At Champlain College, more than 50 percent of students study abroad for a semester. One was a film student who went to Dublin, Ireland and came back with award-winning work.
“I really aspire to be a writer and director as well as an editor. I really thrive off the creative aspects of filmmaking. I think of myself as a storyteller,” said Champlain College Senior Evelyn Gustafson.
In the fall 2019, Gustafson attended a film making program in Dublin, Ireland, where she wrote, filmed, and edited her own short film. She had fifteen weeks to do it and won six awards from film festivals across the country.
“Dear Dublin is about a young girl…and she finds a diary one day left in the park. It’s been written in already, so she decides to read it and tried to trace it back to the owner,” said Gustafson.
There, she worked alongside her professor and award-winning filmmaker, Barrie Dowdall.
“My job is to share some of my skills about filmmaking with second year and third year students,” said Dowdall.
Dowdall has been making films and documentaries for nearly 30 years. He says he likes to be honest with his students about the industry.
“I suppose what I try to do is start with a reality check because it’s not an easy business,” said Dowdall. “You’ve got to think outside the box, you’ve got to be able to accept rejection…you need to have crocodile-like skin in the film business.”
Gustafson says she thought of the idea prior to her trip.
“I found out that you can actually buy used journals or diaries off of Ebay, and I just thought that was fascinating to get into someone’s writing or everyday life,” said Gustafson.
But she wasn’t inspired until she found a journal in an Irish art shop with a poignant quote.
“I found this little journal with a quote from James Joyce on it, an Irish author and it’s, ‘When I die, Dublin will be written in my heart.’ And that being on the journal reminded me of the idea I had bouncing around in my head for a while.”
From there, Gustafson booked actors from a nearby acting school and used Dublin’s parks, streets, quiet towns as her backdrop.
“I just try to encourage students and enthuse them. And say to them look, if you haven’t got a dolly or a tracking thing, use a supermarket trolley or use a skateboard, just think how you can create stuff,” said Dowdall.
The Champlain College student said she enjoyed working with her professor.
“My professor Barre Dowdall was absolutely wonderful. He was such a great support. He helped show me places that I could film. Places not many people see in Dublin, which is kind of what I wanted to capture, and he was just such a huge support,” said Gustafson.
She got back from her trip in December 2019 and continued to edit her film. Gustafson only recently submitted Dear Dublin to film festivals and is already creating a name for herself.
She won Best Original Story, Best First Time Director, and Best Young Actress at the New York Film Awards. ‘Best Student Film’ at the Across the Globe Film Festival and ‘Best Student Film’ at the Vegas Movie Awards. The actor who did the voice over also won ‘Best Voice Over’ at the Vegas Movie Awards.
“I really aspire to be a writer and director as well as an editor. I really thrive off the creative aspects of filmmaking. I think of myself as a storyteller,” Gustafson.
She says one day she hopes to live and work in Dublin as a filmmaker.