Student and professor featured in ‘Film Lounge’

Digital media production major Tarrell Christie’s short film “The Spaceman” will be featured in an episode of IPTV’s “The Film Lounge,” airing on Sunday, Feb. 3 at 10 p.m.


UNI senior Tarrell Christie will be making his television debut in the form of his original short film “The Spaceman” on Sunday, Feb. 3 at 10 p.m. It will appear in the first episode of this season’s “The Film Lounge,” an IPTV series that features short films created by Iowans.

The Film Appreciation Club, Department of Communications and Cedar River Productions will be hosting a special watch party with an advanced screening of “The Film Lounge” episode in Lang Auditorium at 7 p.m on Friday, Feb. 1.

“I’m a really big sci-fi fan, but I do notice that if there’s ever a minority character or anything like that, they’re usually side characters or just there to serve a plot,” said Christie, who is majoring in digital media production. “So I kind of wanted to take a sci-fi film but put it through the lens of an African-American’s perspective. So that’s kind of why I put the movie in a 1960s-ish era because, I mean, that’s the civil rights [movement] and that’s also the space race and all these huge things. So I kind of wanted to mix together different elements that you usually don’t see in sci-fi.”

The film focuses on an astronaut entering a wormhole. Christie says the writing process was the most challenging part of the project, primarily because the contents of a wormhole are unknown. Christie’s friends Luke Kreger and Lakin Mims helped him with behind-the-scenes work and acting, respectively. Christie and his friends even built their own sets to resemble a spaceship and outer space.

“It’s just crazy to think that there’s this entire part of our universe that we just don’t have any idea about,” Christie said. “And to also just think about the humans that are in that process of trying to almost disappear into the stars. It’s such a crazy profession [. . .] I hope [viewers] are just entertained and feel like they were transported somewhere else.”

UNI art professor and art department head Jeffery Byrd also has a film, entitled “Proving Ground,” that will be featured in the episode of “The Film Lounge.” Just like Christie, this was Byrd’s first submission to the IPTV series, and he was also introduced to the show via an email.

“I made this film in Utah,” Byrd said. “I wanted to go film something on the Salt Flats. I didn’t really know what the image was going to be.”

The image ended up including balloons and a football uniform. Byrd said the unexpectedness of the different elements seemed appropriate.

“Because when do you ever see a football player with balloons walking across the Salt Flats?” he said. “It had this kind of mysterious quality that I find really interesting.”

Byrd made the film in 2016 with one of his friends. He shot the entire project with a GoPro on a tripod.

“I think [‘Proving Ground’ is] an encouragement for people to look at their surroundings and not just see them as ordinary, but to think about how a really ordinary place or even a really beautiful place like I was in — how this place can have a sense of magic to it that we might not think about ordinarily,” Byrd said.

Byrd sees film as a way of documenting his performance art. That’s exactly where the inspiration for the short film came from.

Unlike Byrd, Christie’s love for film started at an early age. A documentary about filmmaking he watched in 2007 was a huge catalyst for his passion.

“I was kind of at that age where you were too old to play with toys,” Christie said. “I love that because that’s just, like, going on all these adventures all over and whatnot and realizing that I could kind of still do that, but then share that experience with other people.”

So, he bought what he describes as a “very big, clunky VHS camera” and started his passion for film from there.

Although the endeavor started as a hobby where he filmed movies in his grandma’s backyard, by the time Christie entered high school, he knew he wanted to create film forever.

Two of his biggest inspirations are Steven Spielberg and Stanley Kubrick. “The Spaceman” was heavily inspired by Kubrick’s “2001.” Christie loves Godzilla and monster movies, superhero films and science fiction.

“I also do love dramas, smaller stories, especially stories on minorities,” Christie said. “I love to watch those because that’s just a peek into communities that I’m not as familiar with.”

Christie draws inspiration from a wide variety of places, including his dreams and the real-life dialogue of his friends and family. He is also inspired by bad movies. They make him think about how he would have told the story differently to make it better.

Aside from short films, Christie enjoys filming music videos and short documentaries. Although he has not yet attempted to create a feature film, he would love to do so -— provided he possessed the time and resources.

“First goal would be to get paid to [create films] because I love to do it, but it doesn’t pay the bills,” Christie said. “I just wanna be able to collaborate with people and tell stories that haven’t quite been told before and kind of highlight those things that maybe people haven’t thought about.”

Christie has already shown “The Spaceman” at some Iowa film festivals and had a film featured in “The Film Lounge’s” Halloween special last year.

“Being a UNI student, I really appreciate how much the video teachers have been pushing us to submit to the stuff because I kind of tried film festivals and submitting to stuff before I came to UNI, but I didn’t have much luck because I wasn’t sure which ones to pick,” Christie said. “But doing the ones that they’ve helped me find and figure out — it’s been incredibly successful. I’m really thankful for all the help that the video teachers provide.”