The thesis film by alumna Agnes Baginska had its premiere last month at the world’s top festival for fantasy – being one of just 23 short films out of over 2,000 submissions to make it into the Official Fantastic Selection of the Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival in Spain.
“It is truly a great honor and I couldn’t have wished for a better start for the film,” said Ms. Baginska, a 2016 graduate of the David Lynch Graduate School of Cinematic Arts. “Sitges was amazing and I enjoyed every single minute there. It was the experience of a lifetime.”
At the heart of the 30-minute film, titled Last Tree Standing, is Treeman, a half-tree, half-man character played by Fairfield’s Lou Bolster. Also starring is Maharishi School’s Sage Jarmosco as Lexie.
The setting is the year 2071, when all trees are gone in a dystopian world except for the remnants embodied by Treeman. Taken for a freak, Treeman is captured by Lexie’s keeper, Killian (Steve Kennevan), to be sold to the ministry that buys such mutations. Intrigued by the strange creature, Lexie slowly discovers his story and despite the threats of her hostile keeper, she embarks on a dangerous mission to free Treeman.
Also appearing in the film is MIU alumna Jada Foster as Gage.
Ms. Baginska said her film, being a student film, had a minimal budget and was competing with films from professional production houses with proper production budgets. It was the only medium-length short in the Sitges competition, and one of only five directed by a woman.
It was screened alongside feature films that had been presented at Cannes earlier in the year. And like Cannes, those attending included top-level movie stars, directors, and producers such as Guillermo del Toro, William Friedkin, and Susan Sarandon.
More recently Last Tree Standing has been accepted into the competition at Les Utopiales de Nantes – International Sci-Fi Festival, the most important Sci-Fi event in Europe. And the film’s French premiere took place earlier this month at Salle Solaris in Nantes, France.
In addition, Last Tree Standing has been nominated for the 2017 Australian Screen Music Awards – a prestigious ceremony acknowledging excellence and innovation in screen composition.
Ms. Baginska had intended to develop a different idea for her film, but the image of a half-man, half-tree came to her and wouldn’t leave. Puzzled, she talked to David Lynch, who described a process she could use to let the new idea emerge.
She realized it would be expensive to produce a fantasy genre film, but a successful Kickstarter campaign allowed the project to go into production.
Ms. Baginska’s teachers encouraged her to treat the production as if in a professional environment, so she reached out to companies and executive producers based in the U.S., Australia, and Poland. As a result, she lined up further funding, allowing her to complete the film. The additional funding was provided by ZPM Film, Headhunters Film, and Far from Everything Films.