WSC alum returns to Wayne for feature film debut

Maddie Genoways, Staff Writer

On Feb. 21, the Majestic Theater on Main Street will host the world premiere of “Between the Lines,” a feature-length generational drama written and directed by Wayne State College alumna, Shelby Hagerdon. 

The premiere is free and open to the public. Doors open at 6:45 p.m., with screening expected to begin at 7 p.m. and end around 8:20 p.m. There will be an open panel discussion with the cast and crew after the film. 

The film follows a young woman as she searches for a new life after looking after her disabled mother and enduring the emotional abuse of her grandmother for many years. Hagerdon describes the film as a story of complicated women and the long process of healing generational trauma. 

According to Hagerdon, “Between the Lines” has been in the works since her senior year of college, where she wrote the entire script in three days as part of her application to grad school.  

“The initial idea for the story came about through conversations with friends,” Hagerdon said. “My last year at Wayne was a time of huge transition, and the film kind of represents that same feeling.” 

Like most things post-pandemic, Hagerdon’s path to grad school was full of roadblocks and last-ditch efforts.  

“The graduate programs I was applying to had no funding after COVID, so they weren’t even open to new applicants,” Hagerdon said. “Then I saw that Emerson College was still accepting applications. I’m a believer that the craziest ideas are usually the best ones, so I thought ‘what the hell,’ and sent in my application with the script for the film.”  

Hagerdon is currently working towards her MFA in writing for film and television at Emerson College. 

Mike White, co-director and associate professor of communication at WSC, has been working with Hagerdon since she was a student in his class.  

She had kind of pushed her way into helping with my film, ‘To Live Again,’ which says something about her conviction, since I always prided myself on working alone,” White said. “This summer she came to me and asked me to co-direct this new film she had written. I initially said no.”  

White credits the quick progress of filming to Hagerdon’s background in film production.  

“Because she had gone to film school, Shelby had a really good grasp of production and film theory,” White said. “She’s unique in that she comes from a production background here at WSC. That, and she also worked production at an animation company in Sioux Falls.”  

Both White and Hagerdon can agree that their filming process is anything but relaxed. 

“We’re indie filmmakers, so we treat filming like guerilla warfare,” Hagerdon said. “Call time is 7 a.m., we get there, get costumes, rush to one location to film just a few minutes, then rush on to the next. We were working at actual businesses who needed to open and serve customers, so we were running around to accommodate their hours.”  

Despite the stressful process of writing, directing and producing her own film, Hagerdon recalls the project fondly.  

“Every day was chaos,” Hagerdon said, “but I’m very happy with the results.” 

In her film, Hagerdon has brought the female perspective front and center.  

“I really wanted to provide quality roles to women of varying ages,” Hagerdon said. “I tried to provide them with deeper and more fleshed out characters than just your typical mom and grandma puttering around in the background.” 

Hagerdon is committed to the inclusion of older actors in film.  

“The acting industry is fierce, and once you turn 30 it gets much harder to find a role, especially one that offers any kind of emotional depth,” Hagerdon said. “The three main characters are older than the girls you’d usually see in movies; one in her 30s, one in her 50s and one in her 80s. I wanted to create a story that would allow a space for these actresses to grow and flourish. I want this film to showcase their talents and prove that their age doesn’t make them any less valuable.” 

While the characters of the film may not all be traditionally likable, Hagerdon believes that they are a much more honest and realistic depiction of everyday women.  

“I’m a big believer in the ‘sit at a typewriter and bleed’ mentality,” Hagerdon said. “My writing is honest to life; I like to write characters I could see myself becoming, or want to be friends with.” 

With her first feature film now under her belt, Hagerdon encourages hopeful filmmakers at WSC to fight for their vision and make use of the resources offered to them.  

“Go make your movies, no matter what it takes, whether you have a budget or not,” Hagerdon said. “Film school gives you access to resources you’ll never have again, but it’s also your big chance to meet the people you’ll work with for the rest of your career. Spend your time in college making friends and connections, they’ll bring you the opportunities you need when you finally get to make your vision a reality.”