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Senior Chandler Ryd plans to pursue film after grad­u­ation. Rachael Reynolds | Col­legian

When senior Chandler Ryd chose to attend Hillsdale, his passion for film­making heightened. Despite the few oppor­tu­nities to practice film on campus, he said he has learned some­thing even more valuable to film than the tech­nical craft.

“I’ve found that studying the seven clas­sical liberal arts has made me a much better film­maker because they’re all about taking these kind of philo­sophical ideas and putting them into a more tan­gible reality of lan­guage and images,” Ryd said.

Because knowledge of human nature is essential to sto­ry­telling and sto­ry­telling is essential to film, what makes an excellent movie, according to Ryd, is a cre­ative syn­thesis of truth.

Ryd follows the foot­steps of Hillsdale alumni like Faith Liu ’16 and former stu­dents like Josh Hamilton, both of whom moved out West to pursue film.

Hillsdale may seem a strange pick for stu­dents who would benefit from con­nec­tions and tech­nical training at a film school. But many of these stu­dents and alumni sub­stitute that oppor­tunity for another, opting for an unlikely school in rural Michigan to teach them a skill that film class cannot: sto­ry­telling.

Any good film begins with a com­pelling story. A straw­berry blonde woman in a sap­phire dress, fol­lowing a somber melody, abandons the lonely sidewalk to enter a hole-in-the-wall bar and — you, the viewer, want to know what happens next. (She watches the source of the music, a handsome pianist, get fired. Yes, that’s a scene from “La La Land.”)

When movies draw us in and engage our thoughts, they do so by telling a good story.

In the “sublime ado­lescent squalor” of Simpson dor­mitory, Hamilton developed an idea: a doc­u­mentary of his college home. This morphed into “Ecce Viri,” more coming-of-age story than doc­u­mentary, which pre­miered at a film fes­tival last year. The film’s screening allowed him to meet a pro­ducer, who offered him a job making movies in Austin.

Ryd, who filmed a few seconds of footage in “Ecce Viri,” plans to move to Los Angeles to pursue film after grad­u­ation. At Hillsdale, he has filmed videos for the college’s mar­keting department. He is majoring in English and minoring in edu­cation.

While Ryd acknowl­edged the “def­inite dis­ad­vantage” of attending a school with fewer con­nec­tions in the industry, he said the under­standing of how people operate, which he received at the college, is “sorely lacking” in modern cinema.

“I am fully con­vinced that Hillsdale has made me a better film­maker,” Ryd said.

Dis­tin­guished Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of History Darryl Hart majored in film studies in college, but said taking the ini­tiative to study the human­ities outside of his major broadened his per­spective.

For him, much of the training he learned has become obsolete, but a study of the human­ities, and a study of the history of film, has remained with him. The best way to learn movie-making, he said, is simple.

“Watch a lot of movies,” Hart said. “And figure out the ones you like and think about the people who made them and how they came to do what they did.”

Tech­nical skills you pick up on your own. Sto­ry­telling takes more back­ground.

Senior Kayla Stetzel, who plans to attend law school for enter­tainment law, said she has found that nar­rative is the most important aspect of success in any cre­ative field.

“In order to do that in a playful, cre­ative, unusual way, you have to…know your her­itage,” she said.

With the goal of bringing together film-inter­ested stu­dents to share ideas about nar­rative and tech­nical expertise, Stetzel and junior Jordyn Pair founded the Film and Pro­duction Club last semester. Stetzel said she was sur­prised by the amount of interest in the club; when it began, some 40 stu­dents signed up for the email list. Like Hart, Stetzel said the tools to make good film are not dif­ficult to attain.

“If you consume mass media, if you watch movies, if you watch tele­vision, and you have an interest, I suggest: Pick up a camera, watch a couple of YouTube Videos online. Just Google ‘how to work a camera,’” Stetzel said. “In a short amount of time, you’ll have enough tech­nical knowledge to be able to make a pretty good short film.”

A couple of years ago, she attended a film class at Boston Uni­versity, with no prior expe­rience in the tech­nical ele­ments of film­making. Most of her class­mates, she said, assumed she had expe­rience because of the way she shot her films.

“It looked like I knew what I was doing, but I didn’t,” she said. “I just watch a lot of movies.”

“Ecce Viri,” Hamilton’s film, is pleasant to watch, frame-by-frame. But it also draws from a diverse intel­lectual history — its philo­sophical influ­ences, he said, include Eliot, Joyce, and Faulkner — and he describes the film with the lan­guage of a poet.

“‘Ecce Viri’ is a mul­ti­farious essay film. It is a small self-por­trait and therefore a por­trait of all young men,” Hamilton said in an email. “The film is bound by an essayist’s arch of ideas rather than nar­rative, and its sim­plic­ities aim to sweep you past the end and back to the beginning.”

At the Lone Star Film Fes­tival in Fort Worth, Texas, where “Ecce Viri” was shown, Hamilton attended a panel on the business of film. He intro­duced himself to a pan­elist, a pro­ducer, and offered to share a feature-length screenplay he had been writing. A month later, after the script landed a monthly top three list on the website Screenplay Cov­erage, Hamilton moved to Austin to work with the pro­ducer.

Today he’s “cutting on an inde­pendent film with triple-A talent,” the details of which he can’t dis­close until closer to the film’s press release date. He con­tinues to work on his own screen­plays as well.

Hamilton left the college in 2015, before grad­u­ating, but he said he owes his career “to God foremost and Hillsdale.”

“Hillsdale’s lib­er­ality stirred my spirit to its proper task — to transmute truth into beau­tiful images,” Hamilton said. “I left before earning a diploma because it was super­fluous to my work, but I left a Hillsdale man nev­er­theless.”