By: Claire Seel
Absolute Zero: A love-stricken astronaut longs for a home he can never return to in this deep space drama.
Wanting more than classroom experience from their years at Northern Arizona University (NAU) led Studio Art major Dana Kamberg and English and Creative Media & Film dual major Spenser Williamson to create an ambitious, real-world project. They decided they would write, create the sets and armatures, direct, and produce a 14-minute stop-motion film, reasoning that this would offer the most inclusive set of opportunities for themselves and their peers. And it worked: they have participation from business majors, forestry majors, music majors, and more.
It was not long before the script, written by Williamson was complete. Pre-production storyboarding and armature creation, Kamberg’s area of expertise, followed soon after. The two were joined by Music Major Film Minor Gunderson who is composing an original score. The three students contributed considerable sums of their own money to the project, but reached a point of needing help purchasing equipment. A long, challenging, and at times disheartening process of research, cajoling, revising plans, presentations, and more to gain funding for their project ensued. In the end, they won a $3,500 grant from ASNAU. This is the story of that journey.
When the three began looking into funding they discovered that there is not much opportunity for undergraduate research funding at NAU. They reached out to the Vice President’s office for assistance and were advised to seek loans. Not wanting to go into debt for their project, they instead looked into Student Activities Council (STAC) and the Associated Students of Northern Arizona University (ASNAU).
In addition to lacking funding, the group needed a faculty advisor, one who experienced in tracking down funds and guiding student projects from start-to-finish. Serendipity stepped in, providing them with an involved and energetic faculty advisor, David VanNess of the Sculpture department, when a stranger overheard them discussing their project at Michael’s.
Guided by VanNess, the group began applying for funds.
The Application Process
Kamberg tells us that the application process is intense: “There are forms to fill out to qualify to fill out forms!” They decided to start small and applied to ASNAU. They had proposals, statements from their advisor, and examples of their work, and were rejected. Rather than accept this setback, the group approached ASNAU to find out why they had not been granted funding. They tweaked their project proposal and were granted approval from ASNAU to take their idea to the Student Senate, who approved it. In the end, to get funds they created an event in which all pre-production work and all work-in-progress materials will be exhibited along with a screening in 2018. They also created a student group, the Arts & Creative Media Group, open to all majors that provides collaborative opportunities for creative projects.
As they were pursuing funding and support they found that many students across the university’s disciplines are looking for resumé-building, non-academic projects that draw on skills learned in theory in the classroom but that also have practical applications. These students have been very happy to help and get involved with the project and the club. There are 15 regular participants and five people who come and go.
Strategies for Success
To be successful in gaining funding, the group recommends asking “Why?” and then being flexible enough to turn ‘no’ into ‘yes.’ They ultimately have been able to show that they are working on the project, that they have created something truly interdisciplinary—that benefits the university and the student body.
The first post-funding hiccup!
After receiving approval, the group was notified that receipts are due two weeks after the event but also on 3/2/17. This was a catch-22 situation in which an exhibit in 2018 became implausible and the group temporarily lost their funding. They persevered, and in the end, after a great deal of back and forth, they worked out with ASNAU that they could present receipts before the end of the semester and still hold the event in 2018 as planned.
After jumping through the extra hoops, ASNAU went through the packet again and found that they couldn’t fund the event after-all, because it is in 2018. There will be a new student senate in 2018, so by funding the exhibit for that year, the 2017 senate is pre-supposing that the 2018 senate will also be willing to fund the project. Still undeterred, the group is looking at a workaround in which they do a pre-screening event this year, and re-apply for funding in 2018 for the full event.
The group reports that they have been re-approved for their funding, and the project can go forward.
“You’re going to get a lot of nos. Don’t accept that no. You have to make it work for you. Find a way to make it work for you,” Dana Kamberg.
Today, almost a year into the process, the three have invested a lot of time and effort, as well as personal funds for a project about which they are truly passionate.