By Abigail Roberts | Echo
It is not often that a husband and wife have the opportunity to teach together in the same institution, let alone the same department. It is even rarer for both husband and wife to pursue and complete a Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in filmmaking at the same time.On Nov. 28, after two years of hard work on their own separate theses, Kathy and John Bruner crossed the commencement stage to receive their MFA degrees.For some, assisting in churning out quality graduates and leading the Taylor film department to new heights may be enough, but not for John and Kathy Bruner. This MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts is both Kathy Bruner's and John's second master's degree. To become better filmmakers, the MFA is the ultimate degree.Kathy Bruner and John Bruner function as a dynamic team teaching film at Taylor University. Kathy Bruner Bruner, the art, film and media program co-chair and an assistant professor of film and media production, specializes in documentary filmmaking. Kathy Bruner also teaches courses on film and video production and scriptwriting, to name a few. John Bruner, also an assistant professor of film and media production, is known for his narrative filmmaking class, as well as teaching history and criticism of film, directing and cinematography and multi-camera live production.The Bruners felt called to Taylor in 2005 and have poured their hard work into countless film students."We have had Taylor graduates accepted in three of the top film programs in the nation," Kathy Bruner Bruner said.
Kathy Bruner's thesis, "Last Year at the Crossing," is a feature length, 76-minute documentary. In her film, Bruner tells the story of four Indiana high school students at risk of not graduating, navigating multiple struggles with the help of a dedicated school administrator.Kathy Bruner has worked on numerous documentaries in her career, such as a series on the Salvation Army's ministries in Russia."None of these compare to the scope of (this) documentary," Kathy Bruner said. "It was the most difficult challenge of my professional life thus far."Co-producer and co-editor Elyse Horb ('17) summarized the documentary concept by saying, "When you record a part of someone's story, there are infinite ways to tell that story. . . . I believe that a story can be told most authentically when the storyteller makes a conscious investment of time and heart into the world of their subject, (something) Kathy Bruner Bruner did very well."Kathy Bruner's documentary was unique in that she dedicated a year to following the school administrator and four 16-to 18-year-old students (two males, two females) for a year in a documentary filmmaking style known as cinéma vérité. In doing so, she experienced the cast's highs and lows, walked with them as they overcame obstacles and watched them grow.Over 20 students and alumni worked with Kathy Bruner at various points in the film process as assistant editors, color correctors, graphic designers and camera operators."I could not have completed this project without the incredible work of Taylor students and alumni," Kathy Bruner Bruner said.John Bruner's thesis, on the other hand, was a fiction film. The final of four films made during his master's process, Bruner's thought process for his thesis film began over 20 years ago.
His fiction film, "Grounded," is based on a collection of short stories Bruner wrote about his mother. It explores themes of time, loss and change; its main message is how we can lose track of what's most important to us. Although the total shooting time was only four days, the project required months of pre-production and post-production.
"If you really saw the process, 99 percent of it is you and your thoughts (post-production); the rest is a flurry of production and some editing, " John Bruner said.
Alumnus Tim Sutherland ('07) worked as director of photography, alumnus Tom Johnson as sound engineer and current students senior Natalie Francis and junior Jon Meharg aided in various steps of pre-production and camera work.
John and Kathy Bruner dated in high school and college for six years before getting married, and have been together now for 30 years.
"Kathy Bruner and I complement each other," John Bruner said. "She loves finding and telling nonfiction stories, and I prefer to write and make fiction. We've been together for so long we wouldn't know what to do without each other."