[The Christ in Media Institute (CMI) at Bethany Lutheran College instituted a "Fellowship of CMI" to recognize and encourage Bethany students pursuing academic projects in harmony with the goals of the Christ in Media Institute, that is, to employ media to spread the Gospel. Alec was recognized as a Fellow of CMI in the spring of 2023. Here he describes his work. — The Editor]
Making the Movie
When I set out to make my capstone short film Hinterland, my goal was to create something entertaining, high in production value, and larger in scale than anything I’d done before. Best of all, I was determined to have fun making it!
In the ideating phase, this project became a vessel for many visual and tonal interests of mine- a figure standing alone in a forest, a protagonist facing internal turmoil, a restless psyche, an overwhelming feeling of wonder, and the fun wow factor that comes with the sci-fi genre. I drew from movies like Alien, Annihilation, The Tree of Life, and The Thin Red Line. Put all of these elements in a blender and you could call it my inspiration.
If there’s one thing I learned from this project, it’s that shoestring-budget short films are built on favors! The film passed through many hands and I find great beauty in that. From my supportive professors to classmates and friends, I couldn’t have made this film without my incredible crew! Everyone pitched in to bring this movie to life in about 4 months.
Hinterland is a film about a man who starts having intrusive visions and must fight to get his sanity back. A major theme present in the film is the internal struggle of pessimism versus optimism and fear versus faith.
What if these forces were at war with each other in our minds? They’re lenses through which we’d view our world. They would play into the small decisions that we make every day and the larger decisions we make over time… about the way we live, and about who we are -ultimately affecting our life’s trajectory.
Vincent, the film’s protagonist, is a complacent but unfulfilled young man. He’s going through life on autopilot and knows there could be something better, but refuses to make a change.
The film’s journey leads him to lose any morsel of hope. He gives in to fear and accepts a harrowing vision of his future.
Writhing in pain and cowering in fear, Vincent gives up until a familiar hand taps him on his shoulder. His eyes are opened and he begins to fight back. He takes a leap of faith and emerges from the hinterland reborn- a forever-changed man.
A Feeling of Wonder
One particularly Terrence Mallick-inspired sequence in this film shows the life that could be. Vincent sees things in a new light. He sees the joy of friendship and the wonder in love. He feels the agency of fervent prayer, and the undeserving grace in returning to Christ. He sees the beauty of a perfect sunset, and the thrill of taking a risk.
This montage is intercut with the climax of the film and motivates Vincent to change. I wanted to capture a feeling of wonder and let it wash over the audience.
Through the juxtaposition of the cut and the emotional nature of film score, my goal was to elevate these moments to ones of importance and reverence.
Becoming a Man of Faith
Stepping out of your shell, quitting a job, starting a new career, praying boldly, pursuing marriage, strengthening friendships, and changing your personality for the better. -These are all basic examples of self-development and they’re all things that motivate Vincent to stop living in fear and dissatisfaction.
My goal with this film isn’t to preach about becoming “who you are destined to be,” or finding that which is “already in you.” My goal is to explore what it could mean to become a man of faith- a man who confidently takes risks for the better, trusting in God’s will for his life.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” -Jeremiah 29:11
Making this film was gratifying! I thank God for the wonderful experience that this project was and for all of my gracious collaborators and supportive family, friends, and professors. It was an exercise of artistic self-expression, a grand collaboration amongst creative people, and a chance to do that which I love best- make a movie! Now that it’s completed, I would love for the film to be seen by more audiences in theaters. I’m excited to say that Hinterland has begun its festival run.
And just recently, Hinterland won its first award! The film was chosen for Best Narrative Short at the Eagan Art Block Short Film Festival on September 23rd, 2023!
Once the film’s festival circuit is complete, it will be released publicly online, but for now, it’s off to more festivals!
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