The Listeners

“My mind went blank. It was dead silence in the room. It drove home how you never know what you’re going to get. It could be someone with relationship problems, or it could be something very serious,” said Robert Hurst.

Hurst, an associate professor of film and media studies at the University of Kansas, was describing his experience at a suicide prevention program. He is currently working on his upcoming documentary, “The Listeners,” which aims to inform people about suicide prevention, and the people who work to help prevent it. Hurst’s goal is to make a movie that does not focus on or sensationalize suicide.

Steve Lobes, a friend of Hurst, suggested the idea for the film to him in 2012. Lobes was working as a volunteer at the Headquarters Counseling Center in Lawrence at the time. After juggling the idea around for a while, Hurst met with the Center’s board of directors, and pitched the idea.

Headquarters is a collection of professional and volunteer staff devoted to helping Lawrence community members. They offer free counseling services, and a suicide prevention hotline.

Hurst secured permission from the center and volunteers to follow a group of 13 through their training process. Beginning in the fall of 2013, he and the crew filmed around 100 hours of the training process over the course of 11 weeks. In addition to following them through their training processes, Hurst spent time interviewing the volunteers, getting to know why they were involved, and what brought them to Headquarters.

The filming for the movie is still far from over. Though the training process ended in the fall, the volunteers began their work earlier this spring and will not be finished until later in May. After their volunteer work is done, Hurst will conduct follow-up interviews with the volunteers. The training process began with 13 volunteers, but the film will narrow the focus down to five specific people. He did not name them, but he clarified the decision.

“Some of the people didn’t want to be that involved,” he said. “They were okay with being filmed during the training process, but they wanted to stop there, and that’s totally fine.”

Sarah Kaminski, a full-time employee at the center, said she thought the movie would be a good way to raise awareness, and that a lot of people still do not know that places like Headquarters are available to them, and that she had not heard of the center until taking a class at KU a few years prior. She also hopes the film will make people that want help more comfortable with seeking it.

“We are humans,” Kaminski said. “We are not some robots that get trained to just give you some stock responses.”

Kaminski suffered emotional abuse at her home as a teenager and had anxiety issues as a result. She joined with headquarters as a way to help others going through trauma of their own.

“I didn’t have anyone to reach out to,” she said. “This is just a safe place for someone to call and get that emotional turmoil out. I wish I’d have known about it when I was younger, because it’s been around for a very long time.”

Matt Kostroske, a 22-year-old KU student, said he hoped the movie would encourage people interested in the matter to volunteer. Kotroske will not be in the film, but he finished his training recently and had just begun his volunteer work.

Kostroske plans to become a psychologist, and chose to volunteer to learn better ways to talk to and help people with emotional troubles.

“I’ve had friends with problems like depression,” he said. “I never really knew what to say to them. I decided to do this so I could help them, and I want to help other people too.”
Like Kostroske’s and Kaminski’s story, Hurst wants audiences to get to know the volunteers in the film, their experiences at Headquarters. The documentary will not be entirely about the individuals, but that they will serve as an anchor for the audience to identify with.

The movie is scheduled for release in late 2015. Hurst hopes to have the film broadcast on television, and distributed on home video.

Audio Interviews:

Transcript – 

Introduction by Alex Keenan:

Originally opened as drug crisis center for teens, Headquarters Counseling Center has since become a source of emotional support for those looking for someone to talk to in times of emotional stress.

The center is made up of both professional and volunteer staff alike, but how does somebody come to work for places like Headquarters?

I sat down with two members at the center to find out how and why they got their start and what motivates them to do what they do.

First, I spoke with Sarah Kaminski, a two-year employee of the center.

Sarah Kaminski:

I didn’t really know about it until I took a class at KU.

Paul Atchley said in the basic psych class.

He was talking about volunteer opportunities and how we should do it if we’re interested in grad school and talked about Headquarters.

