Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
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A cut above

Professor’s film selected for Venice festival

Professor Jake Mahaffy’s latest film "Miracle Boy" will have its world premiere at the 69th Venice International Film Festival on September 6 and 8. Mahaffy's is the only U.S. film among 14 international short films selected for this year's Orizzonti competition. The world's longest-running annual film festival will also screen 18 feature films (including new films by Paul Thomas Anderson, Terrence Malick, and Brian De Palma) competing for the top award—the Golden Lion.

The award-winning independent filmmaker’s work has been shown at festivals around the world. In addition to this year's Venice film festival, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts plans to showcase a collection of Mahaffy’s films on September 27 and 28.

Mahaffy works on his projects throughout the year, sometimes shooting during semester breaks to make critically acclaimed, micro-budgeted films, usually using first-time performers as actors. So far, he has completed two feature-length films and 12 short films, and is developing several other features. Some of his work can be seen at burnbarrelfilms.com.

Miracle Boy is an adaptation of a story by West Virginia author Pinckney Benedict in which a boy risks his life to apologize to another. Benedict and Mahaffy became friends when they both taught at a small college in Virginia.

The 17-minute film was shot over six days in August 2011 in West Virginia using eight actors, and Mahaffy has been editing it since. He screened a rough cut of it in his Wheaton screenwriting course as part of lesson on film adaptations.

Students read the original short story, read Mahaffy’s screenplay adaptation, and then viewed the short film. They also were included in a Skype discussion with the professor and Benedict about the process.

“This gave them a view of how original material changes from literature to cinema,” said Mahaffy. “Their ideas, questions and suggestions helped me resolve a few things in the edit.”