How two juniors are building a new home for short films

| Senior Cadenza Editor

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if your favorite streaming service actually listened to your feedback? If your recommendations could be more personalized and suited to what you actually want to see? Now, there’s an option for that. Lumiere Shorts is a “curated streaming platform” co-founded by Olin Business School students and friends juniors Zac Styka and Trey Checkett. Through this venture, they found a love for short film as a medium. Student Life sat down with Styka to discuss the project and his newfound love of the abbreviated cinematic arts.

Courtesy of Zac Styka

Junior Zac Styka, one of two Olin Business School students who founded Lumiere Shorts.

With an app and a website, Lumiere Shorts provides easy access to personalized content. Whereas the big names in streaming provide you with magnitudes of content immediately after asking you for a few of your favorites, this short film-centered platform shows you what you want to see through a two-step curation process. The first step deals with your preferred genre of film, but the second step is where things really get personal, through the use of identifying “story types” to get a better sense of what the viewer is looking for. From sci-fi to tear-jerkers, there’s something for you.

“Most of our content is kind of more in the indie scene, kind of more like grassroots, arthouse, very artsy, very cinematic,” said Styka. “Almost all of the filmmakers that we work with are college students or kind of up-and-coming, in a sense that we don’t have any films that are going to be by people whose names you would necessarily recognize unless you’re a big fan of film.”

But how do two business students take an interest in film, and short film more specifically? It starts with an assignment. Checkett took a class that went through a simulated pitch for a business idea—if you performed well, you were given the encouragement to pursue it. “A streaming platform was always something that we’d [Styka and Checkett] been interested in doing,” Styka said. 

So he and Checkett began working together in the late spring. They already had the passion for the business plan, but the passion for film would come later. “The passion and drive at this stage is now so high, that it kind of happened in reverse order,” said Styka. “We dreamt up the idea and then found the passion, but now the passion is really what’s driving it. Originally we looked at it as a good opportunity, but now we look at it as a good opportunity that we now have a great interest in.”

For the past eight months, the two have been hard at work creating this platform, but it’s not just a means for people to develop an appreciation for short film, nor is it primed tobecome the next Netflix. Lumiere Shorts is just as much about film as it is about community. Inspired by the supportive and team-oriented atmosphere of the short film community, Styka and Checkett dove into their roles. According to their mission statement, Lumiere Shorts “strive[s] to grow with immensely talented directors, producers, actors, film crews, etc. to help them achieve their ultimate goal of being a part of the next big blockbuster film.” 

Whether or not the artists aspire to be the next big name in Hollywood or continue pursuing the art of short film, Lumiere Shorts wants to be that stepping stone if necessary, or that platform to launch the career of an up-and-coming filmmaker. Partnering with creatives from not just all over the country but international artists as well, Lumiere Shorts is making a name for itself in the short film industry. 

International participants aside, at its core, Lumiere Shorts is an endeavor and a labor of love invested in by Washington University students, and that’s the audience they would love to become more involved with. “It’d be great if we could go to some of [the classes in the Film and Media Studies department],” said Styka of a more developed relationship with the University. “We’re just like them—students at Wash. U. that have a passion for film. Maybe they want to be an actor or a director, maybe they don’t want to do any of those things but think it’d be cool to be involved in some way.”

From Styka’s perspective, it’s not about the experience as long as the passion and genuine interest is there. Lumiere Shorts is a testament to the idea that an enthusiasm for something can come from anywhere, even the most unlikely of places.

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