Two Cardinal Studio productions: ‘Phil 21M’ and ‘DUE BY 11:59 PM’

Oct. 14, 2016, 5:12 p.m.

Ovid may have once said, “A horse never runs so fast as when he has other horses to catch up and outpace.” Whether or not this quote is definitively true, the evidence from Stanford’s nascent film community certainly seems to support it. Years ago, film production on campus was dormant. If a particularly intrepid student wanted to go out on their own and produce something, they would, but that was about it. There was no regular film production that could even remotely compete with Stanford’s robust theater scene or other art communities.

And yet, as a Nobel Laureate once wrote, “The times they are a-changin.’”

Film production has exploded on campus in the past few years — with a multitude of students discovering a passion and aptitude for the medium and numerous student groups forming or reorganizing themselves to support on-campus student production. And while the University has yet to catch up — for a university with an endowment larger than the GDP of several small nations, the film equipment available to students through Stanford is surprisingly lackluster (and the little equipment Stanford does makes available is governed by a highly restrictive set of rules that all but prohibit their use in any film production) — the students of Stanford’s campus continue to valiantly push forward. With each production, they seem to raise the bar just slightly higher, becoming more technically competent and emotionally adept.

It was on that note of growth that I walked out of my screenings of “DUE BY 11:59 PM” and “PHIL 21M” — two short student films produced by Cardinal Studios, a student organization solely dedicated to making and promoting student film production. Both films will have their on-campus premieres this Friday, for everyone looking to unwind from the Week 3 blues.

Though admittedly, neither film is what I would consider a light-hearted romp. “DUE BY 11:59 PM” follows a student’s mounting anxiety as he tries to complete a project before a strict midnight deadline. I don’t know how well the film will play outside of a college audience, but the tension within the work is certainly palpable for anyone that has struggled to complete academic work in time. The film does an excellent job with its sparse dialogue and single location, using jarring sound design and rapid editing to convey the protagonist’s mounting frustration and fear. If the work doesn’t quite stick the landing — the protagonist’s transition from fear to outright anger happens rather abruptly — it still is a remarkably assured feature for a student production.

The longer of the two works, “PHIL 21M” follows a cohort of Stanford students as they deal with the ethical ramifications brought up during their eponymous philosophy class. Our protagonist Meg is a humble every-student trying to do the best she can with the limited resources she has. But she is disturbed by the effect a particularly ambitious TA — played with the appropriate amount of smarm by current Stanford student Dan Holland — has on her classmate Jason. An ardent environmental activist, Jason embraces utilitarianism with perhaps too much vigor, eventually using the greater good to justify some rather heinous actions. It’s a film that raises some troubling, weighty ethical questions — but wisely leaves answering them up to the viewer.

Both are very well crafted features, especially for productions made entirely by students. They will also be premiering this Friday at 8 p.m. in building 260, room 113. So come out, support your fellow Stanford students and enjoy the remarkable growth of Stanford’s film community.


Contact Raymond Maspons at raymondm ‘at’

Raymond Maspons is a class of 2017 Film & Media Studies major. He was raised in Miami, but born in Los Angeles. One of his particular interests is the unique and subversive thematic or formal qualities that often appear in genre films. Since elementary school he has spent a significantly large amount of his life watching movies and television, and not doing trivial things like homework.

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