News & Events

Three MFA Candidates Featured in Star-Telegram Article

MFA Candidates Brendan Feltrup-Exum, Ryan Britton, and Jean-Patrick Mahoney were all featured this week in an article in the Star-Telegram. The articles detail their work in the MFA program under Professor Ya’ke Smith and each of their individual scripts. Please see the excerpts below:

Brendan Feltrup-Exum

Feltrup-Exum installed parachute pouches, eight computer monitors, four digital photo frames, a custom-made pilot seat and flight consoles inside his spacecraft. He harnessed actors to an aluminum I-beam to simulate zero gravity.

He bought a Vietnam-era insulated flight suit and parts from an airplane salvage yard, and got the manufacturing company 3M to donate a $600 full-face respirator. He then built a rain trough on the front of the spacecraft to film a flashback that the father has while driving on the fateful rainy day his son died.

To film the car accident in which the son dies, Feltrup-Exum bought a 1986 Jeep Cherokee online and had a group of assistants roll it over at Knapp Ranch in the Mansfield area. With firefighters looking on, he blew it up with 3 gallons of gas and half a pound of black powder.

It didn’t hurt that Feltrup-Exum also happens to be licensed to use pyrotechnics.

His film is signed with Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists union. His lead actors are Christian Heep of Contagion and award-winning actress, singer and composer Cheryl Allison.


Ryan Britton

Fellow grad student Ryan Britton also drew from those close to him for his film, Not Abel, about two Midwestern twin brothers who are at odds after one decides to leave the methamphetamine business

David King deals methamphetamine to the locals, whereas brother Lewis leaves the lifestyle for the betterment of his family. The two are distanced by the drug, and David makes things worse by using his drug money to try to woo his brother’s wife and impress his nephew.

“David’s intent is to show that he can do better,” said Britton, 26.

He said the murder of his cousin’s friend for being involved in “meth-related activity” sparked his interest to read the book Methland, and there was no going back.

“My story is to focus on the user and his reason for doing so,” Britton said. “I paint a real picture on why people would be involved with this type of drug.”

Britton, of Arlington, shot a majority of his film in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas and the rest in the Metroplex.

Grad student Gabriel Duran’s film, The Mule, also portrays the negative outcomes of the drug trade.

His film centers on Marco, a man in his early 30s who lives in Nuevo Laredo.

“It’s basically a lawless city. You are dealing with corrupt police and government officials because they often work with the cartels,” Duran said.

The border city has experienced drug violence for more than a decade. In May 2012, 23 people were found hanging from bridges and decapitated near City Hall because of the drug mafia.

“I know people who live there and have seen extreme violence firsthand,” said Duran, of Arlington. “It ends up badly for a lot of them.”

Marco must take extreme measures to escape the gore and tragedy caused by clashes between drug cartels.

Duran is in the middle of writing his script and plans to start shooting in March.


Jean Patrick- Mahoney

Grad student Jean-Patrick Mahoney took a different route writing his script, Phone Coast.

He said his film is about a woman in her early 80s who gets a cellphone from her daughter despite her resistance.

“It’s about the insatiable need for newness and technology, which inevitably makes life for her more complicated,” said Mahoney, 30, of Dallas.

The problem is, the phone is haunted.

The haunting is a byproduct of owning a phone, and unlike others, this woman is not ready to accept the negative aspects of technology, he said.

Mahoney will begin casting for his film after spring break.

Voyager and Not Abel are both in the post-production phase and will be available for viewing at the UT Arlington Student Film/Video Organization’s spring 2014 festival at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.

Smith’s critically acclaimed film, Wolf , was released on iTunes Tuesday.

Though the students might take different paths, from teaching to focusing on feature films, they all agree they want to be like Smith.

Smith, 33, said: “My job is to push them to become the best them. We are very selective about who we accept. We push them to tell stories that are going to resonate when an audience gets up and walks out,” Smith said.

Feltrup-Exum plans to graduate in May 2015 and wants to work in feature films. He thanks Smith for helping him dig deeper in his script.


For the full article please click here.