Student interns bring new film to campus with screening of ‘Motel Life’


Author: Charlotte Flight

Occidental student interns are making an impact in the film world, partnering with independent production companies to learn about the filmmaking process. A preview screening of new independent drama “The Motel Life” was held at Occidental on Nov. 7. The evening was hosted by two students at Occidental currently interning at production company Polsky Films.

The event was part of an extended network of 20 preview screenings on
college campuses around the country. Media Arts and Culture majors Alex Kenealy (senior) and Alyssa
Virker (junior) were asked by the company with which they intern to organize the screening at Occidental.

“We started working for Polsky after the completion of [‘The
Motel Life’],” Virker said. “So now we’re helping with the marketing
and distribution of the film.”

The screening began 45 minutes late due to technical difficulties. During the wait students had the opportunity to ask Virker and Kenealy about their work.

“We’re working in script development,” Virker said to the students. “So films produced by Polsky in the future will be even better [than ‘The Motel Life’].”

From first-time directors Alan and Gabe Polsky, “The Motel Life” depicts two working class brothers, Frank (Emile Hirsch) and Jerry (Stephen Dorff), trying to escape the consequences of a hit-and-run. The film unfolds in an episodic structure punctuated by animated stories told by younger brother Frank, which explore questions of circumstance, responsibility and love.

Alone from a young age, Jerry and Frank are determined to stay together following the death of their mother. As they attempt to run away by boarding a moving train, Jerry is pulled under and loses his leg. The brothers are then bound to each other as Jerry becomes dependent on Frank, causing them to form the strongest of familial bonds while forcing the brothers to live an isolated existence in cheap motel rooms.

Based on a novel by Willy Vlautin, the film is set against the backdrop of the Sierra Nevadan frontier. Stark images of the unforgiving terrain embody the desolate lives of the characters.

The first film to be produced and released by Polsky Films, “The Motel Life” opened in select theaters Nov. 8 one year after it premiered at the Rome Film Festival. The film won three accolades at this festival, including the Audience Award.

Virker and Kenealy will continue to intern at the production company after the film’s release.

“It’s great for Alex and I to see both ends of the film making process,” Virker said. “At work we see the development of new projects and here we see the result of the hard work.”

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