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MMC Student Gains International Acclaim with Short Film

An assignment that Alexandra Maxwell ’25 completed for her Directing Fiction class last fall did more than earn her an A—it’s making waves on the international film festival circuit and snapped up two awards this month.

The project, an eight-minute film titled Cool Off, about a bullied teenager who dies by suicide, won the Best Student Short Film Award at Amsterdam’s Art In Motion Film Festival and the Best Editing Award at the Toronto Indie Filmmakers Festival. It was a semi-finalist at Brooklyn’s DUMBO Film Festival and an official selection at several other showcases, including the Purple Sky International Film Festival, Aphelion Film Festival, and the Japan International Film Festival.

Maxwell, a Film and Media Production major and Theatre minor, started working on Cool Off after course instructor Professor Cyrille Phipps told students to create a short film telling whatever fictional story they chose. “That gave me the pathway to be as creative as I wanted,” Maxwell said.

She focused on teen suicide to help shed light on the topic and point young people who may be struggling to potential resources. Maxwell is donating proceeds from the film, including any prize money, to the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. “Suicide prevention is an important issue to talk about, and I always want my work to help people and support organizations I care about,” she said.

With a film crew that included classmate Juan Marin ’26, she shot scenes in Manhattan and upstate New York. Then, while editing the project, she sought advice from another Communication and Media Arts Department mentor, Professor Erin Greenwell. “Between Professor Phipps and Professor Greenwell, I got so much support,” she said. “I’m really happy that I have two great professors I can talk to when I need to.”

Maxwell’s work has been selected for festivals before, including her short animation A Brief History of Fish, which won Best Animation at the Hollywood Gold Awards, and her short film Heartache, which won a silver award at the New York Movie Awards. But Cool Off has so far garnered the most awards and the most views on Maxwell’s YouTube channel.

“Awards are exciting, but in the end, I’m just glad I’m making progress with each film I make,” Maxwell said. “There’s always room to grow.”

Published: March 22, 2024