SMU Film Grad Directs Feature-Length Film, “Elsewhere, TX”

McHenry Taylor works on a short film for one his finals, Tuesday, December 13, 2016 in Umphrey Lee Center. For his engaged learning project, McHenry wrote the script and directed the feature length film “Elsewhere, TX”.

McHenry Taylor graduated from SMU on Dec. 17 with experience few film graduates list on their resumes. He wrote the script and directed a feature-length film, “Elsewhere, TX,” which will debut in May 2017 at SMU.

A film and media arts major, Taylor had written and directed short films for class. But in the summer of 2015 he submitted his “Elsewhere” script to be considered for SMU’s Film and Media Arts department’s summer film production project, a two-year, student-run endeavor. All crew heads working on the film – director, producers, cinematographer, production designer, editor, sound mixer – are current SMU students or recent alumni.The post-apocalyptic western is a cross between Catcher in the Rye, a spaghetti western and a survival film, Taylor says. “I came to SMU knowing I wanted to study film,” Taylor says. “I was determined to take advantage of every opportunity that walked by.”

The summer film project requires that students create a budget, raise money, audition actors and find a location. Filming takes place for two weeks on-location during the summer, with pre-production work completed the year before, and post-production work the year after. “Elsewhere” is in the editing and marketing phase of production.

“The SMU film department is unique in giving students complete control of the 90-minute film,” says Mark Kerins, associate professor of film and media arts, and adviser to the summer film production project. “As mentors and advisers, the faculty tries to protect students from making big mistakes, without hand holding.”

After Taylor submitted his script, he assembled a director/producer team with fellow film majors Trevor Thrall and Natalie Khraish, then applied to direct the film. A committee of film faculty members and Dallas-area film-makers selected Taylor’s script and team, setting in motion script revision, actor auditions, crew head selection and money-raising. As Engaged Learning fellows, Taylor and Khraish also received mentoring and financial support from SMU’s Engaged Learning program.

In June of 2016, Taylor, 15 actors, a crew of 19 students and a high school friend or two descended on the small East Texas town of Nacogdoches for filming. The steamy rural locale set the tone for the story of a gun-slinging stranger and a young boy who navigate the dangers of a post-apocalyptic South, learning much from one another in the process. Co-producer Trevor Thrall, a Nacogdoches native, recruited friends and family to house and feed the crew and actors as well as provide locations for the film. A local television station covered their efforts.

“Making the movie was a thousand trials by fire,” Taylor says. “We worked for 15 straight days in 100-degree heat. The film features a 12-year-old boy who was acting for the first time. Most of our actors were theatre-trained and had never done film before. But in the end, we were a bunch of kids who knew what we wanted to do.”

After Commencement, Taylor will continue to direct “Elsewhere’s” film editing. Then he would like to write and direct sci-fi films.

Read more about “Elsewhere, TX” 

Art Dance Film Music Theatre

Why SMU Meadows? Six Questions for Students

Sasha Davis, B.F.A. Theatre/ Theatre Studies ’16
Sasha Davis, B.F.A. Theatre/ Theatre Studies ’16

Hear five students talk about their choices, majors, internships and more

“… Totally got my world flipped … We think you can do great things … Ability to double major …” are just some of the comments shared by five performing and visual arts majors on why they picked SMU Meadows as their college of choice. They were also accepted to such schools as Carnegie Mellon, Berkeley, UCLA, University of Rochester, Indiana University, University of Minnesota, University of Texas-Austin, Florida State University, Marymount Manhattan, The Hartt School, Santa Clara University, Pomona College, University of Nevada/Las Vegas, Texas Christian University and more. Find out why they chose SMU:


Dance Film

Watch: SMU Meadows Double-Major Cayla Simpson’s Spring Dance Concert Preview

The concert opens with Appalachian Spring, one of Martha Graham’s signature works. Written at the end of World War II, it is a depiction of Americana.
The concert opens with Appalachian Spring, one of Martha Graham’s signature works. Written at the end of World War II, it is a depiction of Americana.

The world premiere of a new interpretation of Stravinsky’s The Firebird highlights the Spring Dance Concert at SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts, March 31-April 3. The concert opens with Appalachian Spring, one of Martha Graham’s signature works. Written at the end of World War II, it is a depiction of Americana. The story tells of a spring celebration set in 19th-century Pennsylvania as a young bride arrives in her new home.

The program continues with Tschaikovsky’s Pas de Deux, an eight-minute display of ballet bravura and technique set to music that Tchaikovsky belatedly created in 1877 for Act III of Swan Lake.

The night promises to be equal parts visual poetry and choreographic expression. SMU Meadows student Cayla Simpson, a double major in Dance and Film, made this can’t-miss preview of the groundbreaking concert. Here’s the full video:

[youtube width=”853″ height=”420″][/youtube]

The Spring Dance Concert takes place in the Bob Hope Theatre in the Owen Arts Center, 6101 Bishop Blvd. on the SMU campus. Performance times are 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $13 for adults, $10 for seniors and $7 for students, SMU faculty and staff. Free parking is available at Hillcrest and Binkley or in the garage under the Meadows Museum. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 214-768-2787.


