I sit down with Michele Hannon on April 25, a warm day cloyed with a gloomy drowsiness and yet a frantic, nervous energy. She walks in with her usual chipper smile, a hug always waiting in the wings. But it’s obvious that her energy is off. She wears a green, plaid velour shirt and weariness in her eyes. The shirt was her mother’s. It is her mother’s birthday.
Hannon, a junior at Temple majoring in film and media arts, lost her mother the summer before she started college, leaving her orphaned at the age of 18. While the crippling grief and worrisome lack of funds would have derailed most other teenagers, she soldiered on.
“The first year was hard,” she says. “I had moments freshman year where I just thought, ‘I can’t do this without my mom.’ I was extremely close with her.”
“It’s been the best decision I ever made,” asserts the East Norriton native. “I feel like I listen to certain people talk about their majors and even though mine is challenging, I love what I do. My homework requires me to think about film festivals and film distribution plans. It’s extremely rewarding.”
She may have struggled slightly through her freshman year, but Hannon found solace in her friends and her art, allowing her to push forward and continue to fight. As an FMA major, she was making films long before anyone knew who she was, but they surely know her name now.
Hannon made her debut at Her Campus Temple University’s Femme Film Festival with her short film, Mal Di Luna. It was fairly well-received, but some brushed her off as mediocre. Rather than cowering from the criticism, she spawned what is arguably her greatest creation to date.
Upon serving as one of the honorees at HCTU’s Café Night, Hannon debuted her latest short film, Walks in Beauty to an overwhelming response. The crowd was floored by the haunting thriller, produced for a class where Hannon was the only junior in a sea of seniors.
“I didn’t know how people were going to take it,” she says. “But to have it shown to an actual audience and have them be so into it they were yelling ‘run b----, run!’ was the most exciting and exhilarating moment, probably of my life.”
Yet her success that night still hadn’t sunk in until she was at the Tech Center, where she spotted two girls looking at her and whispering to each other. The girls approached her and immediately began gushing over her film. They had attended the film festival and wanted to know more about her production company, Mirrorwall Films.
Yes, while most college students are trying to minimize their responsibilities, Hannon has already begun her own film production company. She started it in high school while working at a movie theater, but for the three years following its launch, it was not much more than a name, a Facebook page and a “crappy website,” as Hannon refers to it.
Now, the company has a team of fifteen consistent members who produce content on a regular basis, including their “Mirrorwall Minutes,” a series of quirky shorts they release monthly.
As Hannon prepares to enter her senior year, she’s not quite yet ready to leave Temple, the school where she’s found a second home.
“I’m gonna be here forever,” she says. “Hopefully, I’ll go to grad school here and eventually become a film professor here.”
In addition to that, she hopes Mirrorwall will become a reputable film company in Philly and potentially in New York also. And what’s stopping her? At the age of 21, she’s already accomplished so much and still, somehow, has the stamina to keep going strong. So in case she becomes the next Kathryn Bigelow, allow HCTU to say, we discovered her first.