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OPINION: WWU students juggle life and academics while pursuing their creative outlets

Director of “Parasocial,” a small-budget student film, discusses strategies to keep creativity flowing

Crew members film a scene of “Parasocial,” at a Motel 6 on Jan. 16, 2024. They said they were surprised to find the set was smaller than expected and had to work around the limited space. // Photo courtesy of Troy Schulz

From students regularly screening their own movies at theaters like the Pickford Film Center to playing at venues like the Karate Church, it is safe to say that creativity runs through the veins of Western Washington University students. 

However, it can be difficult to stay creatively motivated amidst the demands of school. Yet, some students are showing how it can be done.

Troy Schulz, a third-year news and editorial student at Western, wrote and directed the movie “Knife of Glass.” It premiered on campus on Oct. 14, 2023 with catering from Cheba Hut. Schulz is continuing his work with his upcoming film “Parasocial.”

“Parasocial” is “Nightcrawler” but with “true crime girlies,” Schulz said. After meeting with relatives of the “Knife of Glass” crew, they supported Schulz by gifting money for the new film. Schulz said the higher budget has made it easier for him to focus on the creative aspects of writing and directing.

“It’s nice because now I don’t have to choose between buying props or buying groceries,” Shulz said. 

Everyone has a camera in their back pocket, so anyone can make a movie. For people looking to increase their creative output, filmmaking is their best bet, Schulz said .

“They should not be afraid to get weird and wacky with it,” he said. 

With the new budget, the team looked to diversify their set locations. Schulz rented a motel room for a recent shoot day. However, when they got to the set, they discovered it was too small for Schulz's vision.

With scheduling issues that classes and piles of homework can create, this was a problem Schulz needed to fix fast.

“I realized there was a mirror on one side of the door. So, there’s a whole master shot of the scene shot just through the mirror,” Schulz said.

“Parasocial” is in the middle of production, and is expected to wrap up principal photography this February.

Schulz is not the only filmmaker dedicated to developing their craft at Western. Storm Hedman is a freelance videographer and Western business student. His works span from professional and collegiate sports to musical and artistic performances.

While Hedman has made progress in his career through freelancing, he also expresses himself through personal work.

His current project is titled “Soundcheck: A Music Documentary.” It will follow three bands within the Bellingham music scene.

Hedman keeps his imagination active by setting objectives for himself. 

“I’ll try to set a goal to post a video once a week to keep myself creative,” Hedman said.

Still, school can get in the way, and not everyone is supportive.

“Some of my professors don’t see videography as a legitimate business,” Hedman said. “Yet, I’ve made lots of good friends and I’ve had lots of amazing opportunities to push myself with my creativity and passion.”

Parasocial Story Image.jpeg

Actress Libbie Wilson exudes a look of fear during the fifth shoot day for “Parasocial” on Jan. 23, 2024. Wilson is playing the character Brooklyn. // Photo courtesy of Troy Schulz

Strong passions like Hedman’s and Schulz’s can survive post-grad life. Giovanni Jennings, a Western alumnus, founded Middle Fork Films, a Seattle-based video production team. 

Jennings also faced obstacles when juggling responsibilities. While no longer a student, he still had to push through the hardships of life to focus on his passion.

“It’s certainly hard. Right now, I’m trying to build my business up enough so I’ll have enough money to focus on my creative stuff,” Jennings said.

Jennings has stuck with his pursuit and discovered a few paths to success. His journey proves that, while it might get difficult, it is always possible to stick to your passions as a college student.

“I remind myself why I got into filmmaking in the first place,” Jennings said. “It was to tell stories that I came up with and stories that I was passionate about.”

John Oakes

John Oakes (he/him) is an opinions reporter for The Front this quarter. In his free time, he writes fiction and not much else. You can find his work in Etherea Magazine as well as other venues. You can reach him at

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