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World Premiere: Film Production alumnus hopes to see “The Gateway Process” go global

(June 12, 2024) - What simply started as an assignment in the Fall 2023 semester now has the potential to become a global hit.

Class of 2024 Film Production alumnus Maxwell Mihalis behind the scenes during the making of "The Gateway Process."

Film Production alumnus Maxwell Mihalis, a recent graduate from the Class of 2024, will soon be submitting his film, “The Gateway Process,” to more than 60 film festivals worldwide thanks to a grant from Clayton State University and funds raised online through GoFundMe.

Mihalis described the film as “a psychological thriller beyond space and time, exploring the CIA's calculated investigations of the cosmos from within the mind's eye.”

“At the end of all Film Production majors’ academic careers, you have to take a Film Production II class made up of about 20-25 students,” Mihalis said. “Of those 25 students, only five of their short films are then made.” 

In Fall 2023, Mihalis said he pitched the film to his classmates, his professors, and even several Clayton State alumni who were prior students in the program. 

“Everybody voted on the five films they actually wanted to make, and my film was a part of that selection,” Mihalis said. 

Mihalis said that all five short films were shot between October and November 2023 over a span of just two days each before being screened in front of roughly 120 students in the University Center in December. 

The now-alum noted that the December presentation created a good opportunity for films to receive solid feedback and suggestions before going into post-production in Spring 2024, when he said students then have to finish their films’ color correction and sound design.

And when it came to sound design on “The Gateway Process,” he said his experience quickly became special.

After some digging online, Mihalis soon discovered an organization called the Pacific Northwest Film Scoring Program, composed of Seattle-based master’s students that simply want to make music for nationwide student films.

“Most people end up finding some royalty-free music or they know ‘an uncle’ that does music,” Mihalis said. “But I just Googled ‘student film scoring program’ and ‘student film music’ and they were the first result. I had never heard of them before.” 

Interested, the then-Film Production senior mailed his work west and waited for a response.

“They vote on their own selection process,” said Mihalis, when discussing the Scoring Program. “They get to choose who they want to make a score for and then have a bunch of master’s students record and compose an original score for you for free!”

To his delight, “The Gateway Process” was selected by the Seattle-based organization, who then provided Mihalis’ film with a genuine original score.

Prof. Jonathan Harris, the chair of the university’s Dept. of Film, Communication, and Performing Arts, was especially left awestruck at both Mihalis’ work and the original score created for the film.

When reflecting on “The Gateway Process,” the veteran film professor called it “one of the most original and creative projects” ever made in Clayton State University’s Film Production program.

“Maxwell took great care with the script, casting, lighting, in-camera special effects, and the edit to produce a finely crafted story that has already left two preview audiences speechless with wonder,” Harris said. “The program to which he submitted his film for scoring is competitive and was one of only a few films chosen this year for this honor."

Utilizing both the score and additional licensed music, Mihalis jumped into post-production to begin the final touches on his film, which premiered in front of his peers, professors, parents, and Film Production professionals on Thursday, May 9, at Clayton State’s University Center.

“The audience turnout was more or less the same size as the rough-cut screening – around 120-140 folks,” Mihalis said. “’TGP’ was the final film to screen, closing out the night. A solid ten seconds of dead silence followed the end of the film – a reaction not shared by any of the other shorts that evening.” 

After arguably the ten longest seconds of his life, Mihalis said “applause erupted” around him, recalling that it was almost as if “the whole theater let go of a held breath.”

Mihalis was soon being complimented by seemingly everyone in attendance, but said he received particularly great feedback and applause from some of his professors.

“Prof. Harris was keen to praise the in-camera special effects that carry the visuals of the film,” Mihalis said. “Prof. Michael Bass remarked on the improvements and polish added to the final cut, and Prof. Shawn Bolluch praised my work ethic and desire to push past what is expected of me as a student.”

Although Mihalis is now a proud graduate of Clayton State University, the Film Production alumnus says this is only the beginning for “The Gateway Process.”

Backed by personal and financial support, he is excited at the prospect of seeing how far his film can go and is ready to support it during its potential global success.

When reflecting on both his and his film’s journey, Mihalis credited his professors at Clayton State University and expressed deep gratitude for all who provided him with their knowledge, talents, and opportunities over his four years in Morrow.

For Mihalis, the success of “The Gateway Process” doesn’t simply belong to him, but to all in Laker Nation who contributed to its production and development.

“I felt honored to lead our graduating class in the creation of a short film that has turned as many heads as it has,” Mihalis said. “My fellow students and I mixed together into a bombshell cocktail, ready to take a leap of faith and make something they can all be proud of. I could not be more grateful for the connections I have made through the creation of all these films, and I cannot wait to work with everyone again.”

To see a teaser trailer of “The Gateway Process,” check it out on YouTube:

To provide a financial contribution to the film, visit its GoFundMe:

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