Baylor lecturer’s short film makes world premiere at Austin Film Festival

Baylor lecturer Sam Henderson works behind the scenes of his short film "Break.” Photo courtesy of Sam Henderson.

By Samantha Garza | News Writer

Hundreds of students, alumni and faculty members showed up to support Sam Henderson, Baylor theater and film lecturer, as he debuted his short film “BREAK” at the Austin Film Festival.

Although the short film was a great success, Henderson said the work behind it was not always easy. In 2020, production was cut short because of COVID-19. However, he said the break was a blessing in disguise. During quarantine, he was able to rework some ideas for his short film — one of those being switching from digital film to a 35 mm film.

“Originally, it was not going to be shot on actual film, and as I was thinking about it and resources became available, I was able to shoot this version of the film on actual black and white 35 mm film — something that would not have occurred had I shot it in 2020,” Henderson said. “I think that it adds a great deal of authenticity to the film to have been able to do that.”

Henderson said everything about his film would have looked different if he had recorded everything in 2020. From the feel of the film to the casting, he said everything changed for the better.

“In the midst of 2020, I thought it was a possibility that the film would never happen,” Henderson said. “I feel very fortunate that it was able to happen at all.”

Because of the pause, Henderson said many resources that were not previously available to him, suddenly became available, which helped production. One of those resources was a funding grant that was given to the department of film and digital media by Baylor alumnus Matthew Lindor — a grant specifically given to filmmakers in the department to make their films.

Henderson said a big chunk of the fund was given to the chairman of the department — Chris Hansen — to make his feature films. However, because of the pandemic, no films were made and no money was taken out of the fund. Hansen then talked to Henderson, and Henderson was able to use most, if not all, of the money for his short film.

This money is what allowed Henderson to be able to shoot on a 35 mm film, which he said is well known for being expensive. Instead of using equipment from the department like all filmmakers usually do, Henderson said he had to rent out special equipment and buy his own film.

“There were these extra costs that were a part of the production that would not have been able to be afforded,” Henderson said. “Had I recorded this in 2020, we wouldn’t have had the funds available for it.”

Baylor alumnus, co-writer and producer Ryan Romine said he and Henderson have worked together on various films for over a decade.

During the filming process, Romine said he came down to Waco from Minneapolis and helped Henderson with numerous tasks throughout the duration of the project.

“It was kind of like a jack-of-all-trades,” Romine said. “I drove and picked up the dolly in Austin. Then I drove up to Dallas and picked up the camera … Then we brought it all back in a U-Haul van the next day.”

Romine also said this was his first time working with a 35 mm film and that the process was a little nerve-wracking.

“[Henderson] was pretty cool as a cucumber on the set; I was kind of freaking out,” Romine said.

Although Henderson said he has participated in several film festivals throughout his career, his short film made its world premiere at the renowned Austin Film Festival. He said the overwhelming amount of support he received was a stepping stone in his career.

The Austin Film Festival had about 3,000 short film submissions, and only about 100 were programmed, Henderson said. Afterward, every film is showcased in a block of films, and a block consists of six or seven films.

Because his film was shot on a 35 mm film, Henderson said it was unique compared to all the other films.

“There’s this advantage and disadvantage that it has,” Henderson said. “I think that an advantage is that it’s very unique, and I think a disadvantage is that it’s very unique.”

After participating in the Austin Film Festival, Henderson said he hopes the prestige will open the door for other film festivals and even bigger opportunities.

“That’s why I specifically wanted this kind of world premiere,” Henderson said. “Because of the festival and the notoriety of the festival, I knew that it would set the film on a path for the next two years that will allow it to get into different kinds of festivals.”