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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Filmmaker Mischa Cantu directs our Soviet steampunk future

    Filmmaker Mischa Cantu directs  our Soviet steampunk future

    If someone filmed a biopic about Mischa Cantu, a graduating senior in the media arts Bachelor of Fine Arts program, it would end with a Soviet Russian steampunk fairytale. It would start with a music video about a donkey-faced bar-crawler.

    “”You see a woman in a bar wearing a red dress, and she leads you to an open field,”” Cantu said, recalling the Mexican fairytale that inspired her first of eight short film projects at the UA. “”Then she turns around and has a donkey face, and kicks you and stuff.””

    Cantu laughed.

    “”I see my older stuff and am like, ‘Ugh, creeper!'””

    Three years later, Cantu puts the final touches on her thesis film “”Dark Eyes,”” a 10-minute Soviet/steampunk mash-up inspired by the Russian novelist Victor Pelevin and Nine Inch Nails music videos. The story, based loosely on Pelevin’s “”Omon Ra,”” is set in Russia in an unknown steampunk future, and follows a child who wants to be a cosmonaut. The boy trains with his grandfather, but grandpa turns out to be much more deranged and sadistic than his grandson anticipated.

    Though Cantu has filmed five music videos for Flying Gecko Productions and eight personal projects for various media arts classes during her time at the UA, “”Dark Eyes”” marks her longest running and most time-intensive production yet. With a cast of four and a production crew of about 13, Cantu spent five days filming her project’s 10 scenes in locations ranging from the sprawling CalPortland cement plant near Casa Grande highway to the underground mirror lab on the UA campus. These five days of production were followed by seven months of intensive editing and sound design, and preceded by almost a year of pre-production writing, re-writing, hiring, scouting and scheming.

    “”The whole summer before my senior year I spent looking for props and spray painting stuff gold, having to make a lot of stuff,”” Cantu said. “”Steampunk’s badass. If I had any kind of budget … I’d totally want to go all out. But it was fun. I was able to get a 1940s Russian gas mask for children on eBay. Shipping was the expensive part … it came from mother Russia.””

    Cantu funded the entire project by herself with the exception of the Kraft food provided for production days. Several local restaurants donated meals for Cantu’s cast and crew to fuel up with while filming the cosmonaut caper.

    Cantu is proud of her work, but shares all the credit with her dutiful cast and crew. She met her lead child actor at an all-BFA casting call, and is overjoyed with his effort.

    “”He worked 18 hours a day for three days straight, working his little butt off,”” Cantu said.

    Cantu is also thankful that the thesis film process brought fellow BFA senior Paloma Jacqueline into her life. Jacqueline skillfully manned the camera as Cantu’s director of photography, but proved just as valuable as a friend.

    “”Paloma is like my best friend forever … and I hope that we can make films in the future together,”” Cantu said. “”We got to spend all the grueling hours in the editing suite together. You’re always with someone (there) and you get to know everything about them.””

    Beyond collaboration with Jacqueline, Cantu is hoping her future takes her out to Santa Fe, N.M., where tax rebates allow for a thriving filmmaking industry. She wants to start her career in art direction and production design, inspired by her favorite filmmaker, Andrei Tarkovsky (of “”Solaris”” fame). But what she really wants to do is direct.

    “”I think every BFA wants to direct — that’s the dream, “” Cantu said. “”I want to do it forever if I can.””

    Watch the “”I Dream in Widescreen”” senior BFA showcase Saturday at the Fox Tucson Theatre to see Cantu, and her 12 BFA comrades, take over the silver screen. It’s a sight you may have to get used to.

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