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MDT students expand their skill sets through film

Tiny House Poster.jpg

MDT students Caleb Hafen and Sariah Lyles star in the recently released horror film The Boy in the Tiny House and the Monster Who Lived Next Door.

Written, produced, and directed by Keith Ariaz, the team filmed in Logan, Colorado, and Los Angeles over this past summer. The film has been accepted into the Mabig Film Festival in Germany, the Hollywood First-Time Filmmaker Showcase, and Lift-off: First-Time Filmmaker Sessions @ Pinewood Studios in the United Kingdom.

Caleb first discovered the film by searching through the Utah Filmmaker’s Facebook page, where he found the open casting call. After landing the role of Thomas Jensen, he reached out to fellow MDT student Sariah Lyles and encouraged her to audition for the role of Ciara Blackburn.

The film tells the story of 17-year-old Thomas and his friends, whose town is plagued by a monster following the death of his father. Caleb describes his character’s development throughout the film and the role of guilt, “Thomas feels responsible for his father’s death. That guilt, while not practically linked to the monster, thematically is very much connected. As Thomas figures out how to battle this monster that’s coming to the town, he’s also battling with his guilt about his father’s death.” Sariah enjoyed playing Ciara, the new girl who befriends Thomas as they work together to protect their town. A big fan of horror movies, Sariah describes being a part of the film as a lifelong dream.

Caleb Hafen Headshot .jpg

Both Caleb and Sariah enjoyed the juxtaposition of filming terrifying scenes with the monster and then hanging out behind scenes. Caleb says, “I loved the transition of stepping into the shoes of your character in life-threatening danger and then coming out of it and hanging out with the nicest people.”

Delving into a new style of acting, Caleb enjoyed learning some of the different aspects that accompany film as opposed to stage acting. He says that while stage acting is more 3-dimensional, film requires you to adapt to being portrayed on a 2-D screen. While film strips those layers of physical dimension, Caleb says, “Those stripped layers add layers of complexity. While theatre is more inside out, film is more outside in—trying to internalize what you’re communicating instead of externalizing it.”

Sariah comments that the biggest adjustment she had to make between stage and film acting was adapting to filming the story in a non-sequential order. This pushed her to look at the script differently and find new ways to plan her character development with more specificity. Sariah says, “My MDT training helped with being part of an ensemble and working as a team. The program constantly pushes me out of my comfort zone, and that work ethic and willingness to try new things really helped me in this film process.”

Filming The Boy in the Tiny House and the Monster Who Lived Next Door gave Caleb and Sariah the opportunity to collaborate professionally and further hone their talents in the world of acting.