First student film premieres at BGSU’s Wolfe Center for the Arts


BOWLING GREEN, O.—It was his first course at Bowling Green State University as a freshman: Introduction to Sociology Honors, 11 a.m. on Mondays. In that class, Ethan Roberts learned the basics of the social sciences — theories, case studies and experiments. He also almost accidentally discovered the theme of his senior year Honors Project and Independent Study.

His freshman sociology class taught him about how society ostracizes and punishes those members who don’t fit into the status quo. “That was the seed. That was my thematic idea, alienation as social punishment. And everything sort of blossomed from there,” Roberts said.

The 22-year-old from Bryan, Ohio, is a senior majoring in film production with a minor in arts management. At 8 p.m.  Thursday, April 25, his short film “Fish Tank,” his Honors Project and Independent Study, will be the first student film to premiere in the Donnell Theatre at the Wolfe Center for the Arts.

“Fish Tank” is about 15-year-old Rowan, who escapes to a quiet room during a party. Andrew, who Rowan goes to school with and also has feelings for, joins him in the room, where they share intimate conversation along with some moments of awkwardness.

“We hope to create a very real world portraying the terror and loneliness of youth, as well as the ephemerality of meaningful human connection,” the film’s website says.

Roberts, the writer, editor, director and producer of the film, completed the script in May 2011 for a screenwriting course and the wheels started really rolling from there. He has had co-producers Nigel Coutinho and Rebecca Zimmer at his side. “Film is not a solo art. You need the cooperation and collaboration of other people. And I’ve been very, very lucky,” he said.

Casting for the film was quite a process, Roberts said. In January of 2012, he placed flyers across campus and sent them to theaters within a one-hour radius of Bowling Green. The movie has only three speaking parts, but Roberts auditioned about 25 people. He said picking the three actors was extremely challenging due to the number of talented people who auditioned, but in the end, he was satisfied with the ones he offered the parts to. All three have ties to Bowling Green.

Ryan Albrecht, a BGSU senior pursuing a bachelor of arts in theater, plays Rowan, and James Fite, a Bowling Green native and student at Owens Community College, plays Andrew. Sara Chambers, a theater instructor, stage/film director and actress, plays the character Tonya’s mother.

From there, they had to look for a location. They again spammed the area with flyers and ads, and some University staff members offered up their homes for the film.

After all that was taken care of, it was time to start filming. They filmed over a six-week period in August and September of 2012, with many long days and nights.

Roberts said he is nervous about the premiere but really just wants his audience to understand the theme and message he is trying to portray.

“If they can take anything away from it, if it can broaden their minds at all or really make them think about the subjects and questions that I’m trying to ask, I would consider it a success,” he said.

After the premiere, Roberts has graduation and the real world on his plate. He plans on submitting “Fish Tank” to festivals to see where it takes him. But even though he may be done with school, he does not want to stop learning.

“I don’t think my career development is over, you know, even though my post-secondary education is over. So I’m really looking for opportunities to continue learning about film and media,” he said.

For more information about the film, cast or crew, visit the website or their Facebook page.

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(Posted April 24, 2013 )