Keegan Carlson

Frozen in time: A film student's creative response to the pandemic

By

Deborah Sussman

As a new member of Herberger Institute Professor Daniel Bernard Roumain’s DBR Lab, ASU film student Keegan Carlson was looking forward to performing with the lab at National Sawdust in Brooklyn, New York, this spring. When plans for that culminating performance came to a halt in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Carlson found himself, like so many other students, socially distancing and “meeting” with his fellow lab members over Zoom.

One day, on a bike ride through downtown Phoenix with his boyfriend, Carlson was drawn to a group of life-size sculpted figures by artist John Waddell outside Herberger Theater.

“The statues of the dancers frozen in time spoke to me,” Carlson said.

Inspired, he made a short film titled "Humanity In Us."

“After I pieced together the film, I immediately wanted Daniel to be a part of it,” Carlson said. “Every week since we’ve been in quarantine, we’ve been talking about this whole coronavirus thing in class. And Daniel is an incredible composer.”

Roumain was impressed by Carlson’s work.

“I think this is a good example of an ASU student responding to the most urgent and critical needs facing our communities, with grace within their creative practice,” Roumain said.

A Phoenix-based filmmaker in his final year at ASU, Carlson plans to graduate in December with a degree in film and media production with an emphasis on directing. In 2018, he won best director for his film “Lemonade” at the Scottsdale Short Film Festival and was an official selection for the Phoenix Film Festival.

“Humanity in Us” is the first time Carlson has collaborated with Roumain directly.

“Working with Daniel has been more than anything inspiring,” Carlson said. “He has such a way of motivating and validating us as artists. He has a great way of making us feel like all the work we are doing is so important. That motivation alone has helped tremendously, let alone all his real-life experience and knowledge that he’s sharing with all the lab members. It’s been really great learning the business side of putting on a show, learning about Daniel’s professional career and how he got there.”

Video courtesy Keegan Carlson

Carlson said that the powerful message in his film is “elevated by the extremely emotional and moving score.”

“I hope that this film is a message and a reminder for people to really think about how they treat other people during this time,” Carlson said. “I hope it moves you to hold your hand out to people in need and share and be compassionate.”