Watch: This New Video from SMU Film and Media Features Homages to Film’s Iconic Monsters

Director of Photography Jake Wilganowski on the boulevard with zombie Sarah
Director of Photography Jake Wilganowski (R) on the boulevard with zombie Sarah Adams (Zombie screen L)

By Nick Rallo (Director of Marketing & SMU Meadows B.A. in Cinema-Television, ’06)

The call time for the zombies in the Bob Hope Lobby was 10 a.m., and there was a 2:00 p.m. on-set call time for our cyborg assassin. This was the on-set scene during the production of a short film produced by SMU Meadows Film & Media Arts, Meadows Marketing and several of our all-star alumni. Embedded in the film, you’ll see a Nosferatu, a time-traveling cyborg, roving zombies, and our homage to the bunny costume from Donnie Darko (2001). The icons from science-fiction and horror are not arbitrarily referenced; They are homages to the iconic genres SMU Meadows Film faculty are teaching every day.


With SMU Film’s new Master of Arts in Popular Film and Media Studies degree, students will learn theories and philosophies of film and media through intensive examination of Hollywood film studio genres, the impact of organized fandom on the development of science-fiction and fantasy television series, the ways popular media have been vilified for political gain and more. No other M.A. film program in the United States focuses so intently on the relationship of popular media to cultural concerns. 

In honor, the idea behind the short film began as an homage to a scene from Shaun of the Dead (2004), wherein Shaun, the lead character, blissfully ignorant of the zombie apocalypse that has laid waste to the streets, stumbles into work. From there, the Meadows teams, working with expert freelancers, fleshed out a concept that features a handful of iconic creatures and references to science-fiction, fantasy and horror. Each of the creatures was hand-crafted–in some way–for the short film. 

One of the biggest challenges following graduation is the first step: As a student of the arts, what do you do with your degree in the first few months after graduating? In May of 2015, Meadows Theatre alum and star of Paranormal Activity Katie Featherston addressed the class of 2015, in a touching moment in her Commencement speech:

“You’re entering the world as a Meadows Alum, which means you’re part of a network of committed and deeply talented people who can be the foundation of your professional life.”

Communications Film

Fearless Foodies: Two Meadows Alums Start an Edible Movement

Photo by Meadows alum Claire McCormack Hogan
Meadows alum Claire McCormack Hogan started a new passion project after graduation: Food photography

For Meadows alums Jennie Kelley and Claire McCormack Hogan, working with food was the beginning of a new movement.

Both alums left Meadows with a trajectory in mind, then adapted their majors into intriguing, and now buzzing, careers in the food industry. MPRINT checked in with the alums to talk about what paths led them to food, how they handled post-college challenges and how Meadows inspired them along the way.

Courtesy Jennie Kelley
Jennie Kelley (B.A. Film ’96) is the creator and co-chef of FRANK, an underground restaurant – Photo Benjamin Gibson Photography

JENNIE KELLEY (B.A. Film ’96) is a food stylist in Dallas, a MasterChef Season 2 finalist, a founding member of the popular symphonic choral group The Polyphonic Spree and creator and co-chef of FRANK, the underground restaurant.

I got the culinary bug from years of traveling around the globe with my band and musical ensemble, The Polyphonic Spree. I would be in random places, from Japan to San Francisco, and research the best places to eat. At first, it was because I loved food and thought, “When am I going to be back here? I better try this now!” Then, I felt inspiration from those chefs. I would go home and try to recreate my favorite dishes from the road for my friends at home.

Later I researched alternative restaurants and discovered the Underground Restaurant movement. I read the book Secret Suppers by Jenn Tracy Garbee and knew I wanted to bring that concept to Dallas. It wasn’t until after I was on MasterChef and met my then-competitor, now chef and partner, Ben Starr, that it became a reality with FRANK.

At FRANK, we do themed dinners, and one of my favorites was “Godfather Frank.” I researched, exhaustively, all of the food in the Francis Ford Coppola film, including the food’s history and the history of the dishes from Corleone, Sicily. It was inspiring to combine my film major with my most recent creative outlet, and cook and devise the menus based on this inspiration.

I loved my training at SMU. I’ve always loved learning, and it truly is a wonderful institution that fosters that love. It’s amazing when I think back on how small and intimate my classes were. I have the fondest memories of classes with Professor Alessandra Comini in art history and Professor Rick Worland in film. At the end of the day, Meadows instills a realization: If you have a fulfilled life, you will always be learning. That realization has made its way into my love of cooking. Also, Meadows inspired uniqueness and creativity. I’m a food stylist for photo shoots and commercials, and I think both my film and art history training helped hone my design and visual eye.