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June 14, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST
For one British film student, coming to Columbia isn’t a vacation. It’s an assignment.
Callum Murphy, originally a journalism student at Highbury College in England before transferring, is now entering his third and final year at the University of Winchester.
Spring: Pre-production work in Winchester, England
June 11 through 24: Filming in Columbia
November: Possible return to Columbia for follow-up or more filming
January through February: Editing in Winchester
March through April: Ordering clips and laying down the soundtrack
April: Rough cut ready
June 15: Final copy due for University of Winchester
Summer: Premiere events at theaters in Winchester
Fall: Deadlines for film festival entries in Europe and Columbia
Murphy, whose most recent movie, Beyond the Corner, was nominated for best documentary at the British Student Film Festival, says his passion for moviemaking comes from his love of storytelling and personal interactions with subjects. Although Murphy has explored various genres, he says he favors documentary. “The people you meet are real,” he says. “What they experience is what you’re filming.”
Naturally, Murphy, 22, has chosen to make a documentary as his final project in school. After seeing the effects of the recession in the United Kingdom, Murphy wanted to see exactly how it affected another country, a state, a city.
“Even though some people say, ‘You know, our unemployment rate is on national average around the 5 percent mark, and we’re actually pretty good,’ there is actually quite a divide between rich and poor,” Murphy says. “I feel that there seems to almost be this sort of attitude where, and I could be wrong, they are kind of brushing it under the carpet.”
To help pinpoint a city for the documentary, Murphy consulted friend and Columbia resident Jayme Palmgren. Murphy met Palmgren when she studied abroad at the University of Winchester two years ago.
Murphy had planned to film in Slater because he heard it was a small town experiencing the repercussions of unemployment. However, he decided a larger city would provide more opportunities to film and more stories to hear.
Palmgren suggested Murphy look into Columbia because it’s what she calls the heartbeat of the surrounding towns. “I feel like it’s a better representation of what America is,” she says.
Murphy arrived in Columbia June 11 and will be filming until the 24th. During the pre-production process for the 25-minute film, Murphy set up interviews with the Salvation Army and worked with real estate agents to learn about the most run-down parts of Columbia.
The blight debate has been ongoing in Columbia since early this year when the City Council created a resolution declaring parts of the city blighted. Many in the community fear the decree will devalue homes and increase the risk of eminent domain in affected areas.
Centro Latino Executive Director Eduardo Crespi, whom Murphy plans to interview for the documentary, says blight hurts on a much deeper level.
“It’s the worst damage you can do to a community,” Crespi says. “To hit the emotional well-being of a whole community is something that doesn’t have a cure. It’s like a scar. There is a scar in the heart of each neighbor.”
Because of the observational style of his documentaries, Murphy says he’s unsure what the final product will say. He says he hopes it will have a positive outlook on Columbia, but as a filmmaker, he has to show what he finds.
Although Murphy has already gained recognition for his earlier films, he has bigger plans for his current project. He intends to submit the documentary to as many festivals as possible, including the Berlin International Film Festival and the True/False Film Fest here in Columbia, in addition to once again submitting his work to the British Student Film Festival.
“I’m confident, fingers crossed, that we will hopefully win best documentary,” he says. “That’s what I would love.”