Undercover Student Director

Daniella Amendola, Print Editor

In the belly of Walsh Hall there is a small, easy-to-miss room with a few computer screens and, more often than not, a senior mass communications major named Connor Swagler.

If you have been around campus for any prolonged period of time, you have probably witnessed Swagler somewhere. He’s the guy who looks a bit like Rasputin or Jesus–a white Jesus, a distinction he will immediately point out. Swagler is a recognizable face to anyone in the arts and humanities departments, and it is not too surprising that he’s dabbled in filmmaking.

It does come as a surprise, however, that Swagler has made five films.

“I made four,” said Swagler. “Directed four, helped out a friend who directed theirs. So five, yeah.”

He is unflinchingly honest.

Swagler’s films involve a spectrum of different topics.

“One is a six word story that I made for a class, and it’s basically about a guy who’s standing at a bus stop and this other guy comes up and starts saying this crazy stuff to him, and then just kind of leaves. The other one’s a day in the life. I followed my friend around all day and, you know, just made a short out of it. ‘Paper Route’ is this other one that I did for class. And in that class everyone helped with a particular thing, and I was the director.”

His last film, “Chaos,” is one he said he made just because he “wanted to make one.”

“Chaos” is about two men who are about to rob a house, and they argue outside the house about whether to go through with the robbery. One man wants to do it, and the other does not. Then they go into the house, and that is the end of the film.

Swagler helps manage the equipment for the communications department and makes sure it gets to the students who need it. He also produces segments for television shows for the communications department and writes for The Highlander.

“I write articles – heavy hitting investigative journalism. Yeah. The good stuff,” Swagler said.

His filmmaking inspiration does not come from one singular source, but rather from genres as a whole.

“I really like dramas because they show you when to hold out a shot, just as well as, you know, comedies do. If there’s a really awkward scene that’s funny, if you hold the shot, it makes it more awkward. I like taking aspects of things and applying them to a story. Because I always visualize things before I write them down, so I always see things in a particular way, and I just have to write it down and then shoot it.”

Swagler uses his friends as actors in his films, and many of them are students.

“All the people who are in the videos that I made here have been students or are currently students. So I mean, I get a lot of help from people that are in the English department, you know, the psychology department, the computer science department, the history department, a lot of people in the theater— so I wouldn’t be able to do it if it weren’t for other departments, like the communications department. You have to have people run it, so it’s kind of hard to act in it as well.”

Swagler says he has to find the time for making films, because his passion is important to him.

One of Swagler’s films is “Paper Route,” a six minute adventure he made as a result of a class assignment. In it, a paper boy throws a paper on a woman’s porch. The woman comes out and begins yelling at him before she has her throat slit.

“For the class I submitted a script that we should do where there was a female jogger who was like jogging in the cemetery, and some dude was creeping on her, watching her, so he goes back to his place, tries to get some sleep but he can’t, and then it cuts to the woods and he’s hiding and looking for her, and he knows where she’s going to go, so he goes to attack her when she comes, but she never comes. Then he starts walking back to his house, and then she knocks him out, and she takes him to a shed and then tortures him, and then kills him.”

The class thought that the script was a little too dark. The finished product was written by Ron Williams, a 2017 Mass Communications and Design graduate because of a class vote that determined the story. Swagler offered to direct the film, and he served as cinematographer. He said he has another role on this film, but he isn’t sure what it is.

Swagler’s other talents include writing poetry. His work has been twice published in Instress, and he self-published a book called “Unpopular Art,” which consists entirely of his poetry and some of his photographs. He says he is going to be publishing another book soon.

“That one is going to be called ‘Less Experimental,’ because the poems are less experimental than the stuff I’ve written in the past. Because the first book has all these different styles and stuff, but the new one’s kind of just… really sad stuff, like bittersweet, stuff like that. But all those names sound less cheesy when you think of it in those contexts, so I thought about it as like, the art. The art that I’m putting forth is less experimental.”