And then I was like “oh that sounds awesome,” and it was definitely something I wanted to get into so I did a little bit more research and started volunteering.

I’ve been through some rough times as many of our volunteers have, and it’s just really great knowing that someone’s out there for you, and you have no-one else possibly, and you’re feeling pretty desperate it’s a really, really great place.

Alex Keenan:

Next, I sat down with Matt Kostroske, a KU student on his first shift at the center.

Matt Kostroske:

I just heard about it through the psychology school.

Cause there’s a group on Facebook for KU psychology and there was someone posting stuff about Headquarters and getting involved with it, so I ended up going to one of the meetings.

It’s kind of what I want to do once I graduate or after I go through graduate school.

I want to council people, so I figured this would be a good place to start.

Alex Keenan:

This is Alex Keenan for


Sci-Fi Fun – Mini Reviews

Pitch Black

The special-effects range from great to decent, the acting is inconsistent, and the story could have used more fleshing-out, but there’s a certain amount of uniqueness to the world of “Pitch Black” that makes most issues easy to overlook. Vin Diesel’s perfect performance as the titular Riddick is also a plus.


Fun, funny and decidedly carefree, Joss Whedon delivers a space-opera absolutely drenched in personality. The great acting and superb direction help to bring the rich world of short-lived television series to life on the big screen.


Pandorum” is a slow, boring and derivative slog that borrows heavily from countless films while adding nothing new of its own to the genre of sci-fi horror. It is a shame really, considering the solid acting, good sets, and excellent make-up.

Marvelous – Mini Reviews

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Fast-paced, brilliantly shot, and stuffed full of memorable action sequences, “Winter Soldier” is one of Marvel’s best outings to date. It also benefits from its well-rounded cast, including Robert Redford, Samuel Jackson, Scarlett Johansson and Chris Evans.

The Avengers

Featuring a gargantuan cast, including Robert Downy Jr., Samuel Jackson and Mark Ruffalo, among others, “The Avengers” is a fun, funny and exciting film. However, with so many characters on screen, and not nearly enough time to devote to each of them, many of the lesser characters get lost in the mix and fail to leave an impact.

Iron Man

A smart, engaging script and a fantastic performance from Robert Downey Jr. make “Iron Man” a standout film of exceptional depth and quality in the Marvel Universe. While the story steals the show, the film also has enough action to entertain those just looking for a fun time.

Acting a Fool – Live-blogging Assignment

Good acting is no easy feat, particularly when the person acting is not an actor. This I learned twice in the last month, when I agreed to help a friend on a video project. Tonight, my friend Michael Norris (Mexi is his self-given nickname) had scheduled for he and myself to do voice-overs in an audio supplement to a film segment shot earlier in April.

The original plan was for him to find a quiet place for us to do the recording, but fate dictated that we end up having to use my apartment (which is far from quiet) as backup. What followed was two hours of technical issues, interruptions, multiple takes and a fair amount of chastising from my brother.

Before either of us got started recording, Norris decided to make a couple of last-minute adjustments to the script, which ended up taking an extra 40 minutes. That out of the way, he recorded his lines. When it came time for my reading, my neighbors had returned home, so the recordings had to be timed perfectly in between their constant stomping.

As we neared the completion of the voiceovers, my brother returned home, and promptly began mocking (though it was all in good fun) our acting abilities. He knew of our previous work on the film segment of the assignment, and offered feedback to Norris on the quality of the script. In response to my brother’s criticisms, Norris wrote him into the script, so that he would have to lend his voice.

Eventually, the recordings were finished, and everything came out clean. There were plenty of laughs, but a lot of frustrations as well. There is a lot that can go wrong in a recording session when so many things need to go right.


“Erasure” Interview with Director and Lead

“How far would you go to forget,” asks “Erasure,” the upcoming psychological thriller by independent filmmaker Austin Snell. Filmed entirely in Kansas, the movie was written and directed by Snell, and stars Dane Shobe and Matt Briden. The film focuses on the idea of trauma, and the issues that could arise if the option existed for memories to be erased.

