Reading a good novel often prompts readers to wonder what the story would be like as a feature film. This tendency isn’t just a marker of the importance of what is digital and visual; it’s a reminder of how culture and technology are intertwined.
On Wednesday, April 21, filmmakers, poets, readers and viewers will honor this union of culture and technology and celebrate the hybrid form of the cinepoem with the MSU Filmetry Festival’s free live-streamed premiere of 18 short films adapted from work in the anthology “Voices Amidst the Virus.” This year’s festival includes films made by MSU students, faculty and staff, as well as other filmmakers outside of the MSU community. The live premiere will stream on YouTube at 7 p.m.
“Voices Amidst the Virus” was edited by Eileen Cleary and Christine Jones and published by Lily Poetry Review. The collection of poems includes work from poets throughout the country and represents a rich variety of responses to the pandemic.
This year marks the third year of the MSU Filmetry Festival, which was co-founded by Cindy Hunter Morgan and Peter Johnston. Hunter Morgan heads up communications for MSU Libraries and also teaches poetry in the English department. Johnston specializes in digital media and film production methods and serves as the digital media and production manager in the Film Studies Program.
Each year, they’ve done something new with the event. This year, they’ve shared the opportunity with their students. Hunter Morgan asked students in her ENG 229 (Introduction to Poetry Writing) class to write poems informed by their experiences with the pandemic. Students were invited (though, not required) to share their poems with Johnston’s film students in his FLM 260 class (Introduction to Digital Media Production), who adapted those poems to films. The idea, according to Hunter Morgan and Johnston, was to continue to expand the meaningful ways Filmetry helps build relationships across the campus community and across communities of artists.
Media and information major Maddie Katz adapted English and psychology major Natalie Mannino’s poem, "2020 Vision." Of this piece, Johnston and Hunter Morgan said, “This work stands out in part because of Natalie's incisive but melancholy language and Maddie's big-hearted visual interpretation.” Marketing and film studies major Carlos Lundback's version of English major Loren Rascoe’s poem "Neverland" was also selected for inclusion in the 2021 Filmetry Festival.
Johnston said the Filmetry Festival gives students in the MSU Film Studies Program a chance to promote new and deeply relevant work. “The process of making art contributes to our shared sense of humanity, and the varied experiences with COVID-19 give filmmakers rich opportunities to explore the impact of the virus,” Johnston said. “We are really excited to be able to work with this anthology, which helps us create a thematic thread throughout the films, and we’re excited to be able to share a free online streaming premiere, which gives us a chance to reach a wider audience.”
This year’s festival provides an opportunity to celebrate the role of art in people’s lives and honor the ways filmmakers and poets can collaborate. “Filmmakers are engaged with thinking about what exerts an influence on our world, and the poems in this new anthology are engaged with this work, too,” Hunter Morgan said. “Art helps us imagine and re-imagine our own lives and the lives of others, and it’s important not just to document our experiences during the pandemic, but also to turn these experiences into art. It’s also important to collaborate — particularly during the pandemic, when so many people feel isolated. This has been a great way to build community.”
The idea for the MSU Filmetry Festival was formed in the fall of 2018. The festival gives students opportunities to work as peers with other artists, and gives students an opportunity to share their work on the same platform as faculty, staff and other professional filmmakers. It also connects students with artists working in other genres. The first MSU Filmetry Festival was presented in January of 2019. The 2020 event was to be held in Wells Hall, home of the MSU Film Studies Program, but was rescheduled as an online livestreamed event due to COVID-19. A selection of films from previous MSU Filmetry Festival are available here: https://filmstudies.cal.msu.edu/filmetry-festival/