Johnny Coffeen

Johnny Coffeen, a 2015 graduate of MUM’s David Lynch Graduate School of Cinematic Arts, was chosen as a winner last month in the alternative category of the Student Academy Awards for his thesis film The Swan Girl.

Seventeen students were selected from a record number of entries, which included 1,749 films from 381 colleges and universities around the world. Johnny is the first student from Maharishi University of Management to win such an award.

Coffeen is a 2010 graduate of California State University San Bernardino with a bachelor’s degree in communication studies. He has worked as a music video director, documentary director, and video editor. His 2010 directorial debut, Happy Medium, explored a sculptor’s process, aesthetic philosophies, and transition into stop-motion animation filmmaking.


Johnny Coffeen with David Lynch

The Swan Girl is an experimental short film combining live actors and stop-motion animation. It tells the story of an artist, mysteriously held captive in a studio, who sculpts complex figures to atone for his past mistakes. Johnny directed, filmed, edited, co-wrote, and acted in his thesis film. David Lynch was recently able to watch The Swan Girl, and he said it was “pretty damn good.”

Coffeen was inspired by David Lynch’s approach to Eraserhead, which was to gradually shoot the film piece by piece for six years in order to make a 90-minute film. In the case of The Swan Girl, it took six months to shoot the 15-minute short film.

“Due to the intensity of what The Swan Girl was trying to pull off, we would work 12-16 hour days six days a week,” said Coffeen. “Transcendental Meditation was a must every single morning. It really calmed me down, relieved stress, and put me in the childlike state needed to create such an intuitive film. I couldn’t wait until I could take those 20 minutes to myself and let go.”

You can see Coffeen’s work at his website, including a trailer for The Swan Girl.

Note: featured image is a screen capture from The Swan Girl