and received rave reviews from publications like Variety and IndieWire.

Christopher Vazquez, Reporter


Communication Prof. Stephen Cone spent a good part of 2016 working on a dramedy project, but an idea for a new coming-of-age film was brewing in the back of his mind.

That film, “Princess Cyd,” would go on to win the Chicago Award at the Chicago International Film Festival, receiving rave reviews from publications like Variety and IndieWire.

“Princess Cyd” was written and directed by Cone, who spent the last decade making micro-budget films. The movie follows the story of the title character, a 16-year-old soccer player, who kindles a romance with another girl while staying in Chicago with her aunt, who is a novelist.

“I thought it would be interesting to have someone who’s a little more physically driven in the house of this intellectual who doesn’t really have romantic relationships,” Cone said. “What would the young girl have to learn spiritually? What would the aunt learn about herself in terms of romance and sexuality?”

Cone said the movie is similar to a “science experiment,” as he’s bringing these contrasting personalities together to observe the juxtapositions that develop.

Many NU alumni were involved in the production of the film, both on and off screen. Jessie Pinnick (Communication ’16) also featured in the production as the title character.

Pinnick said she was immediately captivated by the relationship between the two protagonists. She said she found her role as Cyd, a character she described as confident and open about her sexuality, very refreshing.

Pinnick also credited her film experiences at Northwestern for helping her bring the role to the screen.

“I met lots of really amazing people at school, and I was really lucky to find love in many different ways,” she said. “It was definitely a time of being open to things, and that definitely helped prepare me for playing Cyd.”

Throughout the process, Cone said he found himself stressing over his limited resources and a budget lower than $250,000.

Producer Grace Hahn (Communication ’16) said the experience was “magical” despite the financial challenges of the set, as everyone in the crew was willing to take on “multiple hats” and compensate for the lack of funds.

“It was very ironic and funny and lovely that everything worked out so smoothly given the circumstances of pulling it together relatively quickly and not having a lot of money,” she said.

The film’s rapid production schedule was “insane,” Cone said, and he was awed by the pace at which the cast and crew operated. He spent less than a week writing the script in July 2016, a total of 18 days shooting from August to September and about a month editing a rough cut of the film.

Cone said “Princess Cyd” marks the end of the first chapter of his filmmaking career — he felt many storytelling fundamentals “clicked into place” for him while making the film.

“It just affirms my belief that every now and then, it’s good to be a little crazy and make something quickly without thinking,” he said. “Sometimes, being a little nuts pays off.”

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