UW Oshkosh student’s film “On the Edge” shows a new approach to heavy topics

Marcella Brown

The short film “On the Edge” is a way for UW Oshkosh student and Film Society member Marcus Westphal to have a converstaion about topics that affect many people: depression and suicide. “I think the message of the film is one many young people can relate to, so I think people will appreciate what it has to say,” Westphal said. Westphal said the film consists of two characters: Jack Anderson and Death. “The essential plot of the film is that there is a young man named Jack who has lost everything in a short time,” Westphal said. “He can’t take it anymore, so he wants to end his life. As he is standing on the edge of a building ready to jump, Death appears before him, and the two have a conversation about whether he should end his life or not.” When coming up with the concept of the film, Westphal said it was a “somewhat simple” process. “I wanted to write a film that dealt with something that many people, especially young people, deal with, but people don’t generally talk about,” Westphal said. “Depression and suicide are heavy topics that not many people like to touch due to its taboo nature. I wanted to try and take a look at those topics from my own perspective and see how people react to them.” Student Maxwell Wannow portrays the character of Jack Anderson. Wannow said while his character is preparing to jump off the edge of a building, he gets a visit from Death, who is able to talk him out of it. “I feel this type of action is extremely important for anybody who is contemplating suicide or for anybody who knows a suicidal person,” Wannow said. “Sometimes all it takes is simple conversation to change the mind of a person from ending their own life.” When getting himself into character, Wannow said it was “rough on my personal emotions” to get to a place where he felt suicidal. Student Nicole Timm portrayed the character Death, and said the role was enjoyable and came almost naturally. “It was really fun to be able to play Death,” Timm said. “Death is a very sarcastic character, which made it easy to relate, being very sarcastic myself.” Timm said Westphal did an “awesome job” writing in Death’s witty lines. “It added a little bit of dark humor in certain parts,” Timm said. One of the challenges Timm faced was the memorization of her lines. “There was a lot of dialogue, and we had to re-shoot a couple times so I could look over the script again,” Timm said. “I’ve never done a short film, so I wasn’t exactly sure how everything would play out.” Westphal said his crew was great and they were able to get the footage needed without too many alternative shots. “Overall the shoot went really well,” Westphal said. “Now we’re on to editing, which will likely take a couple months. With luck we’ll be done and ready for a screening by spring.” Co-producer Jason Anschutz said the film gave him an opportunity to “engage in something different within the film industry,” which he really enjoyed. Anschutz said the film was shot on top of the High Avenue parking garage because the location was meant to represent a cliff. “Cold wind gusts and natural noise or sound posed a bit of a problem,” Anschutz said. “A few cuts had to be re-shot to prevent this from happening. Our goal was to get action and audio without any disturbing noises, hisses or pops in the background.” Co-producer Jeffrey Piacenza said what he enjoyed most about the process was setting up for filming day. “When you are setting up locations, auditions and everything else, you feel like you are the creator of this story,” Piacenza said. “It may seem like this is a job or a project, but in the end we are all just students getting our hands on training in something that we have loved since we were little.”