SDSU alumni produce Bertha

Jamie Anderson

Jamie Anderson

“Movies take us away from our real lives and let us experience the story of someone else,” said Luke Schuetzle, an SDSU alumnus, about his upcoming project, You Don’t Know Bertha Constantine.

Bertha is about Bertha and Larry Constantine, who are poised to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary when Larry suddenly dies of a heart attack during their passionate lovemaking. In a state of grief, Bertha decides to honor her husband’s wish to be buried in the Badlands of South Dakota, according to the film’s Web site.

“The idea for Bertha came about from my friend Andrew (Kightlinger), who is also the director and writer,” said Luke Schuetzle, a spring 2009 SDSU grad. “He had this great story and script and approached me about making it for his thesis film project.”

You Don’t Know Bertha Constantine is an independent short film about the beauty of true love and the outrageous things it causes people to do.

About a year ago, some SDSU students and alumni created a film called The Hill, which was about World War II.

“Andrew had seen the success and strength of The Hill,” said Schuetzle, a history major while at SDSU. “He thought that we could do a good job with this film and really acomplish what he had envisioned for his film.”

The Hill is a 30-minute independent short film, while Bertha is going to be about 18 to 20 minutes, so a little shorter than The Hill.

“I think Bertha will still be a challenge to make, as we are shooting in the Badlands and the environment there will make work very tedious and slow,” said Schuetzle, the line producer for Bertha.

Bertha may be a short film, but it still requires a lot of fundraising. The budget for the film is about $65,000, and the project has gotten a little over a third of that.

“We have a minimum number that we need in order to start filming, and once we reach that point, we have a green light to go,” Schuetzle said.

The SDSU alumnus has been interested in filmmaking for several years, but he credits the SDSU Film Festival in part for opening doors to the world of making movies.

“I was interested in filmmaking since I was in middle school, and my friends and I would watch movies on the weekend and try to make little shorts on our parent’s camcorders,” said Schuetzle.

“Through SDSU and their film festival, I was able to expand my filmmaking ability and experience and be able to make connections with people with similar ideas and goals.”

SDSU allowed for relationships and connections to be made with other student filmmakers. Schuetzle met Adam Emerson, producer of Bertha, in high school and then both attended SDSU. Kellin Johnson, assistant director of Bertha, and Schuetzle met through the SDSU Film Festival when Johnson asked Schuetzle to act in his film.

“I decided I wanted to work with them because of their talent and dedication to the art of filmmaking,” said Schuetzle. “They were both an encouragement for me to continue making films.”

“I know Kellin really liked film class. It’s great to see him still making films. They (Kellin and friends) always had a good following,” said Jeff Heinle, professor in the journalism and mass communication department. “It’s good to see him bringing projects to completion. He has a real energy and commitment to films.”

Other cast members and producers also have ties to South Dakota, but some are from Boston.

“Our lead actress, Julia Bennett, is a professor at Augustana College,” Schuetzle said. “Some of the others have been in films such as Mystic River and Shutter Island.”

After seeing the success of The Hill, Schuetzle hopes that more opportunities will come up in the future.

“When we are finished, we will start the film festival circuit and hope to get into the Sundance Film Festival or Cannes Film Festival,” said Schuetzle. “We will have some premieres of Bertha including one up in Brookings, so everyone will be able to see the film.”

To find out more about the story of Bertha or make donations to the project, visit

“Bertha is the product of a lot of work from former SDSU graduates and is living proof that you can go anywhere from here,” said Schuetzle. “I totally feel that without my experience at SDSU, I would not be making films and doing something that I love.”