Cinema professor's short film "Helen and the Greatest of All" garners international accolades
Film professor Matthew Fisher doesn't just talk the talk when it comes to cinema.
This fall, his short film “Helen and the Greatest of All” was nominated for Best Short Film at the Canadian International Faith and Family Film Festival.
“The film was a collaborative effort,” Fisher said. “We had some faculty and staff, several students and a couple outside professionals working on set.”
In addition to the nomination, “Helen and the Greatest of All” won Best Short Film Over 10 Minutes and Best Screenplay at The Attic Film Festival in Austin, Texas. It also won Best Comedy and Best Actress at the Southern Shorts Awards in Roswell, Georgia, and 1st Place Tennessee Film Narrative and Audience Favorite at the Knoxville Film Festival.
Despite the project itself being independent from Lee, Fisher and Dr. Jeff Salyer—both associate professors of communication—involved students in the production as a learning opportunity.
“We call our sets teaching sets,” Salyer said. “Whether Fisher’s teaching, I’m teaching or the professional we hire is teaching, it benefits the student who will get experience on a set.”
As a producer, Salyer helps determine who works on the film. “We’ve been hiring professionals, as the budget allows, who lead departments, but then there are positions that are supporting roles,” Salyer said. “So we tend to open it up to students who are doing very well in class, are hard workers, show desire to be there or who have a skill in a certain area we’ve seen.”
The short films are done completely outside of class, but Fisher said he integrates it into his teaching in the classroom.
“Since I do a lot of screenwriting, that is independent, but the short films we have done all involve students,” Fisher said. “Not only do the experiences I have inform the teaching, but I will show the films in classes and use them as examples. There’s a lot of overlap.”
Sophomore cinema student Will Hammond has been involved in faculty projects and says they serve to complement his education in the classroom.
“It is really cool to see our teachers out there making movies just like us,” Hammond said. “When we work with them, it’s beneficial to see more experienced filmmakers and learn from how they work.”
Both Fisher and Salyer plan to continue using the help of students in future projects.