Grant Schmidt’s journey to the silver screen has been anything but a quiet ride.
“I am taking 20 credits this semester and 20 more next semester because I have been on-set all the time for the past three years,” Schmidt, director of “It Was a Quiet Ride,” said.
The 22-minute motion picture premiered with five other short films at the Temple University Student Filmmaker Showcase on Nov. 14. About 50 people attended the Ambler Theater for the free screenings and subsequent Q&A sessions as a part of the Ambler Theater Fall Cinematheque Series, a diverse collection of classic films featuring the Coen Brothers as well as works from local filmmakers.
Originally, Schmidt wrote the script about his conflicting relationship with his ex-girlfriend.
However, the audition process sparked an innovative idea.
“I didn’t like any of the guys who auditioned,” Schmidt said. “The two girls who auditioned, Emily [Johnson] and Rakel [Joyce], were so compelling that I decided to flip the script into a lesbian issue. It became more powerful than your cliché coming out story because this was something any couple could relate to.”
Chris Collier, Ambler Theater’s director of special programs, introduced the six directors, all in their junior and senior years of the film and media arts program.
“We are very excited to spotlight new films and local talent,” Collier said.
Kicking off the showcase was “Temple’s Inside Joke,” a comedic documentary following Temple comedians as they participate in Rooftop Comedy’s National College Comedy Competition.
The crowd cackled as members of Temple University Comedy Club performed at open mics throughout the city, telling raunchy one-liners and honing their craft.
Director and comedian Jordana Lipsitz was the only filmmaker not in attendance. She is currently studying abroad in London.
The laughs continued as Taylor A. Shuster’s “Streets of Nature” blended animal noises with the concrete landscape of Center City and Broad Street.
“I was inspired by this book we read in Mosaics class called ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities,’” Shuster, a Bethlehem, Pa., native, said. “As my first solo directed project, I experimented with a dream-like quality. I wanted to discover nature’s beauty, even in the city.”
As each director discovered something during filming, Schmidt learned that sometimes life imitates art.
“While I was shooting ‘It Was a Quiet Ride,’ my brother actually came out of the closet,” Schmidt said. “I was shell-shocked because he happened to be dating a beautiful girl.”
Although Schmidt’s brother was inspired by his work, two crew members didn’t share his brother’s sentiment.
“One crew member actually dropped out of the project because he didn’t feel his company would be comfortable associating with such content,” Schmidt said. “He approached me right away and I respect how he handled the situation. On the other hand, my female production assistant walked out two days before shooting because she didn’t agree with Catholic characters portraying lesbians.”
Joyce, the actress who plays Marie in the film, quickly got over portraying a lesbian.
“I was nervous about kissing a girl,” Joyce, a senior film major, said. “But I was impressed by the efficiency and time management of everybody on set. People who criticize the message don’t understand how it could easily apply to a heterosexual couple as well.”
During a 10-minute intermission, attendees wearing apparel with the Temple “T” logo flocked to the concession stand to receive a free box of popcorn.
Once the lights dimmed, Samuel Angus Campbell’s “Finding North Philly” showed movie-goers a perspective on Temple students’ lack of communication with their North Philadelphia neighbors.
Despite efforts to establish friendly relations between Temple and the surrounding community, such as the Good Neighbor Policy and the Community and Student Off Campus Issues and Concerns Task Force, the documentary focuses on students’ reluctance to emerge from their cozy campus cocoon and explore the North Philadelphia community.
Temple’s Meaghan Hofmeister tagged along with her friend on the train ride to Ambler, but ended up connecting with Campbell’s film on a deeper level.
“As an aspiring teacher, I want to help make a difference in the community,” sophomore early childhood education major Hofmeister said.
“I hope to decrease the achievement gap and remove the next generation of North Philadelphians from the stigma,” Hofmeister said. “Seeing [‘Finding North Philly’] reaffirmed my career choice.”
After directors Ethan Sacchi and Michele Elaine Hannon screened their films, “Stray” and “Walks in Beauty,” attendees were encouraged to chat with the directors during the networking after party at local restaurant KC’s Alley.
After all of those rewrites, crew changes and backed-up courses, Schmidt could use a break, he said.
“I guess you could say school is my extracurricular,” Schmidt said. “Film is my passion.”
John Corrigan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.