Tyler Macri loves good old-fashioned celluloid film. Really loves it. So he’s pretty excited about winning the gold award — the top prize from the annual Kodak Student Scholarship Program. In addition to a $5,000 scholarship, the award comes with $5,000 worth of film. That’s 16,000 feet, almost enough to reach the top of the Empire State Building, and good for over seven hours of filming.
That’s more than enough for the cinema and photography major’s next project, his senior thesis, but he’ll have to come up with some way to keep the leftovers. “If I have to store it all in a fridge, that’s fine,” he said.
The student scholarship program is “designed to encourage and foster up-and-coming storytellers by honoring students who demonstrate exemplary skills and creativity in the art of motion pictures,” according to Kodak.
Macri claimed the gold award for his creative short film, “What Comes from a Swamp.” He shot the film for an advanced cinema production course in which students complete the audacious task of organizing a crew and completing a film in just one semester. Taking place in an unidentifiable past, it tells the story of a young man hiding a humanoid creature in his bedroom closet. That may sound like a straight-up horror movie, but Macri wouldn’t pigeon-hole it.
“It was a short narrative embracing this surreal aesthetic,” he said. “I was playing around with the idea of genre, to see if I could make a movie that doesn’t feel like any one genre.”
For a devoted lover of film, winning an award from the company that makes the motion picture film used by directors like Paul Thomas Anderson and Christopher Nolan is extra special. “I plan to shoot on film for a long time to come, and I think the people at Kodak are doing a really good job keeping that alive and making sure folks of my generation remember the magic of what it looks like and the irreplaceability of it,” said Macri.
One of the reasons Macri was able to shoot “What Comes from a Swamp” on film is the Aaton 16mm cameras available in the Roy H. Park School of Communications. He practically fawns over the French cameras when asked about their impact on his work, saying that they both inspired and challenged him.
“They present this possibility and this challenge to try to do something that’s not going to be easy, but that is going to have really beautiful results, is going to be really gratifying,” said Macri. “I can’t stress enough how encouraging that was for me as a student. Just to know that if I want to use film, I can do it, and it can be with these beautiful, gorgeous cameras that are going to give me really beautiful cinematic results.”
Faculty from across the college — from the cinema and photography program to the writing department — were instrumental in his success. Macri said he wouldn’t have won the Kodak award without Andy Watts, assistant professor of media arts, sciences and studies, who taught the course in which he shot his film and applied for the Kodak scholarship on his behalf.
“I could not be prouder of Tyler,” said Watts. “His film is beautiful, mystical, and thought provoking. He worked unbelievably hard on it, did everything the right way, and he is richly deserving of the Kodak Gold Award. Tyler is incredibly talented — a true artist — and I can't wait to see what he will do next.”
Macri also credited the James B. Pendleton Student Research and Production Grant offered through the Park School with helping him afford to make “What Comes from a Swamp.” Available each semester, the grant helps to offset some of the costs of student projects.
“To make this film I worked all summer at an amusement park,” said Macri. “Getting the money back at the end of the semester — almost all of our money — was a huge help because it made it so that I didn’t really have to shoulder the costs of making a film by myself.”