Loyola University Chicago

Department of Fine and Performing Arts

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Theatre Alumnus works at the intersection of performing and cinematic arts

Theatre Alumnus works at the intersection of performing and cinematic arts

The Loyola Theatre Program prides itself on creating interdisciplinary artists, prepared to adapt to an ever-evolving industry. In one’s training at Loyola, the department hopes to inspire and support a student’s additional interests, as well. Two years after graduating, theatre alumnus Max Gustafson (BA, ‘18) spoke with us about where his career is taking him, and how Loyola prepared him for his latest artistic endeavors.

Since graduating from Loyola, Max says he has “shifted [his] focus from theatrical directing to film directing and production.” “Filmmaking is such an intense and rigorous process with so many moving parts and facets,” Max told us. “The freedom of producing my own work and collaborating with friends has been extremely rewarding.” During his senior year, Max directed 1984 as a Second Stage production, utilizing the opportunity to include filmed scenes as an experiment. He credits this experience as being “transformative” in discovering his love of filmmaking.

The interdisciplinary training Max received as a theatre major not only inspired him to explore film, but provided him the skills he needed to start his career. His undergraduate education has equipped him for the soundstage through experiences of all types, from producing and management to writing and design. “Working with micro budgets,” Max explained, “it requires a lot of versatility. Often, I am a one-person army directing, running cinematography, editing, and even sound.” The variety opportunities offered at Loyola have also inspired Max’s latest work.

Max’s most recent film i’m fine is described as a piece “that physicalizes the feelings of anxiety through dance.” The work is intended to “help create awareness of how many people suffer from anxiety,” he explains, “and to break the stereotype that seeking help is a sign of weakness.” Originally a live performance by Chicago dance company LOUD BODIES, founded by Loyola Dance Program alumni, Max’s adaptation of i’m fine has roots in his undergraduate career. “I jumped at the chance to make this film because I love dance,” Max explained. Involved in the Loyola Dance Program as an upperclassman through classes and run crew for two dance performances, the Department of Fine and Performing Arts offered interdisciplinary opportunities both in and outside of the classroom that enhanced Max’s credibility as a working artist 

i’m fine premiered in February 2020 at the In/Motion Film Festival, hosted at Loyola. “It was awesome to see my work in the theater I used to go to so often,” Max said. Seeing his work debut at his alma mater was a meaningful symbol of both where he had come from, and where he was going as a Chicago artist. Reflecting on his experience, Max noted, i’m fine is the first film I produced, but I do consider 1984 my first film.”  

Currently, Max is in post-production for a second short film, TOW, that he both wrote and directed, starring theatre alumnae Audrey Anderson and Kennedy Bohm. Some of Max Gustafson’s additional work can be seen at mrgustafson.com.