By David Seaman | Echo
The Envision Film Festival, which began Thursday and ends Saturday, showcases the best films from Taylor Media Communication students. Documentaries, narrative films and shorts will play to eager audiences-and possibly inspire young filmmakers.
This year, Envision is bringing in three guests with considerable filmmaking experience. All three will share their acting and writing expertise at various workshops today.
A 2007 Taylor graduate and accomplished actor, Jason Burkey said he is excited to visit campus again. Burkey was the male lead in the surprise box-office hit "October Baby," which dealt with a woman coming to terms with her birth mother's abortion attempt. He has also starred in numerous smaller film and television roles, including the pilot for the CBS drama "The Surgeon General."
Burkey says he is looking forward to see how Taylor has changed since his graduation.
"With access to such great film equipment and resources . . . I'm sure there will be some quality-looking films in this festival," Burkey said.
The actor's faith has been both strengthened and tested by his experiences. "There have been moments when I have to trust the Lord for provision in uncertain times and also for discernment when deciding whether I should accept certain roles," Burkey said. "Surrounding myself with a solid community and fellowship of believers plays a critical part in 'keeping my head on straight.'"
Burkey's next acting role will be in "Moms' Night Out," a family-friendly comedy. Burkey reteams with the Erwin Brothers, who also directed "October Baby."
A friend of Brad Pitt, Sheryl Crow and Burt Reynolds, Mark Fauser was a rising star in the '80s and '90s. TV roles such as "Evening Shade" and "seaQuest DSV" lent him credibility in Hollywood. Fauser also started the L.A.-based faculty school for Master Teacher Charles Nelson Reilly.
Then, he decided to leave Tinseltown.
"When I was in Los Angeles in 1994 and working for NBC as an actor and CBS as a writer, a lifetime dream came true . . . to be married," Fauser said.
His new marriage, along with both his shows ending in May of that year and the 1994 Northridge earthquake, rocked Fauser both literally and spiritually. Fauser's wife wanted to move to Marion, Ind.
"I was spiritually told to move to Marion-which is about as far away from Hollywood as one could be," Fauser said. "God rewarded me more spiritually and financially by the string of movies I sold and acted in while living here in Marion."
These films include "Waking Up in Reno," starring friend Burt Reynolds; "The Right to Remain Silent," an original play co-written by Fauser that was turned into a TV movie in 1996; and "Madison," a semi-fictional account of hydroplane racing in Madison, Ind.
Fauser has been Executive Director of the Community School of the Arts in Marion since 2002. He is also the subject of Taylor student documentary "Making a Mark," which will screen tonight.
"I did far better here than while in Los Angeles," Fauser said. "You can't script that."
Screenwriter Neville Kiser is a 2004 Taylor graduate with an master's degree in Theology and the Arts from Fuller Theological Seminary and a Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting from UCLA. Kiser spent two years between graduate studies teaching English and film in China.
His impressive resume landed Kiser work as a writer's assistant for Dustin Lance Black, a screenwriter whose body of work includes the television show "Big Love" and award-winning films such as "Milk" and "J. Edgar."
Kiser sees the storytelling process as overcoming fear, and he is is looking forward to seeing students use those storytelling skills in the films shown during Envision.
"That's what filmmaking and storytelling is all about for me," he said. "And this is what I'm looking forward to seeing up there on the big screen at the festival: the power of the personal story triumphing over the fear and insecurities of the artist."
Kiser's upcoming feature, "Man of Sorrow," best describes what he wants to achieve. The screenplay landed on the 2013 Hollywood Black List, which features the year's best unproduced screenplays as voted by industry professionals. Past Black List scripts have been Oscar winners "The Social Network" and "Slumdog Millionare."
"Man of Sorrow" follows the life of Oscar Wilde after he was arrested for perceived obscenity. The scandalous trials, his time in prison and personal revelations are heavily explored.
"It's a story I've been dying to tell for more than a decade," Kiser said. He says the idea came to him when he was studying at Taylor and a friend gave him a book of letters written by Wilde in prison. "They contain some of the most beautiful language outside of scripture about why Jesus came to earth and what he truly set us free from."
The Envision Film Festival Screening and Awards are at 7 p.m. in Rediger. Tickets are $2 for Taylor students and staff and $5 for the public.