Matthew Chernick of Montclair, New Jersey, a senior majoring in theatre arts and cinema in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, is using his summer and the support of an Atlantic Coast Conference Creativity and Innovation Grant to produce a short film in the Roanoke and New River Valleys.
“Gambler’s Ruin” will portray a compulsive gambler and his wife as she begins to discover his problem. “The whole suspense of the film is what is going to happen when she finds out for sure,” Chernick said.
Chernick has already scouted locations – one of the most daunting responsibilities for a producer – and looked for actors.
He says he hopes to wrap up shooting and begin post-production work by mid-July, with a goal to be done with the film by August. He plans to submit it to several film festivals. “Regardless of whether it gets into a festival or not, my goal is just to produce something I can be proud of and that others can watch and appreciate for good filmmaking,” Chernick said.
It took a while for Chernick to gain confidence in his ability as a filmmaker. He first came to Virginia Tech undecided about what he wanted to study. After taking a couple film courses, he decided to major in theatre arts and cinema at the end of his sophomore year.
By the end of his junior year, however, Chernick says he felt discouraged by his choice. “I felt inferior to the other filmmakers in class. I had a lot of self-doubt and was unhappy, so I took a break from school,” Chernick said. “After a year, I realized I needed to come back and when I did, I had a totally different outlook on things. I had a new work ethic and noticed people wanted to work with me. It gave me confidence to go full throttle and I knew this was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.”
As part of a course in spring 2013, the professor asked all of the students to write an email, requesting a job for a short film they would make that semester.
“I put all of my heart and soul into the email. The next day in class, the professor said that I would serve as producer of the film,” Chernick said. “There was a lot of hard work from everyone to get it done.”
The class submitted the film, “The Dream Interpreter,” to more than a dozen film festivals. They received an acceptance to one of the most prestigious – the 2014 Cannes Film Festival’s Short Film Corner. The Office of Undergraduate Research, the Undergraduate Research Institute, the Theatre and Cinema Program, and even his employer – Benny Marzano’s – provided support for Chernick to attend the festival and represent his class.
Watch the trailer for "The Dream Interpreter" below:
“I was a little overwhelmed when I first got to Cannes. This is a place I’d say I have no business being in, if I weren’t here for business. There were all of these big-time producers and stars there and I'm just this kid from Virginia Tech,” Chernick said.
A meeting with an established producer and seven other students, however, restored his confidence. “He asked how many of us thought we would make it in the business. I was one of two who raised their hand,” Chernick said. “I told him I have to believe I can do it, because if I don’t, what’s the point? Why am I here?”
The screening of “The Dream Interpreter” also provided a few boosts. “There were a couple of professional producers in the room who told me to keep doing what I am doing,” Chernick said. “It’s been a wild ride.”
As for this summer, Chernick says he hopes to have “Gambler’s Ruin” complete – or at least a portion of it – in time to present it at the Virginia Tech Summer Undergraduate Research Conference on July 31 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Graduate Life Center. Almost 200 students are expected to present their summer undergraduate research experiences. The Office of Undergraduate Research is coordinating the event.