One particular session of Maryville’s Talks Movies series had a special meaning for Jake Billingsley. On Nov. 21, the film that was showcased was “The Other Side of the Room.” Billingsley, a senior majoring in English at Maryville, wrote, directed and edited this movie.
“I’ve always wanted to make movies, but, for this one specifically, I was required to make it for class,” Billingsley explained. “I had my hands on every aspect of this project. I really enjoyed editing the movie. Seeing it come together was special.”
Germaine Murray, PhD, professor of English at Maryville University, directs the movie lecture series. It is dedicated to bringing culturally significant films to the Maryville student body as well as the St. Louis public. The faculty involved with the program are dedicated to advocating for film literacy and screen literacy to diverse audiences who are interested in discussing the issues these films explore.
“Maryville Talks Movies is an outstanding program, and Dr. Murray has furthered my visual literacy on campus through every class I’ve been in,” Billingsley said. “Maryville has given me the ability to further my passion, and I’m really grateful to the faculty who have guided me along the way. I’ve also enjoyed film courses taught by Jessica Bowers, PhD, assistant professor of English; and Art Santirojprapai, PhD, assistant dean for the College of Arts and Sciences, program director for English and humanities and assistant professor of English.
“The Other Side of the Room” is a nine-and-a-half-minute horror-thriller film. It is Billingsley’s first film and was shot on location at his grandfather’s St. Louis farm. The silent film focuses on a middle-aged man who murders his mother. The film is a brief study of the protagonist’s psychological and emotional development through the use of images and sound.
In making the film, Billingsley was influenced by two of his favorite films: Jack Clayton’s “The Innocents” and Henri-George Clouzot’s “Les Diaboliques.” Both films are considered to be psychological thrillers.
“I was very influenced by some of my favorite films and stories,” Billingsley said. “My passion for watching films and reading screenplays and stories is a major reason why I’m making films.” Billingsley’s passion is being answered with rave reviews. To date, his film has been entered into 17 national and international film festivals.
Billingsley also had a chance to work on his writing and directing skills while participating in Maryville’s Oxford Study Abroad Creative Program. He spent three months enrolled in courses of study through the “Don” system of Oxford University, which resembles an independent study with specially selected university faculty suited to the students’ areas of interest.
“Having the opportunity to learn from the head of Oxford University’s creative writing program was an honor,” Billingsley said. “He is also a script doctor, so in his course I wrote a feature-length film and we would workshop it weekly. It was a great challenge and a major learning experience.”
Following his Oxford study abroad experience, Billingsley attended the Yale Writer’s Workshop where he studied with novelists and short story writers Marian Thurm and Sergio Troncoso, and screenwriter Trey Ellis.
While Billingsley greatly enjoyed the experience of directing his first movie, there were some tough choices he had to make to finish the film on time. These lessons taught him film making is an evolutionary process during which the director has to have the flexibility to change.
“A film could be something one day and then the next day it may totally transform,” Billingsley said. “The most important thing I learned was that you have to accept that, and you have to constantly mold the vision into a conceivable product that respects your aesthetic principles.”