This past Tuesday at 8pm, LSA Screen Arts and Cultures Honors student Tricia Williams debuted a live reading of a draft of her script After. After, set in early 20th century London, adds modern flair to the classic fairy tale Cinderella.

Tricia’s drew inspiration from a classic, archetypal story, but her personal re-telling of the children’s story brought about many unexpected twists on the original work. Female lead Catherine, disenfranchised from her wealthy estate after her father’s death and placed under the care of a domineering step-mother, abdicates her social standing to become a rogue thief. In place of Prince Charming, two impoverished criminal siblings vie for Catherine’s affection. And Catherine’s step-sister Mildred is the sincerest and most well-meaning character in the entire story – a victim of social position and the unrealistic demands placed on women in post-Victorian society.

After alters the character archetypes and plot points of the fairy tale not only to frame a fresh narrative, but also to critique problematic representations of class and gender perpetuated throughout the literary tradition of classic children’s literature. The antagonist of the story isn’t really the evil step-mother but rather the expectations placed upon women and the exclusionary class hierarchies which inflict social violence upon the disenfranchised and well-meaning citizens. Catherine does not find solace in a magical fairy god mother, but rather in acceptance of the difficulties of making a living in the real world, among destitute migrant workers.

These thematic twists on the classic tale demonstrate the archetypal resonance of age-old literature, when contextualized to address contemporary social issues. The characters speak with authenticity and passion, motivated by the tension of social marginalization. Tricia’s script hit home not only because of its tight structure and elegant, period-specific prose, but also because of its thematic depth.


Tonite at 8pm, join SAC Honors student and screenwriting sub concentrator Tricia Williams at CC Little 1528 for a reading of her new screenplay, “After”.

“After” is a comic re-imagining of the classic fairytale Cinderella, set in early 1900’s London. This is a great opportunity – the UM SAC department is one of the strongest writing programs in the country, taught by well established Hollywood screenwriters who can break down how to tell a compelling story the same way a scientist can break down the contents of an atom.

Tricia’s reading and Q&A promises to be a hilarious twist on a fairy tale – a genre which Hollywood has been re-imagining as of late, and will offer insight into how the process of writing a story is far more accessible than you might think.


TWilliams Flier

PREVIEW: SAC Department Presents “What the Hell Was That?” – A discussion on short experimental film

This Thursday, January 29th, 7pm at the Modern Languages Building, Lecture Room 2

The SAC department will be hosting a screening of experimental short films from Ann Arbor Film Festivals past, followed by a panel discussion lead by Screen Arts and Cultures faculty Daniel Herbert, Terri Sarris, and Chris McNamara. SAC senior Joe Biglin will also participate in the panel discussion.


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Ann Arbor Film Festival’s experimental shorts are almost impossible to track down and rewatch after they have been screened at the festival itself – this is a rare and wonderful opportunity to participate in an experimental cinematic experience unlike anything one could see at a typical theater.

Moreover, the opportunity to speak with a group of experienced teachers and artists who have themselves experimented with film form over the years may offer a deeper and more rewarding insight to those without prior experience watching or interpreting avant-garde cinema.

Herbert talk


this picture shows some stills from AAFF experimental shorts past.

BTB Cantina Electronic Thursdays: Adam Westing

This Thursday evening I had the pleasure of seeing DJ Adam Westing Smith perform at BTB Cantina’s weekly Thursday electronic music event, “A2 Level Up”. Adam is a senior at the University of Michigan who produces and DJs electronic music in his free time, collaborating with other students to label his own work and create an aesthetic for his performances. Adam’s performance was impressive for a local amateur DJ in its own right, no qualifications that he is currently a full time student are necessary. I would also like to emphasize that BTB Cantina has been burgeoning into a fine night club of its own, a venue that adds a new and unique night life experience to Ann Arbor worth pursuing for those that enjoy loud music and life-affirming dancing.

Adam’s musical influences are manifold, to say the least. It is apparent he’s influenced by local Detroit Techno DJ’s such as Golf Clap and Erno the Inferno, and he remixes EDM heavyweights such as Bassnectar into his act as well, however the most impressive aspect of his musical influences, in my opinion, is that they spread far beyond the scope of EDM alone. Amongst his other sounds, listeners will hear references to metal and rock songs. This multifaceted, open-minded approach to electronic music helps differentiate Adam’s music. DJing is a magical, alchemical art – their equipment is a cauldron into which they can stir the various sounds they enjoy. This unprecendented artistic freedom is what challenges many DJs – how does one create a unique and coherent blend from a practically infinite number of possible ingredients?

As Adam’s performance demonstrates, a good DJ does not make this final decision alone. A DJ ought to read the audience and channel their energy into their own performance, take the dance floor’s vibes into account to refine your performance. Adam did a solid job of reading the dance floor, building excitement, and tearing the house down with well placed drops throughout the night.

I’d also like to give it up to BTB Cantina. They have, in the last 2 years, been able to increase their attendance on Thursday nights significantly. Their dance floor is open and accessible, and the venue provides lights and dancers to enhance the in-house DJ’s performance. The Cantina also does a great job of keeping their acoustics just loud enough to hype the crowd up without compromising sound quality. No matter how good a DJ is, if the venue they’re playing at doesn’t draw a good crowd, doesn’t have a chill vibe, and doesn’t do the performance justice, the night will not live up to the hype. So great job, Adam Westing Smith, and great job, BTB Cantina for providing a fun, accessible venue to promote local student talent.


