Montana State University

'Green' wins gold: Film rooted in MSU collaboration

February 5, 2008 -- Carol Schmidt, MSU News


"Certain Green," a short film that is a collaboration between MSU professors Ilse-Mari Lee, left, music, and Theo Lipfert, media and theater arts, won both a Gold Medal and a Director's Choice award at the Park City Film Music Festival, which celebrates the role of music in film. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham.   High-Res Available

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A film that is a collaboration between two Montana State University professors featuring a host of people from the Bozeman community recently won two top awards at the Park City Film Music Festival, an international festival that runs concurrent with the Sundance Film Festival.

"Certain Green," a short film by Theo Lipfert, professor of media and theater arts, with a musical score by Ilse-Mari Lee, professor of music, won both a Gold Medal and a Director's Choice award at the festival, which celebrates the role of music in film.

The poetic 10-minute film about a woman who finds what she has been long seeking in an unusual time and place, features a host of characters and scenes from the Bozeman community. The protagonist is played by Johanna Prindiville of Bozeman. In fact, when Lipfert was reading "Rhapsody in Green," a short-short story by Marjorie Sandor, a professor at Oregon State University, it was a vision of Prindiville that helped him to adapt the story to film.

Other Bozemanites in the film include Jack Jelinski, MSU professor emeritus of Spanish; Mike Gillan, a local drummer; Lee and her husband Denny Lee, professor emeritus in physics; Greg Young, vice-provost; Patricia Simpson, MSU German professor; and Heather Bentz, assistant dean in the College of Arts and Architecture. Scenes were shot in Bozeman, Gallatin County and Yellowstone as well as in Florida and Nevada.

Lee's ethereal score also features a host of local talent including soprano Elizabeth Croy, MSU music professor and the Montanans, MSU's elite student chorus, directed by Lowell Hickman, MSU music professor emeritus. The sound was mixed at Bozeman's Peak Recording Studios. Lipfert said the crew on the project included about a dozen students from MSU's Media and Theater Arts' film option.

Perhaps that is fitting for a partnership forged from a committee on interdisciplinary studies and a College of Arts and Architecture Creativity Block Grant. Both Lipfert's Department of Media and Theater Art and Lee's Department of Music are in the college.

Lipfert, a filmmaker who specializes in sound and post-production, said he first met Lee while both attended a college forum on digital applications in the arts and the duo found common ground for collaboration. Lee was awarded a sabbatical for Fall 2006 to explore film scoring.

"What we're seeing now is that so many visual arts are related," Lipfert said.

Lipfert calls his and Lee's work a "poetic dialog" of film and music that employed an unorthodox method of scoring the film. Lipfert showed Lee early versions of the film with sections that lacked sound. He described to Lee what sort of music he envisioned for the blank spots. He also cut the film to fit Lee's score.

"It was a different way of doing a film," Lipfert said. "It's completely unusual to have music done to fit a story in this way, but it worked well."

Lee employed music that ranged from the classics to contemporary digital techniques. As a composer, she said "it was great to hear the mesh of all these centuries of music."

Lee said there were films from throughout the world accepted to the festival from hundreds of submissions. MSU was one of just three universities represented - the other two were the American Film Institute and University of Southern California, she said.

"We felt so proud of what we are doing here at Montana State University," Lee said. "It truly is state-of-the-art."

Lipfert said he has submitted the film to about two dozen festivals. The next screenings will be at the Dam Short Film Festival in Boulder City Nev., where one scene in the film was shot, and SXSW (South by Southwest), a prestigious film and music festival in Austin, Texas. He also plans to show the film in Bozeman at an MSU faculty colloquium on April 4.

In the meantime, Lipfert and Lee plan more joint projects including a 30-minute documentary on the Korean Comfort Women that incorporates Lee playing the cello as well as digital sound and a film on Masada as metaphor, funded by a block grant from the College of Arts and Architecture.

Theo Lipfert (406) 581-3960, tlipfert@montana.edu or Ilse-Mari Lee, 994-4689, ilselee@montana.edu