Student view:

Keenan Wetzel: Filming 'The Cager'

June 18, 2014

Keenan Wetzel is a senior at MSU’s College or Arts and Letters studying media and information. He is currently teaming up with former Michigan State basketball star Delvon Roe to make the short film “The Cager.”

Watching films has always been a passion of mine. At a very young age I began to watch films with a creative eye, trying to figure out how the director shaped the visual story and used the camera to engage the viewer. As I got older, I began to write, direct and shoot short videos, realizing that I had the talent and determination to pursue a career in the movie industry.

But knowing that I wanted to be a filmmaker was not enough. I knew I would need to go to college to enhance my skills so that I could pursue my passion. At Michigan State, as a media and information major, I have continued to develop my skills and have now reached the point that I am ready to showcase them.

Great stories are assembled through a myriad of life experiences, some that the author lives through and some that the author observes. I have two true passions in my life—film and basketball.

While on a first glance they may appear quite separate and unique they are, in reality, intimately intertwined. Having the opportunity to compete in varsity athletics at MSU has taught me what it takes to succeed in life and it has provided me with my first great story.

As a varsity basketball player, I have seen and experienced the exuberance of success and I have felt the heartbreak of injury and defeat. I have learned how important a college education is as life’s journey sometimes takes us down a path that we didn’t anticipate and a sports career can end in the blink of an eye.

As I began to ponder the end of my athletic career, I began to think about how all athletes face this moment. The shocking reality of life after sports—something that you have spent your entire life doing and, for many, the one thing that has defined you. The thought captivated me.

Storyboard from The Cager movie scriptThis past season, I decided to write the short film “The Cager” about a former college star who injuries himself and has to adjust to life without basketball. His story is complicated. Life has taken him down a path he did not see coming and he never thought about a back-up plan. I wrote the script on buses and during plane rides to away games. Writing, rewriting, listening, observing—I finished the script shortly after the season ended.

The next step in bringing my story to life was enlisting the help of a fellow Michigan State student Nick Stachurski. Nick founded Eightfold Marketing and Creative, LLC while at MSU and has done more than 18 regional commercials and two music videos. His company is a marketing firm that specializes in production. I knew this was the perfect teaming to make my vision a reality.

Once I had Eightfold on board, we then reached out to Rumor Productions, a company started by Michigan State alumni that produced the 2013 feature-length film “Some are Born.” The first time we all met, we knew that we had put together the right team to make a high-quality short film.

Storyboard from The Cager movie scriptOur next step was to reach out to Delvon Roe, former Michigan State basketball player and SAG certified actor, to play the lead in the film. Delvon and I had always wanted to work together and this was our chance. With Delvon on our team we now have all the makings of a great “Spartan” film.

In the last couple months, we have planned the film in its entirety and built the production budget. In order to make the film, we need to raise $25,000 to cover our production costs. Most of the crew and myself, are not taking a salary for the film. We launched our fundraising campaign on kickstarter.com and have until July 11 to reach our fundraising goal. We’re hoping our fellow Spartans will help fund this project and make “The Cager” a reality.

The film is socially relevant and responsible. It will prompt viewers to think about the importance of family in society as well as help people move through transitional periods of their lives. “The Cager” touches on the way life’s unintended consequences sometimes lead to greater and more fulfilling journeys. It tells a story that needs to be told. Its positive messages about the true meaning of happiness could change lives.

Once completed, we intend to share the film with nonprofit and youth organizations throughout the country as a teaching tool. We also plan to enter it in film festivals.

Since the news broke on this project, hundreds of people have contacted me to let me know that they “can’t wait to see the film” and asking me when it will premier. I can’t wait for them to see the film either. If we reach our fundraising goal, we hope to produce this August.

I’m now and forever a Spartan.