This past summer, a group of students from APU’s cinematic arts department won Best Student Film at the Trinity International Film Festival in Detroit.
“Luiseno” is a short narrative focused on the people and events neighboring the Temecula Valley Massacre of 1847 during the Mexican American War. According to Ryan Bowman, the film’s producer, Spanish explorers in the 1700s named the Native American people living in southern California the “Luiseno,” who were caught between two large powers as California began to transition from Mexican rule to American statehood.
The film’s main focus is the relationship between two American brothers and two ‘Luiseno’ survivors, who must set aside their differences in order to protect their lives and the safety of land grants from the Mexican Army.
“One of the crew’s strengths was creating realism in their film,” said Warren Koch, associate professor in cinematic arts at APU. “They did a good job creating a feeling of historical realism in this period drama set in the 1800s.”
The senior thesis project had a budget of $15,000, the largest sum of money that APU had ever received for such an activity. This gave the crew more creative freedom to enhance the realistic feel of the time era. It is the realism of the film, in terms of narrative and appearance, that earned them a win at this year’s Trinity International Film Festival. The winnings not only gave the crew members’ résumés a boost, but also opened doors for them after graduation.
APU alumni and director of “Luiseno,” Tanner Morrison, Tom Scott, the film’s editor, and Trevor Satterwhite, film’s sound designer, remained together after graduation to launch a production company in San Dimas called ARTIFACT Film Co.
“ARTIFACT Film Co. is geared toward lifestyle cinematography, short form, documentaries, and hopes to shoot feature length content, but my main goal is to direct a major motion picture,” said Morrison.
Morrison, Scott and Satterwhite, have already completed their latest project, a short film called “Hangry” that leaned toward a more comedic side. With “Hangry,” Morrison hoped to capture and reach different audiences.
“Luiseno” opened doors for other students as well. Producer Ryan Bowman ventured off to the Los Angeles area and works for NBC Universal. Bowman worked on eight major projects at APU, which helped him build a career in the fine arts.
According to Morrison, the crew has continued to wait attentively on responses from 15 different festivals where they also submitted “Luiseno.” Morrison noted that after those 15 responses, they will make another round of submissions.
“Since we know we can win a festival, we want to put our film out there for other audiences to see,” commented Morrison.
Although the length of “Luiseno” was not long enough to compete in the Sundance Film Festival, Morrison looks forward to submitting it to this year’s Broadcast Education Association’s Festival of Media Arts in Las Vegas.
“We will be going up against this year’s senior capstone, as long as they meet the deadline,” said Morrison.
He added that the competition will be tough since a few members of this year’s senior thesis actually helped work on the “Luiseno” film. Gabriel Gonzalez, an APU senior and production designer on “Luiseno,” is the director of “Red Lotus,” the upcoming senior thesis film.
As the “Luiseno” crew waits for responses from the other festivals, Morrison is grateful to the Trinity International Film Festival and to those who helped mentor him at APU.
“APU did a good job by giving us Warren Koch for a mentor,” he said with a smile.