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Senior Profile: Jason Wallace Imagines New Worlds in His Thesis Film Citizens of Kattaquam

Senior Profile: Jason Wallace Imagines New Worlds in His Thesis Film Citizens of Kattaquam

 


Graduating senior Jason Wallace nears end of post-production for his thesis film Citizens of Kattaquam. Featuring scenes with up to 40 actors and a crew of 15, Wallace's grandiose sci-fi epic is not the typical small-scale production expected of sparsely budgeted student films. But for Wallace, pursuing one of the most ambitious Tufts thesis films in recent years was necessary to realize his vision.

“The senior theses that I've seen in the past, even though they're good, they're not really the films that speak to me or that got me into filmmaking in the first place,” said Wallace. I thought that if I wanted to do a final thesis, it had to be different that other theses and reproducing the films that inspired me to get into storytelling in the first place. It happens to be Star Wars, so I wanted to do a fantasy sci-fi thing.

It might be surprising to learn that Wallace, after writing and directing a 30-minute science fiction epic, had no cinematic ambitions until college.

I actually applied to go to engineering school, because I was a STEM kid, Wallace said. However, during a gap year in Brazil before college, Wallace changed his mind.

In Brazil I thought I was doing [engineering] for the wrong reasons. It was more [about] money and just because that's what people expected of me, Wallace said. He experimented with international relations and political science as potential new majors, but neither seemed to work for him. Based on encouragement from a friend's father, an entertainment industry professionalWallace tried a few film classes when he started at Tufts.

It was really funny because when I started as a film student, I hadn't seen a lot of movies, Wallace said. I really thought Star Wars is the only one I watch. And FMS really opened me up, so I'm watching more stuff now.

After having taken FMS10an introductory production class in the spring of his junior year, Wallace knew that filmmaking was for him.

That was really the class that made me decide, 'Oh, I like this, because that was the first workout class,'” Wallace said.

Taking higher-level production classes like Screenwriting 1 and 2, as well as Script to Screen, prepared Wallace to direct his own film outside of a typical course structure.

[For] a thesis, you're on your own, Wallace said. You're supposed to know what a call sheet is, how to cast, how to scout, all of that.

As he began to realize his vision, he was not without fear.

The whole time leading up to filming, I was like, “This is a lot, I have no idea how this is going to go.” I was preparing for the worst, »Wallace said. It was very anxiety-inducing the first weekend [of shooting]. The first scene we did was in Barnum's studio, and I remember pacing back and forth while the crew was piling in, and I was like, I don't know what I'm doing. But after the first few takes, it immediately disappeared. I had a very good team, which helped everything go well.

Finding a good team and community through the film department was one of the highlights of Wallace's time at Tufts.

What I like about the Tufts film department is that it's so small that there's pretty much the same group of people on every set, Wallace mused.. It's like a mini Tufts family. It's good. And I don't think you can get that at a bigger, more competitive school.

The family and collaborative part of filmmaking is what makes it special for Wallace.

I don't think I would have acted in a film if it was a solo project. Collaboration is my favorite thing,” Wallace said. With filmmaking, you have to rely on different people for different things to create the final image. And so if you're not collaborative, don't be in the movie business. But it's definitely what I prefer.

Looking ahead, Wallace is currently making different versions of Citizens of Kattaquam to present at festivals. The first screening will be an abridged version taking place on May 4, a cosmically appropriate day for a big Star Wars fan, has 1 p.m. at the Somerville Theater as part of the 21st Boston Independent Film Festival. Once these festivals are over, his next goal is to create another short film, albeit on a much smaller scale, to add to his portfolio.

Long term, Wallace dreams of becoming a screenwriter and director and hopes to one day return to the world he created in Citizens of Kattaquam.

It's part of a bigger world I want to build in the future, Wallace said. Hopefully I can get the gang back together to shoot another episode at some point. I don't know when it might be in a year, in five or ten years.

The idea of ​​bringing the gang together again constitutes an essential value for him. Although it's intimidating to leave college and try to break into the competitive entertainment industry, for Wallace, it's just about staying true to the community he's built at Tufts.

My close friends in the movie business, we have this racing thing where all it takes is one of us to succeed, Wallace concluded. Once one of us enters, we pull everyone else with us. So I hope that’s the case.

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