UAF student film selected for international festival

For Maya Salganek, assistant professor of film here at UAF, a love of cinematography is in her blood. Her grandfather worked at Kodak, so she grew up around darkrooms and film. And now, a film she produced will be showing at a festival in Toronto.

Feels Good” a short production from one of her summer classes, will be showing at the imagineNATIVE international film festival in Toronto, this Oct. 19-23. The film was produced by Salganek, in conjunction with Cara Marcou from Treehead Films.

Writer and director Andrew MacLean, an Inupiaq filmmaker from Barrow, has a storied past with UAF; the MacLean house on campus is named after his grandfather. The film features a number of Native performers, with such actors as Quannah Potts, a 14-year-old Lakota Sioux and Han Gwitch’in girl, and Allan Hayton, a UAF alumnus known for his acting and translation work in the Gwitch’in renditions of “King Lear” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

The primary difference between these mediums is the level of emotion that you have to bring to the set, according to Hayton

“On stage, you have to fill the house, [whereas] film picks up very small expressions,” Hayton said.

Hayton described actors keeping up emotion in their portrayals as “physicalizing the emotion.” He cited examples such as shaking one’s body to simulate sobbing, or clenching your fists to create anger. The film involved a “multitude of different activities and roles and how they mesh together.”

From the producer’s chair, Salganek is thrilled to be accompanying her film to the imagineNATIVE film festival. Creating films that are culturally accurate is where Salganek shines. She hopes to “support the art of storytelling” in a way that brings it into the 21st century.

The show’s runtime is a brief 15 minutes, but filming took place over a span of two weeks’ worth of 12 hour days, from 4 p.m. – 4 a.m. Everyone involved with the production worked hard and rearranged their personal schedules to make it happen. Hayton sometimes left the set after shooting all night and went directly to another job.

There were particular logistical and administrative challenges, as well. The bulk of the film takes place inside of a moving vehicle. The car containing the actors was mounted on a “process car,” a trailer laden with cameras and equipment. They had to obtain permits to drive a caravan of 7 cars, process car in tow, up and down the Elliot highway at 15 mph all night. Additional permits had to be obtained to shut down parts of downtown, including Cushman Street and Lacey Street, for a car chase scene. Potts, the child actress, ran steadily between two moving vehicles for the duration of those takes.

“[Feels Good] fills a cinematic gap that exists around the world,” Jason Ryle, the artistic director of the film festival, said.

Ryle said films from and about the North are in high demand and short supply, and that “Feels Good” differs from even other Northern films in a way that he expects will resonate with the audience.

“Feels Good” will be shown as part of the “witching hour/midnight madness” segment of the festival, beginning at midnight.

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