News Column

Oscar winner Ron Howard to judge contest that includes film of recent Eau Claire Regis grad

August 23, 2013

YellowBrix

Aug. 23--When the most important phone call of Michael Kuznar's young life rang through his cellphone, the 2013 Regis High School graduate was taking a nap.

"The caller ID said 'New York,' "

Kuznar, 18, of Eau Claire, said. "I thought it was a telemarketer, but it turned out to be one of the best phone calls of my life."

The good news on the other end of the phone came from Canon, the company known internationally for its cameras and copiers. Kuznar's short film was chosen as a top 20 finalist for Canon's nationwide competition "Project Imaginat10n."

"My heart was racing, and I had to take deep breaths to compose myself," Kuznar said of learning of his finalist designation.

The competition started as a photo contest, in which 91 winning photos were chosen from a pool of more than 250,000 submissions. Competitors in the film contest were required to select 10 of the winning photos to include in their films, a facet Kuznar found challenging.

"The biggest challenge of making the whole thing was coming up with the idea," Kuznar said. "It was daunting."

The film, "43 Days," centers on the 43rd day of the film's protagonist, Mr. Collins,

existing in a world in which every other person doesn't move, and he doesn't understand why.

"In my mind, 43 days would be enough to accept the world (he's) in and (he) wouldn't question it anymore," Kuznar said. "I really wanted to create a film where the audience and the main character would go through the story together."

After weeks of brainstorming, Kuznar finally decided on a concept just more than a week before the contest's deadline. He worked "morning to night for about a week" in order to start and finish the project.

"I wrote four versions of the script within a day," he said. "I just put a casting call on Facebook."

Kuznar said his last-minute cry for actors drew seven or eight people, but the leading actor was set in place from the beginning: Reid Collins, Kuznar's longtime friend, would play the role of protagonist "Mr. Collins."

"(Kuznar) always counts on me to be the actor," Collins said.

Video experience

Collins, 18, of Eau Claire, also a 2013 graduate of Regis High School, has made more than 100 videos alongside Kuznar for their film group Deliciousnesessities Presents, a project they started their freshman year of high school. Collins also composed the original music in the 10-minute film on his iPad.

Collins submitted several photos to Canon's Project Imaginat10n photo contest, and one of them, "Burning Embers," was chosen as a finalist last September and will be used by celebrity short-film director Eva Longoria in her filmmaking process. Five celebrity directors were invited to create short films in addition to the 20 finalists.

"I think it's all just great," Collins said. "It shows that we know what we're doing."

Much of the filming for "43 Days" took place in Eau Claire at sites such as a Dairy Queen, Owen Park and Chippewa Valley Technical College and was shot using equipment either bought online or made by Kuznar's dad, Perry Kuznar, he said.

'Huge opportunity'

Kuznar's film will be judged by Oscar-winning director Ron Howard and his daughter actress Bryce Dallas Howard. Winners are expected to be notified sometime in September, Collins said.

If selected as a top five finalist, Kuznar's film will join the celebrity director's film at Canon's Project Imaginat10n Film Festival this fall in New York.

"It's a huge opportunity that they're watching my work," said Kuznar, who doubles as a caricature artist for his company Sir Drawz-A Lot Entertainment. "It's still pretty surreal. I can't wrap my head around it."

Both Kuznar and Collins will study film as freshmen in fall; Kuznar will head to UW-Milwaukee, and Collins to Minneapolis Community & Technical College.

Minske can be reached at 715-833-9203, 800-236-7077 or rachel.minske@ecpc.com.

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(c)2013 the Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, Wis.)

Visit the Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, Wis.) at www.leadertelegram.com

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