For some graduates, a move off of the campus following graduation includes a move back home for a time of soul-searching, reflection and discovery, a time to consider a path for the next step in their journey. While this move may not fit into their original master plan, it does provide some time to determine what that next destination may be.
The move home this summer for New York City actor and budding film-maker Shane Jensen ’10, is both intentional and welcomed as he brings his passion for film-making home to Minnesota and the filming of his newest film, The Way the Crow Flies. With him on this journey is his writing partner Tyler McClain, six actors and a film crew. They are headed for a 26-acre horse farm near Delano, Minnesota, owned by his mother. They are all, in a sense, moving back home.
Following graduation from Gustavus in 2010, Shane Jensen moved to New York City to study acting at the Atlantic Theater Company. For three years he maintained a busy career on the stage as a member of the theater company, The Dirty Blondes. During this time, he had the opportunity to work a bit on the production end of a film project. In doing so, he discovered his passion. “Taking the helm” is the way Jensen describes directing and producing films. With four short films to his credit, The Way the Crow Flies is his first full-length film and the next step on a path that will take him from the adrenaline-paced City back to a small town and the fields near the place where he grew up.
Why would a busy NYC actor make such a move? “There have been a number of independent films about not knowing what to do after high school or college.” However, most of these films are set in urban areas and Jensen wanted to make a film about young people in Minnesota who decide to stay in their hometowns after high school or return following graduation. Jensen, a native of Buffalo, Minnesota, wanted to focus his film on the demographic of those who “stayed on the farm” or later decided to return, buy a home, get married and raise a family; why they made these decisions and how much power did the place — the town, the farm, the family house — influence their decisions. Jensen continues, “Even the house becomes a character in the film,” as it exerts so much power over the decision to return.
The name of the film, The Way the Crow Flies, hints at some of these core issues. Much like “as the crow flies,” the direct path to a destination, the title provides a hint that one’s life path is never as direct or as easy as the one the crow flies. The journey’s twists and turns force a re-consideration of decisions and goals while the direction and time grows longer.
With four short films in their credits, Jensen and McClain have decided to take on a full-length film and are currently working on the development of the characters and somewhat on the script for The Way the Crow Flies. However, according to Shane, “Much of the dialog will be improvised within the actor’s character.” The challenge for the film-makers is obvious. With filming set for August 11-24, much of the schedule for filming needs to be determined in advance. The 13 days on location will demand long and intensive days of filming. Nearly every aspect of the two-week frame must fit the schedule.
The cast of six and the film crew will face their own challenges in addition to the long days of filming. They will live on site for the duration of the shoot — on the 26-acre horse farm outside of Delano — essentially living the roles of their characters day after day, returning home from the big city to live in small-town Minnesota. Some of the cast members are from the Midwest but others have lived their entire lives in the city. For them, they will need to mentally leave the city and dive into their character in this small-town culture. Like their real-life characters, they too will need to find answers to the “why” of staying, to the “what” of the environment and culture and the “how much” power surrounds them as they explore what Jensen calls “the power of a place.”
With filming set to begin in less than a month, Jensen and McClain face another, more concrete, challenge to raise the funds needed to finance the independent project. To that end, they have created a website featuring clips from The Way the Crow Flies, interviews of cast members and clips from previous projects. To access the website, click here. Additional information is available on their Facebook page, Crow Flies.
Shane credits Gustavus professors Henry MacCarthy (theatre/dance) and Lisa Heldke (philosophy) for their support and guidance as a student and as an actor. Dr. Heldke, Jensen’s advisor in philosophy, didn’t know that he was also involved in theatre until she saw his performance in The Lesson, a challenging existential play by playwright Eugene Ionesco. Heldke recalls that Jensen’s performance “devastated me. I was thunderstruck by his presence on the stage.” Although she was disappointed when Jensen later dropped his philosophy major to focus on theatre, she feels that his work in philosophy “continues to inform him as an actor and now, as a director.”
Shane’s relationship with Dr. MacCarthy is on-going. He frequently checks in to update his teacher and seek advice and encouragement. From MacCarthy’s vantage, he has watched Jensen’s growth as an actor and has seen him discover other aspects of the theatre. “In directing, Shane has found ways to express himself that he couldn’t do as an actor. It’s a great fit for him. I’ve seen one of his short films and I was impressed by the work.” MacCarthy also noted that Shane “has no fear,” he sees a project and jumps in. Regarding The Way the Crow Flies, MacCarthy noted “aesthetically, it’s fascinating, coherent and very interesting.” He’s excited to see the results of the work Jensen and his team have created.
For Shane Jensen, the road since graduation has not been a direct path. It has taken him far from him home. The next step in his journey will lead him back home to fulfill a dream of exploring, through film, the life journey every human takes. A journey that, unlike the crow’s, passes through many changes of direction and is never direct.
Along the journey, there are many destinations, some are unexpected. While you may have journeyed far, the road you travel may someday take you home, for, in Jensen’s words, “Home is not as far as you remember.”
Filming of Shane Jensen ’10 and Tyler McClain’s The Way The Crow Flies begins August 11.