Students collaborate on short film set in a bowling alley

Students collaborate on short film set in a bowling alley

By Ellen Johnson | Culture Editor

There are few stories as relatable as the coming-of-age tale. 

Movies like the moody "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" and the more quirky "Juno" embody all the characteristics of a typical coming-of-age story. Books like J.D. Salinger's classic "The Catcher in the Rye" and S. E. Hinton's "The Outsiders" point to plots of a similar angsty yet enlightening narrative. We've all experienced what it's like to grow up, so it's easy to relate to characters like Holden Caulfield or Ponyboy as they muddle through adolescence. 

This semester, a group of students is working to produce their own coming-of-age chronicle. Senior Christian Lundin, majoring in journalism and creative media, wrote and is directing the short film "Strike," which is about two teenagers working in a bowling alley. 

What was originally a last-minute assignment for Lundin's screenwriting class last year has now burgeoned into a full-fledged production. Recruiting various friends from class, the theatre honor society Alpha Psi Omega and his pre-existing circle of talented acquaintances, Lundin assembled a production team comprised entirely of students. All it took was one read of the script, and they were hooked.

"It's about these teenagers who work in an old, quiet, rundown bowling alley," Lundin said. "It's a fun, teen retro-ey feeling film."

While the film is Lundin's final project for his directing class and his self-described "baby," he's had his hand in several projects on campus. You may have seen his work in the Dance Alabama! Film Festival or in the It's On Us promo videos. After starting college as a business major, Lundin decided film was truly the right fit. 

"After the first semester of my freshman year I went straight over to Reese Phifer and found Maya Champion, who is my teacher for this class, and I said, 'Please please let me transfer over here and be a film major,'" Lundin said. "That's what I wanted to do all along," 

"Strike" stars Christian Bender and Savannah Stanley in the lead roles of Hal and Sam, respectively. When Lundin saw Bender and Bennett Morgan, another actor in the film, perform at Guerrilla, the monthly extravaganza of performance variety put on by Alpha Psi Omega, he knew they were the folks for the job. 

"When I saw them I was like, 'These are them. These are exactly who I want for these roles,'" Lundin said. 

Hal is a misfit teen in need of a self-confidence boost. When he meets the cool and confident Sam, whom Lundin described as "badass," Hal decides to stand up to her jerk boyfriend. A challenge between the two guys ensues, one that can only be settled on the lanes with balls and pins. 

"She's dating this guy who's a tough-guy jerk," Lundin said. "He's a really good bowler. Hal decides to stand up for her by challenging this guy, the boyfriend, to bowl, even though he's never bowled before."

Bender, a sophomore majoring in theatre and international studies, began his acting career performing Shakespeare in high school. This year, he's branching out as he stars as the shy but intelligent Hal in "Strike."

While he's worked with other directing class films before, Bender has had a special experience working with the cast and crew of "Strike."

"We're all like a group of friends," he said. "So we were able to talk and laugh with each other for the hours and hours on end that we were working, and that made it so much more pleasant."

Before the shoot, the production team successfully finished up a crowd-funding campaign, which helped fund rental of shoot locations like Tuscaloosa's Leland Lanes, rent equipment and buy food for the crew. The money will also help pay for festival entry fees. Lundin hopes to enter the film in regional festivals like the Black Warrior Film Festival and Sidewalk, as well as short comedy festivals on the national scale. 

"We have to get a little bit scrappy," said Marissa Bonertz, a senior majoring in telecommunication and film and the producer for "Strike." "We have some resources from the University but we don’t have a lot of stuff available to us. We have to raise money on the side."

Bonertz's role in the film varies from producer to a jack-of-all-trades on the set.

"Some of the positions on the crew tend to overlap a little bit more," she said. "It’s all hands on deck. You’ve got to to do what you can to make everything happen and make the film run smoothly."

Lundin and a group of other film students hope to schedule a screening at the end of the semester or year to showcase their work. But for the cast and crew of "Strike," much of the well-due credit is garnered simply through doing what they love. 

"I think it’s a good story about teenagers trying to find themselves and stand up for what they believe in and what they believe is right," Bonertz said. "I’m really proud of everyone who’s involved in the project. I think it’s really cool to see students come together to make something they’re passionate about making."

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