Here’s a link to Adam Westing Smith’s soundcloud if you want to check out his music:

Ann Arbor Film Festival Opening Screening

I saw the opening screening of the Ann Arbor Film Festival this Tuesday. Ranging from 1-27 minutes in length, every single film presented was a unique experience unlike anything the standard moviegoing experience offers. I highly encourage my fellow student body and Ann Arbor residents to participate in this film festival in future years. Ranging from narrative to experimental, the opening screening was an excellent primer on the unique film culture the festival offers.

One of the most visceral and difficult pieces presented was Cut, a 13-minute collaboration between two German filmmakers. Cut is an experimental narrative which contains frequent visual motifs of red and white across a disparate group of images–some traditionally beautiful, such as a woman adorning herself with lipstick, while other shots were disturbing–shots of people recovering from surgery, bug bites, and other graphic imagery. Cut made me cringe from start to finish, even for shots that I would normally consider aesthetically pleasing. This is not a filmic experience I would voluntarily engage with in my leisure time. Cut was thrust upon me by the festival amongst a bundle of other films. Nevertheless, the harrowing experience was highly rewarding, forcing me to reconsider not only the mechanics of visual storytelling, but also to question what I consider to be beautiful. The juxtaposition of graphic, disturbing imagery sharing similar color tones to traditionally beautiful photography demonstrated how arbitrary and contrived cultural beauty imperatives are.

Another picture which caught my attention was the Division, barely a minute long and the shortest piece amongst the anthology. This stop-motion piece shows the filmmaker tearing a single piece of paper into increasingly smaller divisions. What begins as a mundane action turns into a compelling thought experiment: how small must a physical object become before it loses its “thingness”? Division is both visually stimulating and intellectually provocative, engaging the audience with intriguing visuals, bombarding them with a sequence of complicated imagery.

Based on audience reaction, the most popular piece in the opening screening may have been A Million Miles Away, an experimental take on a traditional story. A Million Miles Away is a journey into the emotional minefield that is the high school experience. Told through the perspectives of high school students of disparate social standing and a strange substitute teacher, this entirely female ensemble performance renders the psychological territory of the high school world in a way that I have not seen any mainstream high school movie do. A Million Miles Away publishes several characters’ text messages on-screen, simultaneously satirizing the low-attention-span nature of communication and glorifying the unifying capabilities of mnemonic communication shorthand. The emotional resonance of the film lies in its fearless intent to capture a more personal inquiry into the psychological reality of the high school experience, not only from the perspective of various students, but also from the perspective of the substitute teacher–the furthest outside the high school.

The Ann Arbor Film Festival is a highly non-traditional film-going experience. I would be the first person to admit this isn’t the place I’d go to for decompression, designate as a hangout for my friends after a day of work, or bring a first date to. This is an experience which challenges what the traditional moviegoing experience should be.

The Wind Rises

The Wind Rises, rumored to be Japanese animation filmmaking legend Hayao Miyazaki’s final film, is currently airing at the State Street theater. I attended a screening this past Friday, and was blown away by this inspirational movie. Not only is the core theme of perseverance inspiring, the breath-taking animation rouses a desire to envision lofty goals.

The film follows Jiro, a brilliant engineer whose dreams of flying are complicated by his poor vision. After joining an aerospace engineering company in 1927, Jiro confronts a moral dilemma–should he pursue his dreams even when airplane technology is the new frontier for World Wars? Jiro’s intentions are pure-hearted, he merely wants to realize a childhood dream. Nevertheless, I felt a strain on my allegiances during the film, unsure whether I wanted to see a brilliant mind succeed when its inventions were capable of so much destruction.

The tension between purity and corruption resonates over the course of the film, in dialogue, plot, and imagery. Jiro’s core moral dilemma, his kind wife’s increasingly debilitating illness, and the horrifying transformation of the beautiful Japanese landscape into a war machine all share a common theme–the fleeting nature of innocence. As the film progresses, picturesque valley designs are covered in lifeless factories spewing smog over a once pristine land.

The Wind Rises’s visual style echoes the motif of corruption–a pathetic fallacy representing the corruption of Jiro’s dreams and family life in the historical backdrop of a war-torn nation. Although dismal, the art design is well done, poignant factory designs literal polluters of the landscape and metaphorical representations of the spiritual toll the war takes on Japanese society.

Yet despite his struggles, Jiro never gives up. In a strikingly bittersweet, beautiful moment towards the film’s end, Jiro’s wife walks out of their house, suggesting her death. Jiro does not see her death, rather feeling a powerful breeze pass across him. The wind delivers news of tragedy to him, but also offers an opportunity for upliftment. Jiro ascends into a dream state, and some of the most fantastical imagery appears on-screen. Hence the ultimately uplifting thesis of the film–no matter how dark external reality may seem, we always maintain the option to dream new realities.

Ultimately, it is our personal visions which go on to shape reality. Factories, mass production, pollution and war began as ideas in someone’s mind. Nevertheless, others possess the agency to dream new dreams and spread new myths to counteract our unfortunate circumstances.