CMU alumnus returns to alma mater to showcase "Father's Day" at International Film Festival

Film shown around the world will be seen for first time by family, friends


The poster for Chris Studenka's short film "Father's Day", directed by Justin Rose. The film will play at the Central Michigan International Film Festival on Sunday, Feb. 20.

The short film, "Father’s Day" has aired at film festivals all over the world. Now, it will be one of dozens showing at the five-day Central Michigan International Film Festival.

Chris Studenka, a 1995 Central Michigan University alumnus, will be showcasing his short film, "Father’s Day" at the annual festival. Directed by Justin Rose, Studenka calls it “quasi autobiographical”, meaning scenes in the film were inspired by real events in his life.

A screenshot of Chris Studenka acting in the short film he wrote called "Father's Day." The film is "quasi autobiographical" meaning some parts are taken from events in his real life. 

“You change things that maybe weren't exactly the way it happened in real life," he said.

Around five years ago, Studenka received a free loaf of bread with a cup of coffee he purchased from Panera Bread.

The cashier told him it was complementary in honor of Father’s Day. Throughout the rest of the day, people kept wishing Studenka a happy Father’s Day.

But he is not a parent.

These interactions inspired his 18-minute film.

"My wife and I weren't able to have children and I'll never be a father," Studenka said. "My life was a little bit more down at that time because I was newly divorced and single for the first time in my life and it was sort of depressing. Everybody was wishing me a happy Father's Day - just trying to be nice (and) not meaning anything by it - but not realizing it was triggering me in a negative way." 

Although Studenka's film has been shown around the world, the festival will be the first time his friends and family see it. He said the movie was made to be viewed on a big screen, like in a theatre, so there are less distractions. For that reason, he wanted his loved ones to wait to see it at the festival.

“When you’re in a movie theater, you’re not interrupted," he said. "That’s really the beauty of it... I was hopeful to get a chance to come back and share it with family and friends. In many ways, it's much more meaningful for me to come back for this (festival) than any of the other ones we did.”

A CMU Law degree diploma used as a prop to reference Chris Studenka's alma mater in his short film "Father's Day."

Studenka said he tries to reference his alma mater in all of his works.

In "Father’s Day", the main character, James Sexton, has a CMU law diploma in his office. Other references include a CMU baseball hat and mini football. 

“I decorated my office like a guy would with stuff (from) where they went to college," Studenka said.

There are other easter eggs in the film, unrelated to CMU, that pull from Studenka's life.

Sexton's name is a reference to J.W. Sexton High School in Lansing, where Studenka graduated. Additionally, the character's brother is named Jeff, like Studenka's real-life sibling.

Studenka said he is excited to return to campus for the film festival. When he was a student at CMU over two decades ago, he said there was not an event like it and it feels amazing to showcase his work at his alma mater.

"Father’s Day" will be played on Sunday, Feb. 20 in Moore Hall 102. The schedule for the International Film Festival can be accessed on the festival's website.