Professor brings home international film prize

UMHB’s Assistant Professor Andru Anderson took the top prize at the 17th Annual International Festival of Red Cross and Health Films in Varna, Bulgaria on Oct. 12-15. His documentary about overcoming adversity, “Turn Left Now: Surviving the Unbelievable,” will have a preview showing at the new Sue & Frank Mayborn Performing Arts Center Thursday, Nov. 2 at 6:30 p.m.

UMHB’s Andru Anderson in his office of film studies in the Heard building on campus in October 2017. Photo by Tori Van Hooser.

Anderson’s film revolves around the lives of young adult stroke victims, and highlights the fact that as much as 1 in 7 strokes occur in adolescents and young adults, ages 15 to 49 (Centers for Disease Control, 2016)
“Part of this movie is trying to show the audience that strokes are not a condition of the elderly. Strokes are actually something that can hit anybody at any part of their lifespan,” Anderson said.
“Everyone has a grandfather or grandmother who was either affected by a stroke or has essentially died from a stroke,” he said.
“I started looking at that, and then I met a bunch of survivors who were younger.”
The film took four years to make, with the first two in pre-production and filming, and then two years of post-production. He had a lot of help from his wife Natalia, he said.
“She did everything I did,” he described of her assistantship over the four years. The two met in Dzershinsk, Russia through some friends when traveling there, and six years later they were married. She has seen him go from his industrial film work with Andersen Worldwide and Applied Materials, utilizing his undergraduate and masters degrees from Baylor, to working as a lecturer at Baylor while pursuing his MFA at SMU in Dallas. During this time, he participated in many film projects, and perfected his craft.
“I’ve done just about everything: small shorts, full length, film and digital and soup-to-nuts filmmaking,” he said.
Anderson is in his third year now at UMHB as the Assistant Professor of Film Studies, and teaches Introduction to Film Studies, Screenwriting, Film History and Criticism, Documentary Film Making, Narrative Film Production, and Special Topics. The program has gone from four students when he got here, to now 22,
“I’m preparing students to be independent filmmakers,” he said. He does this by addressing their need to tell stories.
“Everyone who makes films wants to tell a story that has not been told before, and then have people see it.”
Anderson’s creativity goes beyond film and teaching, as he has always had a glass blowing hobby on the side. But he knew he wanted to do something with production in his career, even in high school when he was building sets for theater.
“I knew I wanted to do something like this, but I didn’t care if it was in radio, television, or film,” he said.
“This was the first competition I entered the film in, so it was a huge surprise when I found out I won the Grand Prix Award,” Anderson said. “It was entered around eight months ago. It has been entered into many other festivals since then.”
Anderson didn’t think he had won because he didn’t hear from the organization or get an email during the festival. When he inquired by the end of the weekend, they told him he had won something, but they didn’t tell him what exactly what he had won. A week later Anderson heard he had won the grand prize.
After this film completes a tour of film festivals this year, Anderson hopes to market the film to PBS. He also has another documentary lined up, as well as a narrative film. Though it may seem like a long road from industry and educational films, two degrees at Baylor relating to communications and film, and then a film and media studies MFA at SMU while lecturing at Baylor, Anderson says everything has finally lined up just the way he wanted it to: he is able to produce his own work and teach at the same time.
“I’m honestly living my dream, and so the awards are just a little bit of a cherry on top.”

Author: Sarah Ifft

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