Graduates of the Teledramatic Arts and Technology program at CSU Monterey Bay continue to earn recognition and accolades for their work.
For the second consecutive year, the university will be represented at the Sundance Film Festival – the biggest independent film gathering in the U.S.
“Prairie Love,” produced by 2003 graduate Douglas Mueller, will have its world premiere in the festival’s NEXT competition. Eight films were selected for their innovative and original work on a budget of less than $500,000 – a pittance in the movie industry. Although the NEXT category is non-competitive, an audience choice award is up for grabs.
Over 10,000 films – a record number – were submitted to Sundance this year, and just under 200 were accepted, according to the festival website.
Sundance will be held in and around Park City, Utah, Jan. 20-30. “Prairie Love” will be screened four times – Jan. 23, 25, 27 and 28 – and Mueller (pictured at left) plans to be on hand for all of them.
“The Teledramatic Arts' faculty and staff are ecstatic for Douglas,” said department chair Enid Baxter Blader. “He remains a highly regarded member of our TAT community. This recent accomplishment is a fantastic recognition of his talent and vision."
The film was shot in Minot, N.D., in January 2009. It’s a dark comedy about a nomad traveling the rural roads of North Dakota who saves the life of a stranded man. When the nomad discovers the man is headed to visit a pen-pal girlfriend he has never seen, the nomad assumes his identity in hopes of having a relationship with her.
The shooting was completed over 23 days, and in sub-zero weather. “On a rare occasion we would do less than 12 hours, and only because we ran out of daylight,” Mueller said. The weather created problems – “cameras fail at about 20 below” – but the filmmakers didn’t let them derail their plans.
As the film’s producer, Mueller’s work took a variety of forms.
“I focused on the creative end, as opposed to the business or financial elements,” he said. “I gave the director notes on his script from the start, I worked on storyboards, location scouting, casting, costumes, coordinating between the departments, along with making sure whatever we were shooting next was going to be ready.”
He was quick to add that his role included a lot of things that weren’t so much fun – cleaning up, shoveling snow, getting cars out of ditches, and “asking for things for free.”
After graduating from Minot High School – where he met several of his colleagues on the film – he was determined to go to school in California. He looked for a small school with a good film department. CSUMB filled the bill on both counts.
It was a good fit. “There was always a faculty or staff member who was eager to help me with what I needed and ultimately, I walked away with more experience producing and directing than my friends did at New York University,” Mueller said.
He believes that the university gave him a “great” education, “not only about film, but many things. My classes and my peers helped me look at social issues in a way I never had. . . .”
When he completed his degree in 2003, he stayed in the area. A year later, he joined the Carmel Bach Festival as production manager, a job he still has. His work with the festival inspired him to make “Intermezzo No. 1,” a short documentary about the festival's keyboard tuner that premiered at the Nashville Film Festival this year and will screen at the Ozark Foothills Festival in 2011.
"Doug is one of the students who really kept the dream of making movies,” said TAT instructor Steven Levinson. “He was always a great writer and producer. Once he got into the real world, he seriously applied the ‘real world’ training he got here at CSUMB."
To learn more about Doug, visit the web at www.douglasmueller.net
Last year’s Sundance festival saw the premiere of “Charlie and the Rabbit” by TAT alums Robert Machoian and Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck. “Charlie” and their previous film, “Ella and the Astronaut,” were shown at film festivals around the world.
They were named to Filmmaker Magazine’s list of “25 New Faces” for 2010, a list recognizing the top up-and-coming talent in the independent film industry.