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The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Alumni to take on Austin Film Festival


(Left to right) Texas State alumni Trevor Person and Laurel Toupal look at each other in a scene from “The Beauty of a Blank Space.” The world premiere of the film will take place at the 2022 Austin Film Festival next month. 

In an industry where finding connections and making a mark is incredibly difficult, Texas State alumni have found each other and created a story to resonate with those who are stuck in their own blank spaces.
Before the pandemic in early February 2020, Ryan Love, an electronic media alumnus, was inspired to make his own path by creating a feature film. Love was in a place where he wasn’t satisfied with his career so he took upon the challenge to co-write, direct, edit and co-produce a film. His film, “The Beauty of a Blank Space,” now two years in making, will make its world premiere in the first wave of the Austin Film Festival in October.
Love and Laurel Toupal, BFA acting alumna, began their nine-month co-writing process for “The Beauty of a Blank Space” in March 2020. From the start, Love knew he wanted Toupal to star in the film, and Toupal was eager to finally be able to work with Love and embark on the journey of creating their own opportunities.
“That’s what we’re [in Los Angeles] to do,” Love said. “We’re out here to be in the movies, to write movies, to direct movies, [Laurel] is to be in them. And we got to create our own opportunities and that was kind of where it stemmed from. For me, it was like, no one’s going to hand it to me, no one’s going to unless I do it myself.”
After finishing the script, the cast and crew packed their bags and took a road trip from Las Vegas to Portland, Oregon, and shot the film over a span of two weeks working 14-16 hour days.
“It was a lot of really just filming all the time,” Toupal said. “Like when we’re on the road going to these places we were filming. When we got to these places we set up to start filming or if it was like late at night, we would, you know, set the equipment up go to bed and wake up super early and start filming.”
During the process of filming, the cast and crew underwent several calamities. Toupal’s car, which they were using throughout the film, broke down the first couple of days of shooting, the lights in the Airbnb kept flickering and ultimately went out and someone threatened to start a fight with Toupal while they were filming. Besides the bumps in the road, the cast and crew admit that it was a busy but fun experience.
Prior to “The Beauty of a Blank Space,” Love and other Texas State alumni, Riley Songer, James Herrera, theatre performance and production alumnus and Emily Reas, BFA acting alumna, had been working on projects with one another under their shared company Blind Salamander Films, named after the animal that resides under San Marcos in the Edwards Aquifer.
Love started the company after moving to Los Angeles and meeting Reas. Reas, the producer of “The Beauty of a Blank Space,” was introduced to Love by a mutual friend. Although they were never close at Texas State, they had classes together. Love pitched the idea to Reas and his two friends to start a film company. Since then, the four alumni have been working as one.
“I think it kind of just developed over time,” Reas said. “It was like one of those things. It’s like, ‘yeah, let’s do it,’ and then it became like, ‘oh, we’re actually doing it.’ I feel like that’s the best way, you know, to create something … we’re all really good friends [and we] also really have an interest, we really have cared in what we develop and create. And we’re all just very driven, which is really, I feel like, the key components that really helped cultivate [Blind Salamander Films].”
Herrera, who is an actor, co-editor and the associate producer of “The Beauty of a Blank Space,” loves working with his fellow Bobcat alumni because they all respect one another’s ideas.
“It’s the fact that we’re all friends and we that we’re very collaborative,” Hererra said. “Like if someone has an idea, we’re gonna listen to it, we’re going to try it out and if we don’t try it, we’re going to talk about it to see ‘okay, what can we use from that to make it better?”
“The Beauty of a Blank” space follows the main character Haley, played by Toupal, and her brother Mac, played by Trevor Person, BFA acting alumnus, and their relationship as brother and sister. Both characters are on their own journeys of self-discovery and are stuck in the space of trying to find the beauty in it. The film highlights the struggles of sibling relationships and the hurdles that come in life when the path isn’t clear.
Love, Toupal, Reas, Herrera and Person appreciate Texas State for the tools it gave them in preparation for their respective careers and the making of the film.
“That was what was great about Texas State is that … in the program, they taught you a bunch of different things like a bunch of different techniques and you kind of pick your own that works for you and so I just kind of had that with me, which I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else,” Person said.
The cast and crew of “The Beauty of a Blank Space” were ecstatic when they discovered that their movie was going to have its world premiere at the Austin Film Festival. Feelings of excitement, shock and nervousness still weigh on the film team as they anticipate the world premiere.
For more information on Blind Salamander Films visit https://www.blindsalamanderfilms.com/For more information on the Austin Film Festival visit https://austinfilmfestival.com/.

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  • Texas State alumnus Ryan Love shoots his feature film “The Beauty of a Blank Space,” October 2020, in Portland, Oregon. 

  • The cast and crew of “The Beauty of a Blank Space” film a scene in October 2020.

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