Student film ‘Toxin’ premieres tonight

By Nate Sandstrom

Chris Folkens isn’t graduating until May, but this Friday, the film Toxin, which he called the “capstone project” of his college career, is premiering at the Armory.

The 25-minute film is about a college couple that inadvertently gets involved in a terrorist plot to steal a deadly toxin accidentally invented by University researchers.

Admission is free and the movie will be shown in Armory 101, with shows at 7:00, 8:00 and 9:00 p.m.

Folkens, a senior in LAS who is the film’s director and producer, also wrote the script and completed the film’s music score. Even though he wore many hats, Folkens said the film’s quality was also a testament to the dedication of the cast and crew, many of whom were professionals from St. Louis, Chicago and Los Angeles.

“We wanted to make it something that was of higher quality than you ever find in a student production, especially around here,” Folkens said.

Folkens said he raised about $15,000 for the film by showing investors his previous film, Triad. He noted that the amount was very little to spend on a professional quality film and that the costs of food, flights and hotels for everyone added up quickly.

Folkens said there were fewer options for student crew help because the University does not have a film program. At some universities with film programs, especially highly rated film schools, students sometimes get several thousand dollars to produce a film.

“We don’t have people being trained as a director of photography around here,” he said.

His speech communication studies were an asset though, particularly during the film’s grueling production schedule, Folkens said. The crew worked almost seventy hours during the four-day shooting schedule last April, he said.

“It’s not an easy situation being a 21-year-old at all, telling a 50-year-old that has been doing this 25, 30 years what to do,” said Folkens, who has since turned 22. “You have to be able to communicate with them in a way that we’re both going to walk away from a set getting what we want.”

The shooting schedule also was difficult for the cast.

“Basically, four days of my life were just taken over by Toxin,” said Aaron Golden, sophomore in FAA, who played Ethan, the film’s protagonist.

Golden said he was happy with the result, though. The movie was Golden’s first cinematic acting experience, and he said it was interesting to learn the differences between acting for the stage and for the camera.

Since his experience in Toxin, Golden said he had a part in another student film and hopes to get another role this summer.

“It opened up some possibilities for me, and film acting is something I’d definitely like to do for a career,” Golden said.

Toxin is being shown during Champaign-Urbana cinephiles’ favorite time of year, Ebertfest. Folkens said the premiere was originally scheduled to screen in March, but scheduling conflicts pushed it back to this Friday. With a celebration of cinema happening in the area, he hopes some of Ebertfest’s audience will drop by to check out his movie.

“And Roger’s in town,” Folkens said. “Who knows? Maybe he’ll stop by. I’d love it.”

Folkens said the film festival circuit is next for Toxin. A rough cut of the film was already shown last month in New York at the Chamberlain Brothers International Student Film Festival. Folkens also said he will also continue to market the movie to other film festivals around the country.