JUST TESTING

Admissions by Day. Filmmaking by Night.

Shannon smiling for her photo with a hat on

Shannon Cleveland has two passions in life: education and filmmaking. Following their May 2023 graduation from the University at Buffalo (UB) with a bachelor’s degree in media studies, Shannon looked for a full-time job in education that allowed them time to pursue their filmmaking passion. In June, Shannon was hired as an admissions representative in Buffalo, providing personalized plans for incoming students. They find this new role rewarding and fun — a dream job that allows time after hours to pursue this passion. Shannon’s final project at UB was to create a short film. That film, titled “Purge,” was just honored at the October Buffalo International Film Festival (BIFF), a nonprofit organization that champions independent films from around the world.

Idea Inspiration

In the realm of cinema, certain films have the power to delve deep into the human psyche, shedding light on the darkest corners of our minds. Some films are meant to entertain, while others aim to provoke thought and discussion. “Purge” — a film featured in this year’s BIFF — belongs in the latter category. It takes a bold step into the world of disordered eating, body dysmorphia, and the intricate interplay of these issues and other mental health disorders. It is a seven-minute film shot in black and white with no audio.

“I had this idea for a very long time of a film that I wanted to make centered on mental health and disordered eating,” Shannon said. “I know those are two very important topics that I feel don’t get talked about nearly as often as they should in different film genres. My film ‘Purge’ is a result of that exploration.”

Exploring Disordered Eating, Dysmorphic Thoughts, and Mental Health

Creating a film that captures the uncomfortable essence of the daily struggles faced by individuals battling disordered eating, dysmorphic thoughts, and other mental health disorders is a powerful and empathetic endeavor. It’s through art and storytelling that we can step into someone else’s shoes and attempt to understand their experiences, no matter how unsettling they may be. Evoking the discomfort that is the daily nightmare experienced by those living with these conditions is both daring and essential.

“One of my favorite films is Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho.’ So I have a lot of inspiration from him as a director. My film is devoid of color because there is a lack of color in the character’s life, and it is also silent, with no dialogue. I wanted the film to speak for itself.”

Unmasking the Shadows

Horror, as a genre, often explores the unsettling and terrifying aspects of life, and it’s an apt choice for conveying the emotional turmoil that individuals with these disorders endure. Using horror as a vehicle, the film creates an atmosphere that mirrors the internal struggles and psychological horrors faced by the character. The film peels back the layers of these disorders, revealing the dark, surreal, and disorienting aspects of the human mind. By immersing the audience in this disconcerting experience, Shannon hopes to foster empathy and understanding by allowing viewers to connect with the characters on a profound level.

“In essence, my film has the potential to be not only a work of art but also a catalyst for change. It can inspire important discussions about mental health, encourage empathy, and help viewers appreciate the daily battles faced by those living with these disorders,” Shannon said.

By providing a window into this unsettling world, Shannon hopes to contribute to a more compassionate and empathetic society, where individuals feel seen, heard, and understood regardless of the demons they may be battling in their own minds.

Making Admissions Personal — and Simple

Referring to their admissions day job at Bryant & Stratton, Shannon notes, “One of the things I love about what I’m doing now is helping students get started. We make our admissions process so easy.”

Providing students with a unique, personalized experience is a hallmark of Bryant & Stratton College. That experience begins the very first time a student speaks with their personal admissions representative. Students receive support and guidance from their admissions representative and a dedicated member of the financial aid staff throughout the entire process.

“This is a dream job for me,” Shannon said. “I have flexible hours, working five days — Monday to Wednesdays until 6:30 p.m., Thursdays until 7, and Fridays until noon. This allows me to use the evenings for creating. It’s a perfect match for me.”

To see Shannon’s film, view it on their YouTube channel. Or visit the Buffalo International Film Festival website to learn more.

Share this:
 
 
 



Related Articles