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"Transient" a compelling display of cinematography

By Mary Zagula
On December 7, 2012

  • “Transient” creator and WSU student Nicholas Rexford smiles alongside his two lead actors in the film. photo by Mary Zagula

Filmed over the three month summer period in various locations in Westfield and Worcester, what began as an independent study project, the film "Transient," turned into a leading example of humanitarianism, craftsmanship, and cinematography at its finest. 

"Transient" made its debut last Saturday, December 1st, at 7:30p.m. in Dever Auditorium at Westfield State University. Approximately 64 minutes in length, the film followed the plight of two characters - a homeless man just trying to survive and a businessman whose world is rapidly crumbling- and their experiences and introduction to the world of poverty and homelessness.

"The life of a homeless person involves a lot of wandering around from place to place, and having little knowledge about what the future holds. This is where the title, 'Transient,' spawns from," said producer and co-writer Nicholas Rexford, a senior Communication major at WSU.

Ninety-four people from all over New England showed up for the "unpaid student film" casting call posted on After a 6-hour audition process the 24 person cast was finally selected.

"I have been in a number of student films, but I've never had the privilege of being involved with a project with such scope," said leading actor David Brown, who played the role of the homeless man.

Brown felt the film was successful in accomplishing Rexford's goal of countering the common stigma and preconceptions of homelessness being only a result of poor decisions, such as drugs and alcohol.

"Homelessness," said Brown, "is the result of many outside societal factors and can affect anyone." He went on to say that the threat of being homeless could be only a few steps away from any one of us.

Other leading actor, Patrick Fahey, who played the anxious businessman, said that the topic of homelessness is what originally drew him to the film. One night after being casted, but before the filming of "Transient" began, Fahey grilled up some steaks, peppers, and pineapples, bought a pack of cigarettes and six pack of beer, and walked a couple of blocks to where he knew local homeless men hung out at night.

 "We sat sharing the food and drinks, and stories for a good three hours," said Fahey. "It was one of the great experiences of my life."

It can be said that Rexford's skillful knowledge and application of camera work, helped to beautifully convey "Transient's" enlightening message.

"Nick has such a strong eye for composition of frame," said Madeline Cahill, Rexford's faculty advisor for the project. Cahill, a known film connoisseur, has taught several film courses at WSU.

"One of the scenes that remains in my mind, is of the homeless man walking through an opening in a fence with reeds blowing in the foreground," said Cahill. "He is in the background. No one sees him, no one hears him-he's silent; he appears to be like a ghost. But he's not a ghost. He's a real person with a complicated life story, which we all have. And that's what Nick's film is trying to say."

To add to the list of positive attributes, "Transient" provided audience members with an unexpected plot twist. Toward the end of the film it was revealed that the storyline was actually portraying two separate points in time, making it even more apparent how an individual could be pulled into poverty.

"I kind of had the basic idea that the two characters were somehow connected," said WSU junior Dylan Welsted, "But I was surprised when we found out they were actually one in the same."

Rexford shared his success with others by thanking everyone who helped him during the filmmaking process, both with production and support.

Among the many he mentioned who helped collaborate in making "Transient," he noted WSU seniors Peter Gucwa for co-writing the story, Jeff Carvalho for creating the original score soundtrack, and Robin Reiss for doing the production sound.

"Nick is one of the kindest and most easy going people I've ever met. There was never a time during the writing process that I felt rushed. I am excited to see what other works of art that he will create," said Gucwa.

Gucwa's sentiment concerning Rexford's character and potential as a groundbreaking filmmaker seems to be a common opinion among those who have either worked with Rexford, or seen his movies.

"I remember saying I could tell he was a humanitarian," said Cahill. "And he said something that, to me, epitomizes Nick Rexford. He said, 'I love people and I love loving people.'"

Cahill said, "I think that's all you need to know about Nick. The world's a better place because of him and I know he's going to do great things with film; he's going to do more films that make the world a better place." 

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