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Film director, writer returns to Towson roots

Mike Flanagan ’02 remembers running around his home as a third-grader, with video camera in hand, chasing friends in fedoras to create their own version of the movie classic, “The Untouchables.” Earlier this week, the Electronic Media and Film alumnus and director of the recently released film “Oculus” returned to the place where he was first inspired to pursue a career in filmmaking – the Towson University campus.

“When I started college, I was studying to be a high school history teacher,” recalls Flanagan. “It was here that I had my first experiences with film and learned the mechanics and business of production. I could have followed a different path, but my teachers were so encouraging and helped me understand that producing movies was a viable career.”

Filmmaker Mike Flanagan '02 talking with an EMF class on Nov. 4

Filmmaker Mike Flanagan ’02 talking with an EMF class on Nov. 4

He fell in love with filmmaking and produced three digital feature films as a student, one of which was screened at the Maryland Film Festival. Former Towson University President Hoke Smith and President Maravene Loeschke, who is currently on a leave of absence, appeared in those early films.

“Students have a wealth of opportunity here with access to equipment, student actors, and hands-on faculty,” Flanagan says. “You have the freedom to set up an independent study, make a film, make mistakes and learn from them.”

“One of my best Towson memories is sitting on the bridge by the towers after a night of filming with my tight group of friends and realizing we just made a movie. I felt so lucky and just wanted to freeze that frame, ” shares Flanagan, who has stayed in touch with many of those friends and fellow Towson graduates, including writing partner Jeff Howard and actress Courtney Bell.

Flanagan enjoyed a nostalgic day on campus, sharing his early struggles and recent successes with students in two EMF classes. He had dinner with faculty and attended an evening screening of “Oculus,” which he describes as a story of childhood trauma. With a $5 million production cost, it opened in mid-April to $12 million in box office sales on its first weekend; imdb.com reports the film has grossed more than $44 million worldwide since then. Flanagan will begin editing his latest thriller film, “Somnia,” when he returns to California. It stars Kate Bosworth, Thomas Jane and Annabeth Gish, and is set for release in the spring of 2015.

written by Nancy Grund