Cinema and Digital Arts students release the short film “Paradise” despite unique challenges


Actors Michael Sewell and Justin Ebenhack on the set of the short film "Paradise." Photo taken by Myoungeun Cho.

Even though they faced unique obstacles this semester, a group of Cinema and Digital Arts students have released “Paradise,” a student led film.

“Paradise” is this team’s senior capstone project and the culmination of their career at TMU.

“It was just an amazing experience to see this whole idea unfold creatively,” said Isabella Lee, one of the producers. “The film itself is a really cool concept. It’s kind of a mixture of groundhog day plus a little bit of the Pilgrim’s Progress.”

The story follows a young man looking for a place called paradise. But finding paradise isn’t easy, and he faces trials and missteps along the way.

“It’s a story about choices,” said Brooke Eaton, the second assistant director. “Sometimes the choices we make aren’t the easiest, and the film shows it.”

Creating the film wasn’t easy, either. During production, the team faced challenges as their schedule encroached on them.

From left to right: Richard LaLonde, Daniel Ellms, Owen Parlo, David Douglass, Ethan Gentry, Josh MacLeod behind the scenes. Photo taken by Myoungeun Cho.

“We shot this in two days. The second day there was a lot of pressure to make sure that we were done on time,” said Ricky Lalonde, the director and editor of the film. “But the actors had a good attitude, so it really helped.”

The strange situation with COVID-19 also created its own issues with post-production. As stay at home orders swept across the country, this team of filmmakers had to overcome an extra hurdle.

“Our initial plan was to do the editing in the lab at school, so that kind of backfired,” said Daniel Ellms, the first assistant camera. “Luckily we have a group chat, so we’re able to keep in contact that way.”

But communicating with fellow team members can still be difficult in this strange time, especially with a project this big.

“Because we’re quarantined and none of us are in the same vicinity, it’s kind of hard,” Eaton said. “We’re staying in touch with each other, but there’s only so much some of us can do.”

Even though the team faced several obstacles, they received a lot of support with this massive project.

“I’m so thankful for the many people that donated money to help finance the film,” said Ruth Hanthorn, the director of photography. “It was only because of generous people that we were able to shoot it.”

Fellow TMU students also lent a hand to help with filming.

“I was really thankful to have a lot of extras from TMU,” Lalonde said. “We filmed a bar scene on the first day, so we needed a lot of people. It was cool to have people free up their schedule for that.”

Because it was their senior capstone, this team also went through this process without much guidance. Although this was a challenge in its own right, these seniors saw it as an opportunity for growth.

“Our professors weren’t breathing down our necks for this project. It was all our own,” said Rose Bretz, one of the producers. “To just own a project like that and work our hardest to make it the best product was really awesome.”

Ruth Hanthord and Richard LaLonde taking charge on set. Photo by Myoungeun Cho.

Despite the unique challenges they experienced, these filmmakers pulled through to make “Paradise” a reality.

“Everybody worked together to create this world that we caught on camera,” Lee said. “I think we all shared a piece of what we love to do and just poured it into this project.”

And though “Paradise” is the last film these students will make at TMU, many of them hope to go on to new opportunities.

“It was really cool knowing that it was my final project,” LaLonde said. “I see it as the beginning of my career.”

As these seniors look back on their tenure at TMU, they hope future Cinema and Digital Arts students can pursue their own creative endeavors, just like they did.

“I would definitely encourage students who are doing my major to push yourself to do projects that are hard outside and of your comfort zone so that you can learn and grow,” Hanthorn said. “You’re going to make mistakes, and you’re going to mess up. But it’s all just part of the process to get better and better.”

To watch the short film “Paradise,” click the link here.