Three Kent State Student Films Showcased at Cleveland International Film Festival

Five Kent State University students, in recognition of their exceptional work, recently had the opportunity to showcase their films at the prestigious 48th Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF), an Academy® qualifying event.

Their films — "Happy Place" by Michael Gregory, '23, "Reciprocity" by KG Gude, '23, and "How to Be a Productive Member of Society" by Micah Beck, '25, Janelle Ingraham Dwyer, '25 and Heidi Troutman, '26 — were featured during the screenings on April 11, 2024. All are current students or recent graduates from the digital media production program in the School of Media and Journalism.


Students majoring in digital media production undergo a comprehensive educational journey encompassing content creation, audio recording, scriptwriting and more. The Production I and Production II courses — taken sophomore and senior year, respectively — offer hands-on production experience, enabling students to refine skills acquired in other classes.

After each semester, students and professors collaborate to screen student work from these classes and select the best submissions for entry into festivals worldwide. During the Fall 2023 semester, Gude and Gregory created their films for Production II, while Beck, Dwyer and Troutman produced theirs for Production I.

“When I was making it, I wasn’t planning on submitting it places because I wasn’t confident,” said Gude, “I have sent my film now to probably ten other festivals, and I wouldn’t have done that if the school hadn’t submitted to Cleveland for me.”

Gude's short film delves into the discourse surrounding transgender identity.

“I knew I wanted to do something related to being trans, but I didn’t necessarily know what that looked like,” said Gude.

“The film itself is just a dancer moving around on the stage, and then it’s edited to a bunch of sound clips from legislative sessions or protests or people’s podcasts talking, for the most part, negatively about trans people,” said Gude. “It looks at the abstract emotional impact of the things that people say and that there are real people those things affect.”

Gregory’s film similarly focuses on emotional impact. He created it to help him, and his mom, process his dad's passing.

“Last year, my mom talked to me, and she said how she was struggling with his passing because she didn’t feel like she had closure, and she asked if I could put together a video,” said Gregory.

The film highlights the ups and downs of his life as he traverses key points, both good and bad, seen through the lens of a person with mental illness.

“The film’s interpretation of death is, our final resting place would be the place you’re most happy, which is where this film kind of takes place, where my dad is most happy,” said Gregory. “I’m hoping people watch it and do a little bit of self-reflection in their head and be like, ‘Okay, what would my happy place be?’”

Scott Hallgren, an associate professor in the School of Media and Journalism, teaches Sound for Picture, Post-Production Sound, Music in Film/TV/Games, Sound Design, Scoring for Picture and Production II. He emphasized the importance of classes that let students grow their hands-on skills and learn through real-world experiences what aspects of the industry they enjoy. Teaching classes throughout the curriculum, he often sees how the students progress.

“In a world where you try and understand the little victories, it’s really exciting to see somebody who might have struggled early on or didn’t even know what direction they wanted to take grow into themselves,” said Hallgren.

He also recognizes the importance of submitting student work because it can build their confidence and show them that their efforts are worth it. With faculty support for their work, students like Gude and Gregory have the opportunity to submit their work to festivals worldwide, expanding their opportunities for recognition through connections made.

“Even if hypothetically, I became a filmmaker that makes feature films that are shown across the country, this film will always be the most important to me,” said Gregory. “To be able to make that for me and my mom was really special.”

POSTED: Tuesday, April 23, 2024 01:08 PM
Updated: Wednesday, July 10, 2024 10:00 AM
Eve Krejci, '24