The concept for the movie arose after Snell read an article in Wired Magazine, concerning real life research into memory manipulation. The idea of deliberate memory loss is nothing new to film (see “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.) However, “Erasure” looks to put a new spin on the genre, by adding elements of horror and thriller films to the mix. Snell

“I think it’ll hit a nerve with people, because what’s really going on inside of it is an age old philosophical debate,” Snell said. “Is it really possible to decide who you are? I think that’s something people have both consciously and subconsciously thought of. I think it’s just an interesting conversation that people can relate to and walk away from, while being entertained.”

Shobe plays a social worker named John Lobe. When John’s wife is murdered by one of his clients (Briden), he struggles to deal with the grief, and to move on with his life. When an opportunity presents itself for John to take part in an experimental procedure, in which a chemical injection will erase the memories of his wife from his mind, he volunteers to be the guinea pig for the experiment. Things seem to be fine at first, but soon after the operation, John begins to have disturbing hallucinations and flashes of the memories he erased.

This was not the first time Shobe and Snell had been involved in a project together. Seven years prior, he and Snell shot a horror film called “Thick” during high school, with Shobe cast in the role of the villain. Shobe joked about how it was not the best film ever, but it was a lot of fun to be a part of. His feelings were mostly the same concerning  “Erasure,” though he believes it is a much better film, saying that Snell has only gotten better as time has gone on.

The character of John Lobe was written specifically for Shobe. Shobe says he was glad to have the part, adding that it was especially enjoyable to work with Snell because he was open to suggestions and changes made by the actors. Shobe says he loved working on the film as a whole, and hopes the movie will bring some attention to Topeka actors.

“It was a great time,” says Shobe. “I had something to do every weekend. There were so many talented local actors in on it. It became a pretty big monster. I’m really excited for shedding some highlight on the wealth of talent we have in this community. Let them know we’re out here.”

Snell began scripting the film over a year ago, with filming beginning near the end of October 2013. Snell says over 60 actors and extras are in the film, all of them in it for free. He also says the budget for the film was next to nothing.

“It was pretty much non-existent,” said Snell. “We just used the resources we had at our disposal and had to be creative. It cost very little to make since it was stretched out over such a long period of time.”

“Erasure” will be premiering May 10 at Washburn University. While no additional screenings of the film have been confirmed, Snell assured that there would be more opportunities in the future to see it, including the possibility of streaming the film online.Erasure

A Dose of Rudd – Mini Reviews

Dinner For Schmucks

Steve Carell and Paul Rudd ham it up in this perplexingly unfunny, mean-spirited remake of a French comedy, bogged-down with excessive, annoying toilet humor, and a predictable plot. “Dinner for Schmucks” fails to shock or surprise at every turn.

Role Models

After he defaces a statue with a monster truck, Paul Rudd and Sean William Scott must play role model to two troubled youths in this hilarious, raunchy comedy. “Role Models” earns big points for its incredibly well-rounded cast, memorable gags, and feel-good tone.

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

Will Ferrell leads a team of dopey anchormen in this hilarious, if inconsistent satire of news casting. “Anchorman” is brimming with personality and ripe with endless quotable dialogue, though often becomes too silly for its own good, with one extended sequence taking place in a back alleyway sticking out like a sore thumb. Regardless, it is easy to recommend for the laughs it brings.

A Shave Too Close – Listening Post Assignment

This Thursday, April 10, I decided to go get myself a haircut. My hair was not exactly mangy, but it was getting a touch too long for my liking. So, shortly after work, I pulled into a local hair salon for a trim. I was not the first in the store, and ended up having to wait over thirty minutes to get my haircut.

