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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, June 15, 2024

Senior Profile: Jason Wallace imagines new worlds in thesis film ‘Citizens of Kattaquam’

Wallace, a film and media studies major, says his ambitious senior thesis film was a team effort.

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Jason Wallace, director of "Citizens of Kattaquam," is pictured.

Graduating senior Jason Wallace is nearing the end of post-production for his thesis film “Citizens of Kattaquam. Featuring scenes with up to 40 cast members and a crew of 15, Wallace’s grandiose sci-fi epic is not the typical small-scale production expected of student films on sparse budgets. But for Wallace, pursuing one of the most ambitious Tufts thesis films in recent years was necessary to realize his vision.

“The senior theses I’ve seen in the past, while they’re good, they’re not really the films that speak to me or drove me to do film in the first place,” Wallace said. “I figured if I’m going to do a senior thesis, it has to be different than other theses and replicate the films that made me get into storytelling in the first place. That just so happens to be ‘Star Wars,’ so I wanted to do a sci-fi fantasy thing.”

It might be surprising to learn that Wallace, having now written and directed a 30-minute sci-fi epic, had no ambitions for film prior to college.

“I actually applied to be in the School of Engineering, because I was a STEM kid,” Wallace said. However, during a gap year in Brazil before college, Wallace had a change of heart.

“During Brazil, I figured I was doing [engineering] for the wrong reasons. It was more [about] money and just because that's what people expected for me,” Wallace said. He experimented with international relations and political science as potential new majors, but neither seemed to work for him. Based on encouragement from a friend’s father, a professional in the entertainment industry, Wallace tried out some film classes when he started at Tufts.

“It was really funny because when I started out as a film major, I hadn’t seen that many movies,” Wallace said. “I was very much like, ‘Star Wars’ is the only one I watch. And FMS really opened me up, so I watch more stuff now.”

After taking FMS 10, an introductory production course, in the spring of his first year, Wallace knew that film was for him.

“That was really the class that made me decide, ‘Oh, I like this,’ because that was the first practice course,” Wallace said.

Taking higher level production courses like Screenwriting 1 and 2, as well as Script to Screen prepared Wallace to make his own film outside of a typical course structure.

“[For] a thesis, you are on your own,” Wallace said. “You’re expected to know what a call sheet is, how to cast, how to location scout, all of that.”

As he began to make his vision a reality, he was not without fears.

“All the lead up to shooting, I was like, ‘This is a lot, I have no idea how it’s going to go.’ I was preparing myself for the worst,” Wallace said. “It was very anxiety-inducing the first weekend [of shooting]. The first scene we were doing was in the Barnum studio, and I remember pacing around as the crew was piling in, and I’m like, ‘I do not know what I'm doing.’ But after the first few takes, that immediately went away. I had a really good crew, which helped make everything go smoothly.”

Finding a good crew and community through the film department has been a highlight of Wallace’s time at Tufts.

“The thing I love about the Tufts film department is that we’re so small, so pretty much that same pool of people is on everyone’s shoots,” Wallace reflected. “It’s like a mini Tufts family. It’s great. And I don’t think you could get that at a more competitive, larger school.”

The familial and collaborative part of filmmaking is what makes it special for Wallace.

“I don’t think I would’ve been in film if it was a solo endeavor. The collaboration is my favorite part about it,” Wallace said. “With film … you have to rely on different people for different things to make the final image. And so if you’re not collaborative, don’t be in film. But it is my favorite part about it, definitely.”

Looking forward, Wallace is currently making different cuts of “Citizens of Kattaquam” to run in festivals. The first screening will be a shortened version that played on May 4, a cosmically fitting day for a massive Star Wars fan, at 1 p.m. in Somerville Theater as part of the 21st Independent Film Festival Boston. After these festivals wrap up, his next goal is to create another short film, albeit on a much smaller scale, to add to his portfolio.

Long term, Wallace dreams of becoming a writer and director and hopes to return one day to the world he established in “Citizens of Kattaquam.”

“It’s part of a larger world I want to build in the future,” Wallace said. “I’m hoping that I can get the gang back together to shoot another installment at some point. Don't know when — that could be a year from now, could be five years, 10 years from now.”

The idea of bringing “the gang back together” marks a key value for him. While leaving college and trying to break into the competitive entertainment industry is daunting, for Wallace, all it takes is remaining true to the community he built while at Tufts.

“My close film friends, we have this running thing where it’s like, all it takes is one of us to make it big,” Wallace concluded. “Once one of us gets in there, then we sort of drag everyone up with us. So I hope that’s the case.”