The horror picture stars Maddie Thomas ’20 as Mara Malicky, a YouTuber whose pristine image is threatened when her ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) channel is hacked and she finds herself forced to do her blackmailer’s bidding. The 46-minute film, directed by Jack Rooney ’21 and written by Kailey McIlwrath ’20, will be screened on the Green at 6:30 p.m., followed by a Q&A session with the film crew.
“We’re so excited,” Thomas says. “We thought this was going to happen in April, so we’ve been waiting a long time.”
“Meridian” was created as part of Professor Soren Sorensen’s class, Genre Production Workshop: Horror. Production was originally supposed to wrap up at the end of the spring semester, but those plans were waylaid by the COVID-19 pandemic when campus shut down in mid-March. The change in location meant that McIlwrath had to rewrite the ending of the movie, which was originally set to take place on campus — including a final scene in Razzo Hall. Undeterred, several members of the class reunited over the summer to finish production at different locations across New England, with crew members getting tested for COVID-19 beforehand and maintaining social distance on set.
“It was a lot of running around and everyone pitching in different areas,” says McIlwrath, who also served as the film’s cinematographer.
The trailer for “Meridian” was edited by script supervisor Ben Frede ’20, with music by Henry Brown ’20 and Jack Letchinger ’20.
Story continues after trailer
The Genre Production Workshop class, offered periodically, is an advanced digital filmmaking course primarily for visual and performing arts students in their junior or senior years. Students from diverse backgrounds in the arts work closely together on a single original short film project throughout the class.
Last semester’s original group, which included 16 or 17 students, dropped down to a maximum of six people on location at any given time throughout the summer, with McIlwrath, Thomas, and Rooney working consistently throughout the summer to finish the project. For Thomas, whose character sustains several gory injuries, it also meant learning how to do her own special effects makeup.
“I have a background in makeup design, but this was the first time I did full horror makeup,” she says. “I had dipped my toes in it, but I had to learn a lot for this.”
Thomas, who intends to pursue a career in acting, says the experience of starring in “Meridian” has been invaluable. Previously, she had acted mostly in stage productions, and says she learned a lot from working on her first film. Now, she’s looking forward to watching the movie on the big screen.
“Making art during a pandemic is really important, and we all poured so much time and energy into it,” she says. “It would’ve been really tough to not have any resolution to it.”
McIlwrath, who also took Genre Production Workshop: Film Noir several years ago, previously had the opportunity to serve as editor of “Eyeline,” a feminist detective film created by students in the spring 2018 class. Taking on the roles of writer and cinematographer for “Meridian” was a completely different experience, McIlwrath says, as it involved spending more time working with others on set and experimenting with different special effects, including lights and fog machines.
“It’s been really cool to experience it from this other point of view,” McIlwrath says. “I want to go into cinematography, so this has been a great opportunity.”
In addition to Saturday’s premiere of “Meridian,” the film will be screened on the Green Sunday at 6:30 p.m., if weather permits.