Tag: film studies program

Lawrence alumna returns to Appleton to direct feature film set in Wisconsin

Molly Preston ’10 directs action during filming of Freedom, WI outside a home on Meade Street in Appleton, two blocks from the Lawrence University campus. She is the writer and director for the feature film, with scenes being shot across the Fox Cities. (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Molly Preston ’10 calls it a love letter to Wisconsin.

The New Jersey native fell hard for Appleton, the Fox Cities, and Wisconsin when she arrived as a first-year student at Lawrence University 15 years ago. She loved the picturesque landscape and the small-city vibe that blended active arts advocacy with Midwest niceties. Now the aspiring film-maker has brought her Portland, Oregon-based film crew to the Fox Cities to film scenes for Freedom, WI, a coming-of-age comedy that she has written and is directing.

“Wisconsin will always be that place that feels like going back home,” Preston said.

The film crew, 15 to 20 strong on any given day, has been shooting scenes in and near downtown Appleton as well as nearby locations in Kaukauna, Menasha, Greenville, and, yes, Freedom, since the middle of August. Preston is hopeful the movie—it’s centered on a young woman living in small-town Wisconsin who has her routine disrupted when she strikes up a friendship with a writer from Chicago—will be ready for the film festival circuit next summer.

It was while a student at Lawrence that Preston first began entertaining the idea of a career in film. It was before Lawrence’s Film Studies program launched, but the history major found herself drawn to a number of history classes that focused on film.

“I took every single film-related class that I possibly could,” she said, pointing to insights from history professors Peter Blitstein and Paul Cohen as being particularly helpful in allowing her to connect her love of history with her passion for film.

Molly Preston ’10 (right) talks with a cast member of Freedom, WI as they shoot scenes in Appleton on Sept. 7.

She learned to look at films through the lens of history.

“You are not only analyzing the film for what the filmmaker did—the cinematography, the acting—you are also analyzing a moment in time,” Preston said. “What the historical context is when the film was written and when it was shot – gender norms of the time and the political climate. It’s just really interesting to think about history through watching a movie and figuring out how the world was in that moment and how that might have influenced the filmmakers to make the movie in that particular way.”

Those are analytical skills, she said, that come into play now as she finds herself writing and directing her own stories.

“I found that while I don’t technically work in the field of history, learning how to analyze text and figure out the narrative based on facts you read from different sources has made me a better filmmaker, a better writer,” she said. “It’s definitely benefited my work in film.”

Preston said she wishes Lawrence’s Film Studies program had been there when she was a student, and she encourages current and future Lawrence students who are interested in film to dive in deep.

A $5 million gift from Tom Hurvis ’60 and the late Julie Esch Hurvis ’61 in 2011, a year after Preston graduated, led to the creation of the Hurvis Center for Film Studies, launching an interdisciplinary studies program that explores film theory, history, analysis, and interpretation and allows students to create their own art in a state-of-the-art film studio.

Preston moved to Portland eight years ago to try to make headway in the film industry. She started as a production assistant, then moved into editing and producing before jumping into her own project with Freedom, WI, a story she began writing while living in Appleton shortly after graduating from Lawrence.

“It’s a fun time with friends, old friends and new friends,” Molly Preston ’10 says of shooting the film in the Fox Cities. She lived in Appleton for several years after graduating from Lawrence. She now lives and works in Portland, Oregon.

The storyline is dark but comedic, she said, focused on a young woman in the tiny Town of Freedom who enters adulthood grappling with grief. A relationship with a struggling writer from Chicago sets her on an unexpected journey of self-discovery.

Her film career is still a work in progress, but Preston is hopeful this film will be a stepping stone to more opportunities.

In the meantime, she’s spending nearly a month in Appleton and the Fox Cities, working alongside her husband, who serves as director of photography, and a film crew that has grown tight. They’ll finish filming in mid-September before heading back to Portland.

“It’s a fun time with friends, old friends and new friends,” Preston said of being back in Appleton. “We work such long hours, but we have our fun while we’re working.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Student Work Showcased in Film Studies Program Film Festival

The talents of eight Lawrence University student filmmakers will be showcased Saturday, June 2 in the Lawrence Film Program Student Film Festival. The festival, which begins at 7 p.m. in the Warch Campus Center Cinema, is free and open to the public.

Highlighting the interdisciplinary nature of the Lawrence film studies program, the festival features collaborative projects between film studies and biology, English and government departments as well as the Conservatory of Music.  The films were produced under the supervision of visiting artist-in-residence Catherine Tatge ’72.

The festival line-up includes:

  • “Laundromat” by Brooks Eaton. A comedy about the on-goings in a college laundromat. (2 minutes)
  • “Terrort” by Tom Coben. One man’s struggle with crippling paranoia helps him find what he had all along: friendship. (7 minutes)
  • “Mulligan” by Alex Kohnstamm. A young man tries to figure out his life one day at a time, but his mother has other plans for him. (10 minutes)
  • “Lemonade” by Camilla Grove. A young married couple’s daughter goes missing. They use lemonade as a way to both bring her back and repair their marriage. (7 minutes)
  • “Epigenetics” by Katie Simonsen. An informational video about how nurture shapes nature. (5 minutes)
  • “Left Out, Left Behind” by Marie Jeruc. A documentary about the disadvantages left-handed students face in academic settings. (5 minutes)
  • “Autism in Schools” by Kaylin Burton. A documentary about difficulties children with autism have in the classroom and misconceptions people have about these children and their needs. (5 minutes)
  • “FAWE: Girl Power in Sierra Leone” by Mariah Mateo. A documentary about FAWE, an extraordinary African organization working in Sierra Leone with young girls and women. (5 minutes)

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a world-class conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. Ranked among America’s best colleges by Forbes, it was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,445 students from 44 states and 35 countries. Follow us on Facebook.