Laughter bounced off the walls of the tiny study room on the second floor of McKeldin. Crammed together around a table that took up most of the room’s limited space, six members of In the Midterm recounted their time together.
On Oct. 23, 2014, the nine person cast and crew assembled for their first day of filming.
“I said, at the first shoot that we did, that because I had written the script up this point, this has been my project,” said In the Midterm creator Lowell Ensel, a sophomore film studies and government and politics double major. “And, now that [we’ve started] filming, this is our project.”
The group kept circling back to the tight-knit community they created during the six-month project.
In the Midterm is about a group of college freshmen that go looking for a party and absolutely everything goes wrong.
It explores themes of friendship, Ensel said, and how important friendship is in the digital age.
In a lot of ways, college is a midterm, Ensel said, because it is a midway point between two very big stages of life. There is a stage between adolescence and adulthood when a person doesn’t have the kind of support they are used to having.
“In college, you’re on your own for the first time and you don’t really have anybody but your friends to rely on for support,” Ensel said.
The themes and questions highlighted in the film are things Ensel said he asked himself and finds very important.
Ensel, who wrote, directed and edited the film, said the camaraderie amongst the actors really shines through their performances.
“They’re acting by putting on these personas, but in another sense they’re not really acting,” Ensel said. “I’m watching this movie, and I’m like damn, I really want a friend group like this.”
Senior psychology major Kevin Saunders said he hopes these relationships last long after the film’s end.
“I feel the irony about this whole thing is that it’s about friendship and finding yourself,” Saunders said. “But we all have found ourselves within making the film. We’ve all developed a friendship and connections between ourselves and the characters.”
Brittni Fine, a sophomore psychology major, said she personally struggles with a lot of the subject matter in her scenes. She said she was able to take her own experiences and relate them to her character, which helped her learn more about both her character and herself.
“In such a big university, it’s always nice to find your little niche,” Fine said. “I think we were able to form our own little family.”
At 6 p.m. on Thursdays, the cast and crew assembled for a few hours to film. They shoot at locations ranging from dorm rooms to the back of university buses.
On a particularly memorable evening, various cast and crew members rode the New Carrollton bus – the longest university bus route – for three loops to get in all of the shots.
“I’d never been to New Carrollton before,” said sophomore communications major Emily Schaefer. “But that night I went three times.”
However, the project presented its fair share of problems – like getting nine college students to be free at the same time to film.
“It’s a miracle that we made that happen,” Ensel said.
Ensel described the filming process as an endless streak of “here’s what I’d like to do and then a challenge would arise,” forcing him to find the next best thing. Ensel faced challenges from revising the script to accommodate changing film locations to editing music selections to avoid being sued.
While Ensel learned how to work around problems, the actors, who come from various acting backgrounds, also learned new things about film acting.
For Noah Israel, a junior theater and physiology and neurobiology double major, this project presented the opportunity to work on a film as opposed to on stage. Israel said the project appealed to him because it covered a topic he felt he could relate to very easily.
“Throughout the whole process, not only was I learning from the experiences, but I was learning from everyone else around me,” Israel said. “I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into, but looking back on it, I really do I appreciate the experiences that I had.”
On the other hand, sophomore journalism major Molly Podlesny did not have any prior acting experience.
“Although I didn’t know what I was getting into,” Podlesny said, “it was very worth it to me just to get this new appreciation of everything that goes into making a film.”
Fine said college is often about focusing on oneself to succeed as an individual but working on this film allowed the group to embrace each other and respect each other’s time.
“While in the end this may be Lowell’s ‘Keystone’ project, it’s a piece of art that we all worked on together,” Fine said. “It’s something that we all truly wanted to come out well.”
In the Midterm premieres Saturday, April 18 at 12:45 in Tawes Hall. The film serves as Ensel’s “Keystone” project and will be shown at the Keystone Symposium.
It will be available via Ensel’s YouTube channel after the premiere.
Maya Pottiger is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.