Shane Heath – Future Producer

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

My time as a Film Studies major has been great! I have grown to appreciate older films and the theories and interpretations that come with them. I also have met a great community of people that are passionate about the same things as I am. I am glad I was able to make so many friends that have a love for film. The professors and faculty have also made my time at MSU amazing. Because the professors and students have similar passions, it makes it easier to connect with them. The professors can relate to the student experience in a way I think no other major can. This community helps me create projects, not only for a grade, but projects that I am actually passionate about.

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

I’ve had some of the same instructors for multiple classes. Pete Johnston was the first film professor I met on campus. I met him before I even took any of his classes because I had questions about filmmaking, and he was available to answer them. I was in two of his digital media filmmaking classes and I took a cinematography class. I also had the privilege to participate in a study away ran by him and Kate Sonka. Throughout my time here I have been able to look at Pete as a mentor. He taught me how to use cameras the way I use them now and hired me as an assistant in the film lab. His advice is what got me through every year of college.

I met professor, Jeff Wray, my junior year of college in my film directing class. I also had him in the fiction filmmaking capstone where I was the line producer for the film Varnish. Jeff teaches in way where he makes it easy for the student to be able to communicate with him. His advice has taught me that I can do anything I set my mind to and he has also given me job opportunities on multiple occasions. I never thought I would ever be a Teacher’s Assistant, but Jeff gave offered me a job to be his TA for the film collective. Although, the job was cut short because of campus closing, it was a great experience. Jeff also referred me to Yomaira Figueroa-Vasquez to create a documentary for her study away trip in Puerto Rico. Both Jeff and Pete helped me gain experience. 

Bill Vincent is another professor that comes to mind. Bill is a great professor and loves to help outside of the classroom. I had him for advanced screenwriting but met him before I even had his class. He was the star of a short film I did in my film directing class and the star of Varnish, the capstone film. He’s very easy to talk to and has helped my screenwriting skills improve.

Lastly, I’ve had Joshua Yumibe as a professor in most of my film theory classes. He was my professor When I took all my History of film classes and contemporary film and media theory classes. I also have had him in an archival film class. I always think the hardest when in his classes. Discussing films in his classes has helped me come out of my shell and help my communication skills when discussing the deep layers behind films. Joshua is always so helpful when it comes to projects and creates a space where every opinion is heard.

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The faculty here is always happy to help with any questions you may have about your career. Use the resources on campus. I don’t have a lot of film equipment that I own and I’m able to rent film equipment on campus free of charge. This equipment will make the things you create look so professional and the faculty here are happy to teach you how to use it. Also, don’t be afraid ask for opportunities. There’s always a job that the department might need. Doing these jobs will build your resume and help you gain experience.

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them? (capstone courses, honors thesis, independent studies, etc.)

This year I was the line producer for the student capstone film Varnish. I started my own production company to produce my short films, so I wanted to see what it would be like to produce a film with a larger budget. I oversaw the budget and I worked with every department to get each department what they needed for the film. I was able to see how each department comes together to create a finished film and learned things I never thought of before. I also made sure the schedule ran smoothly while shooting and handled any problems that arose on set. I also worked directly with the executive producers to oversee production and give jobs to the crew. Sometimes I helped the gaffer with the lighting, and I also was a boom operator. I also worked with editing doing DIT work. I was excited that I get to work with the friends that I met in my past film classes on one big film, and we all work together well. 

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation? 

I want to start working on film sets to build my resume and eventually become writer, director, producer, on a high level. I also wouldn’t mind being a director for hire, I just love making films. On the side, I want to continue to create my own short films and try to get noticed independently that way. I have so many ideas that I want to share with the world, and I have no doubt in my mind that it will come to fruition.

If you’re interested in doing so, please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during COVID. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation? 

Because of COVID, a lot of my job opportunities were put on a halt. But, as everything is opening back up, these opportunities are starting to reappear. Because of the capstone, I had an in-person class, so I was able to see my friends sometimes and go out and make a film. But my other classes were fully online and there was just a lot of typing to do. I don’t like working that way. I like getting hands on experience and you can’t do that over zoom. Film studies is an in-person type of major where you need to experience films with people and work on films together. Doing it on your own isn’t the same.