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The Human Virus' - ETSU's first HD feature film to be screened at Real to Reel

Contributed - ETSU • May 2, 2014 at 1:44 PM

“The Human Virus,” a thriller by local filmmaker and East Tennessee State University graduate student Tim Altonen, will be screened at Real to Reel Theatres on Thursday, May 8, at 9 p.m.

Tickets are $3 and will be available at the Real to Reel box office beginning May 4. This is a one-night only event, and seating is limited to 150.

In “The Human Virus,” Aaron, a land surveyor on his first day with a new crew working in a remote area of the Appalachian mountains, is ambushed by a group of psychotic campers, one of whom may be infected with an unknown virus. As paranoia spreads about the existence of the virus, the campers and surveyors become entangled in a downward spiral of confusion, deception and murder. With little hope of escape from the campers, Aaron desperately attempts to track down the remaining surveyors and end the cycle of madness.

Altonen wrote, directed and edited “The Human Virus” over the past six months as his thesis project in the New Media Studio master’s degree program in ETSU’s School of Graduate Studies. This is the first feature-length film in high definition from ETSU and the first feature-length film from the New Media Studio program; other films of that length had been produced earlier through the Radio, Television and Film (RTVF) program in the Department of Communication.

To raise money for the production, Altonen reached out to the community using the crowd-funding website Indiegogo, which secured a third of the $3,000 budget. To cover the rest of the budget, he took out a student loan.

Over the course of what he calls “one of the most brutal winters on record,” Altonen brought together an all-volunteer cast and crew to see the project to fruition.

“The ‘polar vortex’ we experienced here shut down production for nearly a month,” he said. “Every time there was snow on the ground, we couldn’t shoot, because each scene had to match the others, and the film was shot 100 percent outdoors.”

Altonen first came to ETSU in 2005 to complete his undergraduate work after receiving his associate of science degree from Chattanooga State Technical Community College. As his final project in 2007, he wrote and directed ETSU’s first high-definition short film, which won the Murvin H. Perry Award for Creative Achievement in the Department of Communication and premiered in front of a sold-out crowd at Real to Reel Theatres.

After graduating from ETSU with his B.A. degree, Altonen worked on several independent feature films in the region, serving in many roles on the sets, including director of photography, assistant director and script supervisor. He spent a few years as a freelance filmmaker before returning to ETSU to work as a technical assistant and later equipment room manager for the RTVF program.

A Tennessee native raised in the town of Dunlap, just outside Chattanooga, Altonen plans to continue making feature films in East Tennessee after he graduates with his master of arts degree on May 10, and “hopes to make a living from it.”

For more information, email Altonen at altonen@etsu.edu. For disability accommodations, call the ETSU Office of Disability Services at (423) 439-8346.

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