Student short featured at Greater Lehigh Valley Filmmaker Festival

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Since she was about 4 years old, Max Rosenbaum, ’18, has created original videos and films. When it came time to apply for graduate school, she created a short sample film entitled “East Jesus Nowhere.”

The 3-minute film served a dual purpose when she submitted it to the Greater Lehigh Valley Filmmaker Festival and her work was featured for the first time on April 28 at the Frank Banko Alehouse Cinemas.

The film focuses on the struggles of a college graduate whose future was inhibited by his self-pity and lack of ambition. Rosenbaum said the topic mirrors her own life and feelings — she was personally unsure of her future and decided to present the worst case scenario through the main character, who was played by a friend from her hometown. 

“He’s…feeling like a failure and feeling like life brought him down, but the whole time he’s getting down on himself and he’s not letting himself do anything or advance himself in any way,” Rosenbaum said.

She said the film was a “call to action” because individuals who found themselves in this situation should do something about it and make a change.

Max Rosenbaum, ’18, presented her film at the Greater Lehigh Valley Film Festival on Sat., April 28 at the Frank Banko Alehouse Cinemas of the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks. Her film titled “Jesus Eats Nowhere” deals with the emotions and issues early college graduates face as they enter into adult life. (Courtesy of Max Rosenbaum)

Brandon Merluccio, ’18, who edited and mixed the sound, said he could relate to the theme in some sense because anyone who attends college experiences stress and feels lost.

Rosenbaum said she wrote the voiceover script after developing and shooting the entire film, which only took two days during winter break. She first decided on the images and then improvised the rest of the process with the help of two friends. The entire project took about a week and a half.

Merluccio said Rosenbaum successfully blended everything together and incorporated a variety of techniques into the production. Merluccio said a good artist and filmmaker like Rosenbaum has influences but can develop her own style and identity.

The sounds and music were crucial in the flow of the film and portraying the right mood. Merluccio said he mixed a combination of original music and samples together to create a cohesive piece.

“The main thing was matching up a lot of the actions with sound files that fit well with what was going on, whether it was background noises or whether it was music,” Merluccio said.

Rosenbaum said editing and mixing the sounds was the longest part of the process. Merluccio said Rosenbaum had a vision for the film and wanted to make sure the sounds contributed to the theme.

“I’ve never met anyone who is so creative with such positive vibes,” said Jason Pollack, ’18, who did the voiceover for the film. “She’s really open to anything, and that shows in her work. She doesn’t pigeon-hole herself into a box. She’s ready to explore anything.”

Pollack said Rosenbaum needed a deep male voice for the narration, and he had to get in an angry or sad state of mind to match the dark and serious nature of the film. Rosenbaum used the opening scene from “Apocalypse Now” as a reference for what she expected from the voice over. 

“She’s always been a very retrospective, introspective, philosophical person so I can’t say I was surprised,” Pollack said. “But it was also very dark. I’m not a dark person.”

He said he wanted to respect the script Rosenbaum planned for him, though it was difficult for him to assume a completely opposite character from his own to achieve the right tone of voice. He did minor improvisations at times, but after multiple takes to perfect the timing, he was able to finish his parts in about 90 minutes.

Pollack said Rosenbaum effectively captured a scene and setting that matched the film’s script.

“The cinematography was great,” said Pollack, “the way she interlaced different frames together, the way she spliced it, the order.”

Rosenbaum said she is interested in meeting with filmmakers from local colleges, specifically Muhlenberg and DeSales, to learn about their plans and discuss possible collaborations in the future. She also plans to share her film through social media and include it in her portfolio. 

“It’s definitely a great opportunity to meet other local filmmakers whom I could work with,” Rosenbaum said.

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