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Monday, August 19, 2019

WCC Student Filmmakers Win Emmys

Jeremy Liesen’s category was one of the last as the 34th Michigan Emmy Award ceremony drew to a close June 16. Suddenly his name was announced. The next thing he heard was his mother shouting, “Jeremy you won, you won!”

Liesen is one of two WCC digital video students to receive an Emmy Award this year. He won for his six-and-a-half-minute film, “Listen,” which reflects on the events of an ordinary day in a college town. Fellow student Shawn Jackson was singled out for “Fracking,” a one-minute public service announcement on the controversial method for extracting natural gas from rock.

Both students competed against other college and university students from around Michigan. Liesen won for editing, and Jackson won in the non-news program category. The awards are sponsored by the Michigan chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

Each of the WCC winners found inspiration in unique ways. Liesen used unique sound to wrap around his visuals. Jackson framed his focus around a personal experience.

A Day in the Life of Ann Arbor

A silent sunrise on the outskirts of Ann Arbor illuminates a dark screen during the first few seconds of Liesen’s film. The first sound heard is the deep gong of wind chimes resonating in a light breeze.

“I envisioned a film about 24 hours in Ann Arbor, from sun up to sun down. I wanted to show everyday life in sound and visuals,” said Liesen, who started filming outside of town and moved through the neighborhoods into the downtown area. “I got up around 4:00 or 5:00am to catch the sunrise. Then I ran around town with the camera for the rest of the day.”

The naturally occurring sounds he recorded were edited to produce a rhythmic flow of images. He shot footage in and around Ann Arbor in October 2010. The film debuted at the 2012 Ann Arbor Film Festival in March.

Liesen came to WCC from Linden, Mich. He earned a certificate in sound engineering and music production from the College, which laid the foundation for work as a sound technician a couple of nights a week at the Blind Pig.

“I’m kind of obsessive about sound. It’s how I think and how I hear it. I guess I have a unique perspective,” said Liesen, who plays several instruments. He also is the guy his classmates go to when they need an original piece of music for their film projects.

So what’s next for the Emmy winner? Later this month, he will participate in the Detroit 48-Hour Film Project with a team of his friends. Liesen and his team will write, shoot, edit, and score a film over one weekend. He’s looking forward to the challenge.

A Process With Implications for the Region

Few are aware that Michigan sits on a large reserve of natural gas. Shawn Jackson found out about Michigan’s gas deposits when his parents in Manchester were approached by a drilling company to sell the mineral rights to their land.

He remembered the Oscar-nominated documentary, “Gasland,” that seemed to parallel the situation in which his parents found themselves. That led to more research and more alarm about the procedure.

“When we started to look into it, we realized that there were a lot of dangerous things associated with it besides the increase in traffic and the presence of huge industrial equipment,” said Jackson. “They weren’t telling us what hydraulic fracturing or fracking could do to our water supply. Or about the mysterious illnesses and tap water explosions that were occurring in some places where fracking was already taking place.”

In his research, he found the Animate series by the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce very skillful at driving home a point. On the suggestion of girlfriend Katie Russ, Jackson approached former WCC art instructor Bill Burgard to reproduce his ideas on a whiteboard.

“It was really an easy shoot,” said Jackson, who has transferred to the University of Michigan. “I did the research and gave Bill pictures of what I wanted him to draw for me. Then I set up my camera and let him go. I shot an hour and a half of film that runs for 60 seconds when speeded up. It was the easiest film shoot I was ever on.”

Jackson did not attend the award ceremony. He learned he had won when he listened to a voice message from instructor Matt Zacharias at 3:00am the next morning. “It was too early to call anyone, so I just sat on it until I could call my girlfriend and my parents,” he said.

Fourth Time’s a Charm

WCC has had students in the running for an Emmy Award since 2009, Zacharias said. "We are really proud of the whole group of nominees,” he said. “This year we had five. That's the most ever.

“The competition was intense because we were up against four-year institutions like Madonna and MSU,” Zacharias said. “To walk away with two wins in two separate categories is an exceptional accomplishment. An Emmy nomination is a wonderful credential for our students to distinguish themselves with future employers.”

Other WCC Emmy nominees include:

• Erin Curd (Cosens), "Mousie" – Non-News Program

• George Pariseau, "Unframed" – Non-News Program

• Garrett Sammons, "Red Snapper" – Cinematography

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