Branch Out: A Comedic-Thriller Short Film

Andrew Otchere, School of Music, Theatre & Dance

Collaborators: Cortez Hill, School of Music, Theatre & Dance and Ross School of Business; Malachi Pitts, LSA; Henry Lu, LSA 

Branch Out is a comedic-thriller written & directed by Andrew Otchere, produced by Cortez Hill, with collaboration by other amazing student artists at the University of Michigan. The story centers around what happens when three African American students find themselves at a rambunctious house party where a police officer shows up to shut everything down. Aware of how the consequences for them may differ from their predominantly white peers, Trey, Micah & Gabbi diverge from the scene of the party and hide in the basement. The film documents their experience of trying to escape this high-intensity situation and allows the audience an inside look into a sadly, all too common experience for Black students in white-dominated spaces. The story concludes with a twist that is sure to leave every audience member speechless.

The process of creating this project will provide a multitude of professional development opportunities for all students involved. One of the most beautiful things about filmmaking is the level of creative collaboration required to bring an idea from script to the screen. The ability to create art independently is a skill that is becoming increasingly more valuable in the entertainment industry, but unfortunately is not always as accessible within our given curricula. Industry professionals seek to work with creatives who can advocate for themselves, be self-sufficient as artists, problem solve with clear communication, and collaborate towards a common goal; the creation of Branch Out will allow everyone involved to exercise these skills. The creative team for Branch Out involves members from all across campus. Together, we form a team of BIPOC dominant, socially diverse, creatively-driven artists who are passionate and committed to telling this story. From the script, to the sound design, to the technical execution, every aspect of the production design has been originally created or carefully curated by student artists.

We strongly believe that, “the role of art is to ignite public discourse,” and that is what we hope to achieve through Branch Out. We were heavily inspired to bring this piece to fruition because of the lack of Black-centered narratives and creative opportunities available on campus. More specifically, this film is inspired by personal experiences and written to serve as commentary on current social issues of on-going police brutality against Black communities in the United States and the effects it can have on our physical & mental well-being. Because this narrative centers around Black characters, it allows non-Black audience members a unique invitation into an experience that many people may not be able to understand. We hope to bring to light underrepresented experiences that have been overlooked in predominantly white spaces such as the University of Michigan. Our goal with this film is to allow for conversations that help to uplift the collective consciousness.

In addition to submitting to global film festivals, we plan to host screenings across campus to generate conversation within the U-M student body. However, because of festival screening guidelines, we will host an initial private screening at the end of this semester for family, friends, donors & sponsors to view our completed project. Following it’s festival run, we plan to host more widespread screenings throughout campus with talkback sessions during the 2022-2023 Academic year. We have spoken with some professors in various departments who have expressed interest in possibly implementing our film into their curriculum to spark discussions within their classrooms about the issues that this film tackles.