Matthew Derrico ’14 has a new favorite animal: the elephant. Specifically, elephants in Thailand, which he spent 10 days working with in April.
Derrico was a participant in the first Thailand International Film Destination Festival. He and partner Mackenzie Dupuy, who studies film in Canada, were one of 50 teams accepted out of over 800 applicants to take part in the contest.
Derrico, a psychology major, pitched a few story ideas to Dupuy and they agreed on the best one – Derrico learned the elephant is Thailand’s national animal when he studied abroad there first semester. “I did everything a producer would do and he [Dupuy] filmed it,” said Derrico. After two days of orientation, the team was given a van, a driver, a production assistant and six days to film and edit on a $1,000 budget.
“The original idea was A; what we came up with was Z at the end,” Derrico said. The film focuses on the Thai Elephant Conservation Center in Lampang,Thailand, but it also includes background on elephants, especially how their numbers are dwindling. “The plan was to put something in to send a message home,” he said.
After staying in a wide variety of places, from high-end hotels to hostels with outdoor showers, the teams gathered for the culmination of the contest: a red carpet gala. Derrico and Dupuy’s film, Through the Eyes of an Elephant, received the Best Editing award, which came with Derrico’s “first big cardboard check,” which he plans to use to pay off loans. He and Dupuy had no thank-you speech prepared when they accepted the award. “I gave a speech like in the real Oscars. I hit all the stereotypical things.”
“It was a roller coaster of a trip,” said Derrico, who is interested in continuing to travel and work in film. “I like the idea of ultimately sending a message through film. People will look back in society and see what the culture was about.”