By Kat Palczewski | May 2013
When Professional Writing students, Logan Stark, Lexi Dakin, and Rebecca Zantjer, met in their Introduction to Multi-Media course (WRA 225) in Fall 2012, they could have never anticipated what was to come less than a year later: their own documentary film receiving national attention.
After working together Fall semester, the three decided to take Advanced Multi-Media (WRA 425) in Spring 2013. They needed a project to work on for the entire semester, and after Logan showed them a short film he produced a year earlier, they were inspired to take the story further.
Rebecca says, "When Logan showed us the video of a fellow soldier who had been shot in the head [in Afghanistan] and survived, Lexi and I said, 'Logan, this is an incredible story, we should go with this.'"
Logan explains, "At that point in my life, I wasn't really telling a lot of people about my past. But then, finally becoming comfortable with Lexi and Rebecca, I told them about it. That's when we became passionate about the project and really started getting into it."
Logan served as a U.S. Marine in Sangin, Afghanistan, starting in 2010. His battalion suffered the highest casualty rate of any in the Marine Corps, losing 25 comrades. Logan, Lexi, and Rebecca's film, For the 25, named in honor of those 25 fallen soldiers, tells the story through interviews and war footage.
A class project turned into so much more, Logan explains, "Having the opportunity to take WRA 425 was everything. [For the 25] definitely wouldn't have turned out the way it did without it."
The team explains that they owe much of their success to their professor, Dr. Bump Halbritter. Logan says, "He knows how to get the best work out of his students by mixing instruction with freedom. He truly helped us shape what this turned out to be."
Rebecca adds, "Taking the class within the College of Arts and Letters was crucial. It isn't a journalism project and it isn't a multi-media project, it's writing. It's a story."
Logan says he has found his place at Michigan State University and in the Professional Writing program. He explains that he has always been a Spartan,
"When I got out of the military, I had the opportunity to go to college wherever I wanted. I was always a Michigan State fan growing up. My house is all State. To have the opportunity to come here and use the GI Bill to get my education was kind of a no-brainer."
As for choosing Professional Writing, Logan explains, "What I love about Professional Writing is it's kind of an in-betweener, a cover-all major. When you go to apply for a job, they may not know what your degree program was, but Professional Writing is adaptable. It's a communication degree, it's a writing degree; you can really do a lot of things with it."
After being on YouTube for only 3 months, For the 25 has reached over 41,000 views. The film has been featured on WKAR TV Current State program, has had attention from the New York Times, USA Today, and PBS, and been screened in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) hospitals across the country.
Logan says, "I've been getting calls and messages saying, 'I haven't talked to so and so for a long time, and he's calling me; we're reconnecting.'" He continues, "Bringing people together was a major goal that Lexi, Rebecca, and I set from the beginning."