Quirky and funny, with a penchant for the dark side, Jack Walterman ’17 dreams of being the next Tim Burton.

After graduating from Saint Mary’s this spring with a theatre degree, Walterman is ready for his academic sequel at one of the top film schools in the nation, the University of Southern California’s Division of Film and Television Production MFA program.

Burton once said, “Anybody with artistic ambitions is always trying to reconnect with the way they saw things as a child.”

Looking back at his life, Walterman may have always been pre-destined for a career in the film industry because his love for video production started as a kid.

“My parents had a camcorder with those little compact tapes,” he said. “My friends and I would write scripts and make videos.”

By high school, Walterman took classes that taught him some videography basics and by his senior year of high school, his parents bought him a camera of his own.

Self-defined as “quirky and funny,” Walterman likes to combine his humor with the horror genre. His first true stint behind the camera was when he convinced his friends back home to star in a two-part horror comedy called Jitters.

Then Walterman tucked his camera away for a bit, focusing on his college career, acting and directing in several theatre productions, performing in the Oldie Moldie All-Stars through Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, serving as president of Alpha Psi Omega, and coordinating the 50th anniversary of the Blue Angel musical variety show on campus.

Walterman again got the film production bug, after connecting with fellow student musician Darvell Jones ’17 (who uses the stage name Sain Levrad). The two combined talents to complete several YouTube music videos, with Walterman behind the scenes (sometimes playing backup on piano), and Jones as the star. “Over senior week, we filmed 13 music videos in four days. We’d be up until 3 a.m., take a nap, and then go again,” Walterman said. “We had a $200 camera and no budget.”

What they lacked in budget, they made up for in creativity. Each video is unique. The two lit a fire atop a piano, set a piano on a flatbed trailer and performed while moving, and filmed in the Mississippi River, in the bluffs, and even in a building under construction. Sometimes they filmed in the dark.

With the success of these videos, the two again collaborated on a Thriller video this past fall, starring Saint Mary’s students as Jones’ zombie backup dancers.

Not surprisingly, Walterman’s adviser Judy Myers encouraged him to consider pursuing film school.

Walterman already thought his career path was in the can. He had directed St. Charles High School students in one-act competition, coached Cotter High School speech students, and taught at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.

But the possibility intrigued him enough to apply to the top film schools in America, including the University of Southern California’s Division of Film and Television Production MFA program. Knowing he was competing against students from across the nation and beyond, he sent in a personal statement and résumé, a graduation film project proposal (Jitters), and Thriller.

In January, he received a phone interview with a film-editing professor who asked him why he wanted to attend USC. “I conquered Guthrie as a sophomore undergrad,” Walterman said. “I told him, ‘What can I do if I take a chance and face a fear and chase a dream?’ ”

In his subsequent admittance letter, Walterman was told, “The Cinematic Arts faculty identified you as one of the more talented applicants in this year’s applicant pool.” He will begin in spring of 2018, potentially earlier.

Designing his own happy ending, Walterman would love one day to direct in the comedy/horror genre. He specifies that when Jones becomes famous, Walterman will film his music documentary.

“Saint Mary’s helped me find my artistic voice, be a leader on campus, and provide me the space to make these videos,” Walterman said. “And I formed close relationships with faculty who helped me get internships and jobs. I’ve grown so much. I wanted to be an individual, not a number. I wanted to be known. It definitely happened here.”

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