Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Friday

October 5, 2012

Interlochen grad pursues film dreams

Chad Engel, who has worked in special effects, is producing own movie

TRAVERSE CITY — Chad Engel has gumption, not to mention creative talent.

The 22-year-old, former Traverse City resident, moved to Los Angeles three years ago to pursue his dream of breaking into the film making business.

"I didn't know anyone, didn't have a network," said Engel, the former Traverse City West Senior High School student and graduate of Interlochen Arts Academy.

Not only did Engel land a job working with a top special effects makeup artist, he set his sites on producing and directing his own film.

Engel credits his fascination with fantastic films to watching the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy as a youngster.

"I got excited, intrigued about what happened behind the scenes; I knew I wanted to go into films," he said.

A film class during eighth grade confirmed Engel's interest and proved he had a talent for the art form.

"I fell in love with editing, filming," he said.

After completing high school studying film at Interlochen Arts Academy, Engel didn't waste time before making a move to the west coast.

"I moved to Los Angeles and started working in special effects makeup for Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice."

Engel soon became an assistant to special effects makeup artist and two-time Academy Award nominee, Kazuhiro Tsuji.

While he loved working with the man he considers a mentor, Engel says the idea of starting out on his own was growing.

He took advice from Tsuji and was inspired to write and direct the film he considers a thesis of everything he has learned so far.

"He told me, 'make sure your ladder is on the right wall before you start climbing.' My heart was really in making movies," he said.

Earlier this year, Engel made the decision to dedicate all of his time to producing a short film, "Ayden and the Stork."

The children's story tells of a boy who tries to catch his little sister's stork because he doesn't want her to be born.

"It is a bit of self-reflection, the boy is definitely a part of me," said Engel, who wanted to tell the story of becoming an older brother.

With the collaboration of many talented friends, funding from two coveted grants and hours and hours of work, the film is nearly complete.

"I received the Panavision and FotoKem grants so we could shoot on 35mm film," he said.

The edited version is currently in the process of being transferred from film to video. While grants allowed Engel to film in his preferred medium, the cost of finishing his prize project is more than his tight budget has allowed. He is turning to friends, fellow filmmakers and his community for help with post production costs.

"I'm hoping to finish it in time to shop it around at festivals, gain attention. I already have ideas for a feature length version," he said.

For more information on "Ayden and the Stork," including a trailer and information on donating, visit

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