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Thursday, May 23
The Indiana Daily Student

Black Voices

Black Voices: IU students’ ‘Saving Ava’ in the making

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Bloomington residents may remember IU Senior Max Peeples’ film “Who Murdered Professor Black?” which premiered at Buskirk-Chumley just last year. What many may not know is that he is currently working on his next project, “Saving Ava,” set to be released in the next few years. I sat down with him and his assistant director, Sümeyye Akgün, to discuss their journey thus far and their plans going forward.  

Upon meeting, the unique rhythm between them was immediately clear, and it could only be a result of positive collaboration. Where Akgün had notes of admiration, Peeples offered more. Starting small a few years ago with hours-long conversations sitting between the Indiana Memorial Union and Ballantine Hall, they knew they had to create together.  

Their first film’s process can only be called experimental and laborious. They had three crew members throughout the project, including themselves, far lower from what a standard crew should be. However, they persisted for one simple reason.  

“It was us just seeing if it was possible,” Peeples said. “I don’t know anyone who has sort of done this. Is it a thing that can be done?”

Stress began piling up when they decided to move the release date from the summer to April for the student population.  

“We basically had nine months to make up two months,” Peeples said.  

After shooting the movie on an $800 camera, editing, scoring, exporting and then racing to the finish line, they premiered it at Buskirk-Chumley Theater in April of 2023. Over 300 people bought tickets to a movie that Peeples was unsure would be received well. The reception was nothing short of complimentary.  

“I heard someone say about the movie that it felt like if ‘Knives Out’ were directed by Quentin Tarantino,” Peeples said.  

Regardless of the excitement and shock caused by the audience's reaction, he decided he would not be making a movie for the next decade. That night, when his head hit the pillow, he had an idea. John Hughes for Gen Z, as he puts it: “Saving Ava.” Despite months and months of exhaustion finally paying off, he knew he had to do it again.  

Akgün was hesitant when approached with his pitch. She hates two types of movies: comedies and sports. However, she said Peeples’ comedic script was too enticing to turn down.  

“I didn’t have much influence over the story ‘cause Max had already written the script,” Akgün said. “But in general, what touches me, the biggest thing that will ever get me interested in a project, is if I like your story.”  

Regardless of Akgün’s distaste for most movies, they have found their collaboration to be rewarding on both sides due to a mutual understanding.  

“She understands the power of creating a world,” Peeples said. “The insanity of what it means to create an entirely new place.”  

Plans for the sophomore feature were put into motion as the pair tried to piece together a crew. Surprisingly, it was easier than they thought. They were shocked at the number of people reaching out to be a part of this project. Due to the success of the first one, they now had around 40 crew members, blowing their previous three out of the water.  

Although it’s easy for differing viewpoints and methods to arise when working on a grander scale, this has not been a problem for the two.  

“We have this connection where we can look at each other and know what the other person is thinking. It’s so bizarre,” Peeples said. “A take will be over, and we’ll just look at each other and know.”  

Peeples and Akgün voiced advice for other filmmakers hoping to realize their passion.  

“Make movies, make films,” said Peeples. “My roommates joked that I put all my experience points into filmmaking skills and nothing into anything else. I can’t cook, I can’t do anything, but I sort of know how to operate a crew and work a camera.”  

Akgün spoke as someone who understands how easily one can feel ousted from the film world.  

“I’ve gotten so much terrible, terrible advice as to who is allowed to be in the film industry,” Akgün said. “The biggest lie is that there is a certain type of person built for the industry. All you really need is the passion to want to do it and pursue it.”  

Filming for “Saving Ava” has taken place mostly in Bloomington, but Peeples plans to move to Los Angeles when they finish the movie and approach festival circuits. From there, they hope to find a willing distributor.  

“Hopefully, with this one, you could see it in maybe three years or so,” said Peeples.  

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