Q&A: Filmmaker Zack Morrison of Rutgers University

  by Kate Spalla.

Photo taken by Chantal Eyong
Rutgers University junior Zack Morrison decided a journalism major just wasn’t enough. His school doesn’t have a film major, but Zack forged a second specialization and made up his own curriculum using pre-existing classes. And then he found mtvU’s College Filmmakers. Check out his story.

How did you come to the decision that you wanted to do more with your journalism degree at Rutgers?
So, I knew coming in here that I wanted to be able to pursue film-making as much as I could, and there wasn’t a program at all. So, I took the next best thing, which is a journalism major. It’s journalism and media studies, so there’s a lot of TV and a lot of broadcast involved. I was in special interest housing my freshman year, a living-learning community for TV and film students, where we actually lived at the TV station, which was pretty cool. One of my roommates was a senior and he told me about the individualized major thing that was available… I just kind of ran with it.

You play five instruments, but you decided not to pursue music in school. Does the score still play a big part in your film work?
I try to incorporate music in some way, shape or form. Two of my films have saxophone players in it. We did a musical comedy last year where we wrote all the songs, and I played all the instruments and all the songs. I love music. I love being able to play it, and I want that to translate on screen.

How has being a college filmmaker influenced your work?
The classes that I’m taking are kind of forcing me to pursue things more seriously. In high school, there’s no filmmaking classes. You just kind of do it on your own. But, here in college, when you’re taking like a screenwriting course, or a screen-directing course or a cinematography course, it forces you to have a much greater appreciation for it. And as a result, you’re able to make much more higher quality work… You’re surrounded in an environment with like-minded people where everyone wants to be as creative and as passionate about it as you are, and I think that’s the biggest help.

How does being a full-time student affect the side projects you’re working on, or wish you could work on?
There’s definitely that barrier in the way. Being at a big school as big as Rutgers, there’s ten thousand things that you’re always supposed to be doing. There’s always things going on, there’s always the football game and there’s always different activities. Everyone wants to party and classes take up all your time. Sometimes I wish I went to that BFA – or that fine arts college where I could focus on nothing else except making the biggest or the most perfect movie that I want to make. At the same time though, the trade-off is I am enjoying college and I am having a lot of fun. I feel that so many people who do these BFA programs miss out on a lot of the other things that make college, college… Everyone wants to be able to focus on their baby, their one thing that they’ve kind of been cradling in their head. College is a lifestyle and everything is going on at such a fast pace, you have to keep up.

Where do you see yourself five years after graduation?
I’m hoping I go to grad school. That’s kind of a big goal of mine… I’m definitely looking to try to do either like a feature at a college… to do that one baby pet project that I’ve always been wanting to do. Or just trying to find a job, because that’s a big thing everyone has to worry about, and using the money for whatever that job is to fund the project that I want to do. I’m definitely pursuing the film festival route. I think that’s one of the greatest opportunities that young filmmakers have, to be able to showcase their work at a festival. It is a quick route to an Academy Award… that’s something I’m seriously wishing. I’d like to make something worthy enough – that it could get that recognition.

Check out Zack’s documentary about the Rutgers-Princeton rivalry, “Knights, Tigers, and Cannons. Oh My!”

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