Actors in Beloit College student’s film

This screenshot image from Claire Read’s short film “Staring at Socks” shows the two lead characters at a train station. Read, a student at Beloit College, wrote and directed the film for a class project while studying abroad in Australia.

BELOIT—When it comes to creating a compelling film, Beloit College student Claire Read has learned sometimes simplicity is best.

Read wrote a screenplay and directed a six-minute film while studying abroad in Australia.

The payoff came April 19 when her project, titled “Staring at Socks,” was featured in the Wisconsin Film Festival’s live stream on YouTube for 24 hours.

While the annual film festival was moved online due to Safer-at-Home guidelines, Read said numerous people still saw the short film and reached out with good feedback, and she feels inspired to push her skills to the next level in filmmaking.

“It was cool to get behind the camera and be that person that guides everything along. It was my first real taste of film, and I just fell in love with it,” said Read, a 22-year-old Madison native. “I was super excited and really proud of my crew.”

The film is centered on a young woman struggling with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) who is trying to visit her mother and plan a 50th birthday party.

Read said she wanted to portray how simple tasks can become difficult mountains to climb for people who have intrusive thoughts.

Joe Bookman, a professor at Beloit College, said he wasn’t at all surprised when he heard Read’s film was chosen to be showcased.

He said Read is a rising star in creative writing, stand-up comedy and filmmaking and is an exemplary student.

“Claire is tremendously talented. I knew she was capable of something like this,” Bookman said.

Read said her international student group found a pair of actors, Laneikka Denne and Oli Stening, on a casting website called StarNow. Read said she knew almost immediately that the lead actress was perfect for the role.

Picking the right locations to shoot was a stroke of luck, Read said. They coordinated with local authorities in Sydney, Australia, who allowed them to film at an empty train station free of charge.

Bookman said short films are challenging to create because the story is condensed and must keep up momentum to keep viewers invested. Honing in on intimate character dialogue, minimizing background details and staring as far into the plot as possible are among multiple strategies film students are taught on how to create immersive stories.

“It really is a different beast. You have to tap into a different energy very quickly,” Bookman said. “Each project is its own custom job.”

Read said good cinematography allows the audience to interact with the story on their own, which makes watching movies fun. She initially felt nervous about whether viewers would care enough about the story, but reminded herself to trust the creative process and her team.