WMC grad searches for 'little truths of life' in film


WESTMINSTER -- Snow was falling, the cast was freezing and the sun just wouldn't cooperate with the cameraman that cold January day on Main Street.

But to Grant Sheehan Jr. and his 25-member crew, who were rushing to finish the final shots before January term ended and new classes began, the scene was downtown Baltimore, and the season was early fall.

Sheehan, who graduated from Western Maryland College Saturday with a bachelor's degree in communications, was creating his masterpiece of meaning, "Semantic Dementia."

Sheehan, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Grant Sheehan of Westminster, plans to enter the University of Southern California's master's degree program in film next spring.

"I want to search for the little truths of life," Sheehan said of his potential film career.

"I like to do the kinds of films that are partially meaningful and have something to say."

This piece, which explores how people interpret language and meaning, was inspired by Professor Robert Sapora's semiotics and linguistics course.

"I started to think about how can we really know anything, how we take language for granted," Sheehan said. "We interpret what other people say to us and respond without even thinking about it, while what is involved is so complicated it defies comprehension."

The film opens in a dream sequence where a college senior named Evan, played by Dimitrios Lambros, is lost and late for 5/8 5/8 TC job interview in Baltimore.

His map is so old that all the street names have changed, so he stops at a gas station to ask directions, accidentally locking his keys inside his car. The attendant offers to unlock the door with a tool, but Evan takes it and opens the door himself.

"That is the symbol for the entire movie," Sheehan said.

"When his cognitive map starts to go wrong, Evan is steering in uncharted directions. He unlocks the door himself, after someone has shown him the way. No one can get Evan back on track but himself."

When Evan awakes, he runs off to a job interview with Syntam, a mysterious company that symbolizes the constructs of the English language, Sheehan said.

The interview goes well, giving Evan high hopes for a job offer as he returns to campus and his first day operating the college television station.

However, Evan quickly loses his optimism when he misinterprets the station owner's vague directions and accidentally burns it down.

"The directions could have been interpreted two different ways, and he picked the wrong way," Sheehan said. "Now, he begins to question everything that constructs meaning in his mind and confuses simple phonemes."

While crafting his apology letter to the station and the school, Evan meets Cassandra (R.J. Measday) who tells him Syntam is a dangerous company run by people who killed her father.

At first, Evan is not sure whether to believe her tale of Syntam creating an implant that enhances a person's brain power while allowing the company to control the person.

But time and a trap the pair sets show that Syntam executives did kill Cassandra's father for the implant's antidote.

"The action parallels the subject matter," Sheehan said. "We question what side she is on and what is knowledge, what is reality."

For now, the film that debuted at the college's Decker Auditorium has been relegated to the shelf in Sheehan's home that holds his other cinematic achievements.

The movie was shot too late to be included in his application to USC.

But Sheehan considers it a good starting place for his intended career, exploring the human condition and pointing out society's foibles through entertainment.

"What you say makes people see more about society and opens things up for explanation," he said.

"That's one of the best ways to bring about change."

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