As I sat there, waiting, I listened to the idle chatter between the stylists and their customers. One such customer was a young girl, about nine years old, and she was talking to the stylist about the recent Disney film “Frozen.” The girl lived in Ottawa, but was visiting Lawrence for a couple of days. The two of them talked about Ottawa for a little while, the young girl complaining about how the pools all closed during the winter time.

Eventually, it was my turn to get a cut. The stylist (whose name shall remain hidden, as I’d hate for her to lose business over this), jokingly called me love, and asked me what cut I wanted. I answered, giving specifics in length. As she began cutting, we struck up a conversation. I mentioned how I was a student at KU, studying journalism, and she talked about her kids and her daily routine at the salon. She talked about the problems she used to have with her son getting haircuts, as he was so hyper he needed to be restrained. I used to be a bit of a problem child when it came to hyperactivity, so I understood her plight, we talked on the subject for a little while.

Somehow, the topic shifted to disorders, and we discussed the eating disorder Pica for awhile. It was not the most interesting of conversations, but what was interesting was the consequence of distracting the woman with the shears to my head. I realized, too little too late, that she had cut my hair much shorter than I wanted, practically down to a buzz. I was not angry with her, this was my doing. I had one rule regarding barbershops, and that was not to distract the person with the sharp objects to your head, and I broke it.

I played down my disappointment at the cut I’d received (this was shortest my hair had ever been since grade school) and paid the woman, with a tip for giving me a good laugh. I left the salon, just over an hour after I’d arrived, with a bad haircut, but a funny story behind how I got it.

Pixels and Projectors – Mini Reviews

Alone in the Dark

Christian Slater and Tara Reid star in this unintentionally hilarious adaptation of the once popular video-game series. Horribly written, badly acted, poorly shot and nonsensical, Uwe Bol couldn’t have missed the point of the series his film is based on harder, even if the point was in a different solar-system.


Gerard Butler and a cavalcade of celebrity cameos, including Keith David, John Leguizamo and Terry Crews, try their hardest, but they just can’t save this disaster of a film. “Gamer” is a film so insulting and degrading to video-game culture and the world at large, and it’s a wonder how anybody involved could have looked at such an abhorrent, awful film and seen fit to charge people money to see it.

Resident Evil

Milla Jovovich stars in this serviceable, if uninspired take on the blockbuster video-game franchise. It’s got some cool effects, some decent direction, and a b-movie feel to it (that might be unintentional), but “Resident Evil” is too lacking in originality and fun, to make it worth recommending.

A Sit-Down with Laura Kirk

Alex Keenan

April 4, 2014

Jour 419

Brendan Lynch

“Sublime and Beautiful,” the new independent film by actor and first time director, Blake Robbins, is a dark and honest tale of tragedy and loss. Centered on a couple in the midst of a traumatic and life-changing event, the film premiered earlier this year at the Slamdance film festival in Park City, Utah, and has been met with very positive reviews since its initial screenings, including a nomination for the festival’s “Best Narrative Feature” award. Starring alongside Robbins, who plays the film’s protagonist, David Conrad, is Laura Kirk, who apart from playing the role of Kelly Konrad, David’s wife, also executive produced the film.

Aside from acting and production, Laura Kirk works as a lecturer at the University of Kansas. Despite her schedule, Kirk was able to sit down and answer a few questions about her role in the “Sublime and Beautiful” as well as past roles and production jobs in film.

Shot on a shoestring budget, and filmed in 12 days, Kirk described the process of filming as hectic and amazing. She developed the budget, and the production company was able to raise $30,000. Screen and union actors were paid the minimum requirement of $100 a day, and even then, Kirk joked about how they had to “beg, borrow and steal to make the film happen.” This included food, equipment and locations for filming. Despite earning praise for her performance as the distraught Kelly Konrad in the movie, Kirk initially turned down the role for the film.

