Bent Button is Penn’s only student filmmaking club.
In it, students gain experience in everything from pre–production to post–production, and can try out numerous different roles while on–set. Anyone can drop into meetings to workshop screenplay drafts, learn how to operate a video camera, or try their hand at directing.
After attending three of the club’s weekly meetings, you become a member. Any student can join—no application, no audition, and no experience necessary.
“We teach you everything you need to know,” said Weslee Sixkiller (C '19), the club’s president.
Weslee joined Bent Button when he was a freshman, rising from treasurer to president of the club, a position he’s now held since 2016. The club has been instrumental to his Penn trajectory. When he walked into the first meeting, he was on the Pre–Med track and studying Biology. Now he’s majoring in Cinema Studies.
“I was wondering what I was doing with my life, because I love film so much more,” Weslee said. “[Bent Button] inspired me and pushed me.”
The film was shot in the stuffy, cramped basement of DRL, and the crew had to trek through a blizzard carrying all their equipment to get there. Weslee described the experience as “kind of miserable.”
“I actually had to walk backwards on the way from Gregory to DRL,” he says. “Ice was hitting my face.”
After a nine–hour shoot, the runtime of the film’s final cut came out to six minutes and 37 seconds.
More recently, the group is finishing production on a “fun” film about a killer washing machine. They’ve also recently launched Bent Button Connects, which offers filmmaking services to student groups, “whether it’s a dance group that wants a video of their show, or a frat or sorority that wants a promo film.”
Bent Button’s next shoot will be an adaptation of one of Weslee’s screenplays, a modern fairytale about college–going princesses who investigate a curse that strikes girls across campus.
The film will explore the issue of campus sexual assault, especially topical in the midst of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements currently shaking the foundations of the movie industry. On this point, Weslee is emphatic: "Oprah said it best."
“[Sexual assault victims in Hollywood] have long been pushed under the rug and abused by men in the industry,” Weslee said. “It’s been happening forever.”
But he said he’s optimistic that the stream of revelations about these abuses of power will lead to a better and safer working environment, and open up more opportunities for young men and women who were previously sidelined or threatened by abuse.
Before the first Weinstein allegations and the ensuing Pandora’s box of accusations and takedowns, Weslee was working in Los Angeles, interning over the summer at two different studios, Mandeville Films and Allison Shearmur Productions.
At Mandeville, a production company headquartered in Walt Disney Studios, Weslee mostly did script coverage as well as other quirkier tasks, like preparing the gift basket for a sweepstakes prize that the company was doing for the Blu–Ray release of 2017’s Beauty and the Beast.
Weslee also witnessed the “drama” that erupted at Allison Shearmur Productions after the announcement that a Star Wars spin–off film about young Han Solo was in the works (Shearmur is one of its producers).
Eventually, Weslee hopes to produce films, but he’s in no rush.
“My goal right now is to just get a foot in the industry so I can get a job,” he laughs.
His advice to fellow aspiring filmmakers:
“I mean, join Bent Button. But also... it takes a lot of work and commitment, but if you’re interested you should at least try. Just get out and do it.”
Bent Button meets every Tuesday at 8 p.m. in Kelly Writers House Room 202. Meetings are open to all.