This past spring, Paul Harrill’s students experienced film-making and the movie business through their involvement with his latest film, Light From Light, which had its world premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
The film will make its Knoxville debut December 6 at Central Cinema.
Starring Marin Ireland, Jim Gaffigan, Josh Wiggins, and Atheena Frizzell, Light From Light tells the story of a single mother and occasional paranormal investigator who looks into a possible haunting at a widower’s farmhouse in East Tennessee. Harrill, associate director of the UT Cinema Studies program and the Dee and Jimmy Haslam Chair of Cinema Studies, wrote and directed the film.
During filming, students worked as script supervisors, production assistants, art department assistants, set production assistants, and assistants to the film’s producers.
Sydney Steele, a 2019 cinema studies graduate from Knoxville, credits the film for jump-starting her career in the film industry.
“Classes are important because you get to learn the fundamentals, but that internship is really what got my career started,” Steele said. “I’ve since been hired onto other projects because of the people I met on set.
Steele had the opportunity to attend Sundance, where she took advantage of the panels and learning opportunities and got to see Light From Light on the big screen.
“It didn’t hit me how large this film was until we got to Sundance and saw the sold-out auditorium there to see our movie,” Steele said. “Seeing how the movie affected other people who weren’t involved in the process was amazing.”
Adrian Hargrave, a UT grad from Kingsport, Tennessee who was an art intern for the film, said working on the film helped push him to the next level. He is currently pursuing an MFA in film at Florida State University’s College of Motion Picture Arts.
“Working on this film is one of the experiences that helped me get into grad school,” Hargrave said. “I will take this experience with me until the day I work on another set or write my own film.”
Harrill said he’s pleased the experience has been a stepping stone for his students.
“There’s no substitute for getting experience on a professional crew,” Harrill said. “I can teach students in the classroom, and I can give them assignments that encourage them to make their own projects, but there’s no substitute for being on a crew where there’s 30 people from around the country making a film.”
Light From Light was shot in Knoxville over 20 days in July and August 2018. The film’s development was supported by the College of Arts and Sciences New Research Award, which Harrill credits with attracting a world-class team of producers to the project.
Since premiering at Sundance, the film has screened at several other film festivals. It has been released in theaters in select cities, starting in New York City and Philadelphia, November 1.
“I’m from Knoxville, and all the work I write and direct has been set here for many years,” Harrill said. “I feel like the movie is never truly done until I show it in Knoxville.”
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