Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
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Meal: $69.80; Experience at Sundance Film Festival: Priceless

When Mike Plante bought lunch for Associate Professor of Art and Film Jake Mahaffy at Red Stripe in Providence, RI, he made one stipulation. In exchange for the meal, Mahaffy must agree to produce a short film. After a couple of burgers and beers, Plante, a Sundance Film Festival programmer, drew up a contract on a napkin with some guidelines for the commissioned piece. The budget for the film? $69.80.

The film that materialized is "The Wax Supper," which will be shown during the "LunchFilm" exhibition by New Frontier on Main at the Sundance Film Festival January 15-24 in Park City, Utah.

According to Mahaffy, "The Wax Supper," a three-minute film, shows a man at a wax museum, watching a life-size tableau of Da Vinci's Last Supper painting. When the light show and presentation end, the man stands and reaches over the railing to touch the wax hand of Christ. The twelve disciples react in shock and anger, frightening the man out of the exhibit.

Mahaffy's inspiration for the film? A fascination with what might happen if a Madame Tussauds exhibit sprang to life, "The contrast between the immaterial, transcendent aspects of religion and the primitive grotesquerie of wax statues is interesting. Then watching a sympathetic person attempt to interact with this strange exhibition of someone else's emotion and faith is dramatic as well. Reaching out to touch the wax hand of Christ is an act of faith. Is there any power in the hand of the effigy or is the power only in the space between the two figures?" he said.

This is Mahaffy's fourth film in six years screened by the Sundance Film Festival. The other films by Mahaffy shown at the venue: "Motion Studies: Inertia" in 2008, "Motion Studies: Gravity" in 2005, and "War" in 2004.

Accolades are not new to the award-winning filmmaker. His latest feature film "Wellness" won the Grand Jury Award for best feature film at the South By Southwest Film Festival, the biggest event for low-budget indie films in the U.S.

Mahaffy came to Wheaton in 2006 to start the college's film program. He received his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and his BFA from Rhode Island School of Design. He has made many short films and two feature-length films. He's currently writing a screenplay about a man who tries to perform a miracle and fails, as well as working on a series of experimental short films. Some of his work can be seen at www.handcrankedfilm.com. News about the college's film program and the work of Wheaton students www.myspace.com/wheatonfilm.

To learn more about Professor Mahaffy's screening at the Sundance Film Festival, visit the New Frontier section of the event website.