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The Scarlet & Black

A bear-y successful Titular Head

people with stuffed animals jlsjhlithw’13. Photo by John Brady
Will Eslas ’14 and Patty Murphy-Geiss ’14 celebrate their win. Photo Contributed


Last Saturday, April 26, despite occasional instances of heckling, objects thrown onstage and frequent technical difficulties, Titular Head successfully continued Grinnell’s tradition as a longstanding creative outlet for student-made films. Will Elsas and Patty Murphy-Geiss (both ’14) won first prize with their video entitled “The Beargrounds.”

The film was shot as a day in the life of a giant teddy bear named Charles Benson who gallivants around Grinnell, visiting familiar places such as the Spencer Grill and McNally’s Foods. The film is made endearing by Benson’s seemingly magical walking abilities. Elsas and Murphy-Geiss’s combined puppeteering and editing skills made this effect possible.

“We wanted it to be as real as possible so that there was no human hand in it,” Elsas said. “Although there is no possible way the bear is living, we wanted it to seem like he was alive. It was fun to be at McNally’s and in public carrying the bear around. He made little adventures outside, and he got to fly a kite! It was kind of just fun to create a day in the life of Charles Benson as if he were a real thing.”

Winning this year’s Tithead was especially meaningful for both Elsas and Murphy-Geiss as fourth-year students. For Murphy-Geiss, scooping first prize was the cherry on top to her experience at Grinnell.

“I have never submitted, so it was kind of nice [to submit and] to win senior year. It’s one of those things you gotta do before you graduate,” she said.

Elsas saw winning first place as the culmination of the dedication and passion he has developed for film editing over his four years at Grinnell.

“It’s been something I’ve been pretty addicted to, photo editing and Tithead, all four years,” Elsas said. “I submitted one video [my] first year, two videos second year and a bunch of videos third year … It’s been something I’ve been involved with all four years, and probably my favorite thing about Grinnell.”

The Tithead submissions standards for videos have traditionally been fairly open, but last year’s acceptance process caused controversy by introducing stricter guidelines. This year’s TitHead committee organizers Chris Gallo, Nick Conway, Aaltan Ahmad, Arthur Richardson and Robbie Menner (all ’14) have partially reversed last year’s selection changes and tried to accept as many submissions as possible.

“We didn’t ask for many edits. The only edits we asked to make were subtitles and length, because people have a very short attention span. Most edits we asked for were subtitles because people are going to be yelling and screaming and we wanted people’s films to be understood,” Ahmad said. “We let pretty much anything in unless it was just unnecessarily boring or had nothing going on. We didn’t want to cut anything. It’s not like we went in with the intention of having a power trip of getting to select submissions.”

Even with the relaxed submissions standards, however, there was some debate within the committee about which submissions should be shown at the event.

“There were several videos that had contention among us whether it should have gotten in or not,” Richardson said. “There was one video that didn’t have a lot to do with Grinnell, and I personally felt that shouldn’t be played. But other arguments were like: ‘It was a Grinnellian that made this video, it makes it a valid submission.’ So we ended up putting it in.”

Technical difficulties have become somewhat of an inadvertent tradition in Titular Head. This year was no exception, as videos onscreen sometimes paused while the audio component continued to play. Richardson says these technical issues were largely unforeseen.

“Getting submissions, selecting submissions was fine, putting them all together in a program went fine. Until the day of, when everything went to sh*t. None of the programs we used worked for us, and then all the exports stopped working, so we had to pull in a backup computer to run the final,” Richardson said. “It all turned into a disaster. It was not anything we could have done. We could have started earlier, but we couldn’t have done that because of all the last minute submissions we got.”

Despite these difficulties, Tithead 2014 served its purpose of continuing a Grinnell tradition and creating bonds between Grinnellians over peer-created pieces. Murphy-Geiss said showing her submission was her favorite part of the show.

“We watched the film so many times before we presented it, and it took a lot of editing. We’d watch it every time, and we’d laugh every time … But it was just sort of great to watch it at Tithead, with everyone’s reactions, everyone laughing at whatever we laughed at,” she said. “It was a roller coaster of emotions, and it wouldn’t have been experienced any other way.”

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