DIFT majors premiere original films

By: Raymond Humienny ~Campus News Editor~

Photos courtesy of Amelia Ryczek | Senior DIFT student Amelia Ryczek works on her project, a short film about issues in the foster care system.

As thesis defenses and student research come to a close, the Digital Innovation Film and Television (DIFT) program will celebrate its senior film festival, a formal viewing party for the films senior students work all year to make.

Television studio director Blis DeVault knows firsthand how much labor her students put into their films.

“So much of what they do – the technology and problem solving – is what the 21st century learner needs to know how to do,” DeVault said.

Senior DIFT projects come with a number of prerequisites, such as preproduction meetings, casting calls and script critiques, before filming begins. Devault said that her seniors have effectively learned to become leaders, delegators and team players during the spring semester.

“I’m on sabbatical this semester, but I’m still working with my seniors because I love it,” DeVault said.

Each film contains a theme based on social issues, including topics like euthanasia and psychological disorders. Senior DIFT major Wilke Cooper addressed alcoholism in his film titled “The Wagon,” a story about a recovering alcoholic about to celebrate his first year of sobriety until he discovers his girlfriend cheating on him.

Once a psychology major at Elon University, Cooper said he is happy about transferring to Xavier and being able to translate ideas into stories that, as he said, come from his head and his heart. Cooper recalled his experience working as an intern on the production team for the Don Cheadle film “Miles Ahead,” adding how his passion for movies motivated him to pursue film as a career.

“I’d never edited anything – knew nothing about it,” Cooper said. “I came into this major kind of blind, and now I’m considered the ‘camera department’ of the senior class. Which is astounding to me, because I’d never picked up a video camera, and I just found out that I have an eye for what should be on screen.”

He thanks DeVault for helping him overcome creative barriers in script writing.

“True stories, or stories that are real and deal with real issues, can really be the most powerful,” Cooper said.

Senior DIFT major Amelia Ryczek adapted a script written by senior English major Rachael Eklund about the realities of “aging out” of foster care. “Aging out” is an expression for children in the foster system who reach an age (typically 18-21 years old) where they are considered independent and released from foster care.

Ryczek’s film is titled “Charles,” and it focuses on the life of a foster child turning 18 years old.

“I read (Eklund’s script), and I cried,” Ryczek said.

Ryczek recalls a friend at Lighthouse Youth Services that educated her about the disproportionate amount of homeless people in Cincinnati who were once in foster care.

“You’ve got to make the connection that maybe these kids who have been neglected and abused and disadvantaged maybe weren’t the best equipped to head out on their own at eighteen,” Ryczek said. “If people knew about this, they would be furious.”

Ryczek and Cooper both hope to inspire change and reflection through their films. The DIFT senior screening will begin at 7 p.m. in Kennedy Auditorium on April 29.