Two Media Arts and Science (MAS) students at the Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing had their entries accepted in the 2017 Heartland Film Festival held recently in Indianapolis. Sam Mirpoorian, who received his B.S. in May and is now enrolled in the master’s program, and Hannah West, a current senior, produced their films under the guidance of Media Arts and Science faculty member C. Thomas Lewis.
Mirpoorian’s short, Little Warriors, received this year’s Indiana Spotlight Film Award, winning $5000 and adding to accolades already earned at the Indy Film Festival, the Napa Valley Film Festival, and the Global Impact Film Festival.
Mirpoorian created the film for his senior Capstone project last spring. He attributes much of his success to the support he has received from the MAS program and his advisors. “The program is very hands-on and truly allows for filmmakers like myself to explore and unleash their abilities and interests. I mostly want to thank Professor Lewis as he provided excellent guidance and made sure I stayed on course,” Mirpoorian said.
As an undergraduate, he also produced Under the Bridge: The Criminalization of Homelessness, which received critical acclaim last year and has been released for commercial distribution.
West’s film, Not in Vain, was a class project created for the Video for Social Change course. She has entered it in several other festivals, but is especially interested in sharing it with a wider audience. She, too, credits Lewis for her success. “I’m very thankful for his help, support, and guidance on this project, as well as throughout my undergrad degree work,” West said.
The Media Arts and Science undergraduate degree with specialization in video production and sound design introduces students to the latest technical skills required in the video and sound industry and prepares them to develop, produce, and ultimately deliver a professional-quality product.
“In the Media Arts and Science video courses, we educate students to create professional-level films that engage in important social issues. It is truly rewarding when we see our students get the recognition they deserve for their hard work,” Lewis said.
Little Warriors captures a group of Indianapolis youth and their impassioned attempt to introduce legislation that would address climate recovery. Mirpoorian is waiting to hear back from several more film festivals and is hoping to have Little Warriors aired on PBS later this year.
Not in Vain explores Indiana’s opioid crisis, a topic close to West’s heart. “Moving forward, it would great to find a way to have this film shown in Indiana public schools,” West said. She pointed out that opioid abuse is a problem that is affecting many Hoosiers as early as high school, and she hoped that the film could create a dialogue with students.
Mirpoorian and West recognize the impact the IU School of Informatics and Computing, and the MAS program in specific, has had on their filmmaking careers so far, and how it has prepared them for the future.
“I’m both excited and nervous about what is coming next for myself after graduation, but I know I’ve been equipped with the skills to go out there and make it work. My advice to students entering this program would be to make the most of what you have available to you while you have it. Throw your all into every project. If you give it one hundred percent, you’ll be shocked how much knowledge and experience you’ll leave school with,” West said.
Mirpoorian added, “I hope fellow students can use the resources made available to Hannah and me and channel them into their own projects. The time to produce work is now, so persevere and the guidance you seek will be availed through the resources provided by the school’s programs.”