Today at Berkeley Lab

MSD’s Alice Muller-Egan Gets Behind the Camera to Direct a Short Film

— By Keri Troutman


Alice Muller has dreamed of making her own film since she started writing skits and filming them on VHS back in high school. After a long career in the arts and nine years as an administrator in the Materials Science division at the Lab, her life-long dream has finally come true.

It all started with a course she took last year through the Berkeley Digital Film Institute. Over six weekends, she learned just about everything about how to make a film, from writing a script to hiring grips. At the end of the program, she had an 11-page script that she really liked. Still, the process of turning that into an actual film was daunting.

Muller had enough experience to know — after working as an art librarian for 10 years, she completed her masters in playwriting and worked in the theatre community for 11 years. “I’ve done a lot of theater production on my own as well as being a part of production team in various capacities, so I know how much you have to organize to do something like this,” she says.

When she got a call from her Film Institute instructor telling her that he had a producer for her film, she knew she had struck gold. She and the producer, another student from the class after hers, hit it off and he did a lot of the “heavy lifting” on the production side. Muller was mainly in charge of casting and directing.

Muller Film 4They shot the film on January 4 over the course of 10 hours, which she calls “a miracle.” All involved were volunteers, participating and collaborating on the project for the experience and to add to their resumes. The film location was a restaurant owned by family friends, opened up to the film crew on a Sunday. Quite a few Berkeley Lab employees played “extras” in the film.

Muller’s short film, “Wall of Barbies,” is about two women who’ve been friends since they were kids, one who has never wanted children and the other who just had her first baby. “It’s a slice of life type of short,” she says. “It’s that moment in time when they strip away all that language that people use when they’re trying to save a friendship and really get down to the central question of whether or not they are going to be friends at the end of the conversation.”

Muller sees the theme of the film as something she’s interested in exploring further. “This particular story, which is about women navigating contemporary American society and all the pressure that’s put on us, is one that has so much more to tell,” she says. “I feel like there are gender differences in our culture and stories that need to be told from all perspectives; and often female film characters aren’t as three-dimensional as they could be.”

Muller’s work is far from done—now she has an ample amount of raw footage to edit, which she’s doing along with the help of a professional film editor. She plans to have it ready for film festival submission dates this spring so that it can debut during the Fall 2015 film festival season.

“It’s a dream come true; I had always wanted to do it, but just wasn’t sure how to make it happen,” says Muller.

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