Five years prior to the filming of “Sublime and Beautiful” Robbins, a friend who has worked with Kirk in the past on several films, contacted her about her interest in role. At the time, Kirk was not interested in the part because she felt it was too serious, and she would not have been a great fit for the character. After suffering a personal tragedy, in which her first husband passed away, Kirk moved back to Kansas with her children. When she was approached for the role again, she decided that, though the tragedy she went through, and the way she handled it was different to Kelly’s character, the experience convinced her that she was capable of handling the role.

“It did lend a lot of itself to me,” Kirk said. “I would say that there’s nothing about me in the film that would in any way reflect what happened to me in real life. Yet, if what happened to me in real life hadn’t happened, I don’t think I would’ve had some of the skills I have.” When she lost her husband, Kirk made the decision to put on a happy face and stay strong for her children.

After graduating college and moving to New York City, Kirk began her career in acting doing stage work and starring in various commercials. Her first big break was in the title role of “Lisa Picard is Famous,” which she starred in as the character Lisa Picard, and co-wrote with Nat DeWolf. In the last 14 years, Kirk has acted in and produced a variety of films, ranging from big-budget films like the “Time Machine” to smaller independent films like “Jayhawkers.” Though she says she enjoyed the times she spent on bigger productions, and the luxuries that came with them, she loves the control and freedom afforded to smaller projects.

Despite her enthusiasm about the film, and her enjoyment taking part in it, Kirk does not believe the film is for everyone. She says that despite being an honest and realistic portrayal of people during times of grief, the film is often very hard to watch, lacks Hollywood flair. She believes people looking for a drama with lots of personal touches will enjoy the film, and that fans of director John Cassavetes (who was well known in the Independent film scene) should go see this film.



Laura Kirk- Actor/Producer


My Video Interview with Kirk

Transcript for the video-

00:00 – 00:45 Trailer audio


00:45 – 02:22 Laura Kirk

I play Kelly, I’m the wife of David, the lead character


We have three children. We’re just kind-of going along. Probably at that middle part of our marriage, where we’re just kind-of co-workers and we’ve lost a lot of what made us happy, and then tragedy strikes our family.


I am hit by a drunk driver, and all three of our children are killed, and I end up at the hospital in the same, uh, next to the drunk driver. And that’s when the story starts spiraling even further downward to how David and Kelly handle this crisis.


My favorite scene? It’s difficult to watch, but it is the scene where I flip out on everybody. My character is so thin-skinned because of what’s happened to her, and her husband is being, completely has disappeared and abandoned her at this party.


Everyone is pitying her, and that is very true that when you go through a tragedy, people know about it. Everyone looks at you, and you feel that pity, and it’s a weird horrible feeling that all of a sudden you are the star in this tragedy you didn’t cast yourself in, it just happened, and she just lets everybody know.


Some people call it hysterical, I actually don’t like that word. I think it’s just a rage that comes from a very deep place, and it’s very cathartic.


If you like really honest, and really strong dramatic work, then you will not be disappointed if you see this film.


02:22 – 02:47 Trailer Audio

New-Age Zombie Flicks – Mini Reviews

Resident Evil: Extinction

Milla Jovovich wanders the post-apocalyptic desert of old America in search of answers regarding her past in this decent if dull zombie action film. Some uncharacteristically well-done action sequences aside, “Resident Evil: Extinction” is too derivative when it’s good, and too uninteresting when it isn’t, too recommend.

28 Days Later

Cillian Murphy awakens from a coma to find the world he knew ravaged by a disease that turns humans into mindless, enraged monsters. Great direction, a smart script, and a genuinely terrifying spin on the traditional zombie virus, make “28 Days Later” one of the best apocalypse films of the new century.

Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Less social-commentary, more action-horror, Director Zack Synder’s “Dawn of the Dead” is a well-paced, exciting, and often suspenseful reimagining of Romero’s beloved classic. While lacking the sophistication of the original, it has enough thrills to satisfy connoisseurs of the zombie-apocalypse genre.