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“The Watchers” is a film adaptation of the 2022 book of the same name by A.M. Shine.
Review: “The Watchers”
Published June 13, 2024

“Undergrads”: College life is like a movie

Three college students aim to depict modern college life in their upcoming film “Undergrads.”
Image by Parker Johnson
The Bogey’s Lounge stands in St. Paul on Monday Sep. 27th. The business was one of several shooting locations for Student Directors Andrew Zuckerman, Dylan Orth and John Cronin for their film “Undergrads,” shot over the summer.

It seems like a movie comes out almost every year with the “college kid plot:” a narrative filled with Greek life escapades and ceaseless partying. Those tropes have long defined college students in film, but now a few student-filmmakers are ready to set the record straight.

A group of college seniors took on a film endeavor for the ages. Their film “Undergrads” is based on an eight-person friend group maneuvering college life throughout a weekend. The film was created in part by two University of Minnesota fourth-year students, John Cronin and Andrew Zuckerman, along with Dillon Orth, a fourth-year student at DePaul University.

“It was cool for me to shoot something in the Twin Cities. Growing up watching movies, you don’t see the Twin Cities in popular films often,” said Cronin, “Undergrads” co-producer. Some more notable places include the St. Vincent de Paul thrift shop, Bogey’s Lounge and Stacked Deck Brewing.

All three met while attending Henry Sibley High School in Mendota Heights. Zuckerman and Orth wrote shorter screenplays in their teen years, but “Undergrads” is their biggest screenplay and most ambitious project to date.

“The intent was to do something that captured our generation as best as possible. Done by people our age and not like 50-year-olds,” said Zuckerman, the co-director, co-producer and co-writer.

Zuckerman attended New York University in 2018 before transferring to the University of Minnesota his third year. While in New York, he met Ali Rosenthal, a student from Stanford University. She contributed to the film by bringing theater majors from Stanford into the project. The students also used the site Backstage, which works as a database for profiles of movie actors trying to find work.

“Nobody really had much experience,” said Zuckerman. “It was all these young people who are trying to make it, trying to come up in the industry.”

Filming started in August 2019 and pre-production finished at the end of August this year. Fund collection for post production is still underway, after which the crew will be able to edit and finalize the film. “It’s finding the pieces to finish it off at this point,” said Orth, co-writer, co-producer and an actor for “Undergrads.”

Many obstacles popped up throughout the filming process. Given the project was initially fully funded by the college students themselves, financial obstacles hit first. The film budget was $28,000.

“The three of us put in and drained our savings,” Cronin said. Funding for the film then came from family and friends, and later the trio decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign. Thus far, the campaign has been their best asset for earning funding. They are now in search of local donors to finish post production.

Once the money got sorted, the COVID-19 virus became the next hurdle for the film trio.

“[COVID-19] was on our radar as soon as it started and it just became a major focus in
pre-production and everyday stepping on set,” Orth said. “It was an added stressor for sure.”

Fortunately for the crew, prices for rental venues and Airbnb’s were falling due to COVID-19. Suddenly, the filming budget was able to cover filming set costs because every get-away or party location marked down its fees.

Completing the filming gave the cast higher hopes for the project’s future. But the producers don’t yet have a timeline for the film’s release date, according to Zuckerman.

“It depends on the film festivals and stuff. It kind of depends on distribution, which would be the best case scenario, whether it’s a streaming service or whatever it is.”

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified an “Undergrads” filming location.

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