Local Artist Profiles

Nine profiles of local artists



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(page 3 of 9)

The Big (Screen) Time

It’s not easy to get a movie made. Competition is intense, especially for screenwriters. But for two students each year at the University of Michigan, the reward of seeing their stories on the big screen can come before they even graduate from college.

The lucky screenwriters this year were Kyle Vinuya and A. Brad Schwartz. The two majors in screen arts and cultures beat out their peers to see their screenplays turned into short films. Through a special arrangement with the university, Lightworks Film Festival in Ann Arbor and the Traverse City Film Festival have screened these student-made films for the past five years, giving students like Vinuya and Schwartz a chance to show off their work in the real world.

“I’ve always been fascinated with the art of storytelling,” Schwartz says, “and the University of Michigan has provided me with tremendous opportunities that I couldn’t have had elsewhere.”

Schwartz, who’s from East Lansing, took his inspiration from classic detective stories like Sherlock Holmes, merging a whodunit plot with a bit of high school humor to write the screenplay Open House.

Vinuya’s idea for his film, Fender Bender, came from his reflections on family, his impending graduation from college, and questions of how to maintain bonds with the people who matter most. It’s about a self-centered high school graduate who’s forced to take care of his 25-year-old disabled uncle. The only thing they seem to have in common is the work they share in restoring his grandfather’s classic car.

Vinuya, a native of Bloomfield Hills, says that fixing the broken-down car is a metaphor for fixing their relationship. “A fender bender is not as easy to fix as you might think.”

Both screenplays brought something different to the table, says screenwriting program coordinator Jim Burnstein, which played into the pair’s success. Schwartz’s intricate plot was a technical challenge, Burnstein says, while Vinuya’s emotionally driven story was a challenge for the actors.

Now, both students are looking forward to full-time careers in film. After graduating in May, Vinuya moved to California, and Schwartz began co-writing a documentary for PBS’ American Experience about the 1938 radio broadcast adapted from H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.

With their first films behind them at such a young age, Vinuya and Schwartz are starting to understand just how valuable the experience was — and they want to encourage any screenwriter to not give up on their dreams.

“Keep writing,” Vinuya says. “Don’t stop.”


A. Brad Schwartz (left) and Kyle Vinuya
A. Brad Schwartz photo by John Fisher

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