West Michigan native’s short film, ‘Anchor,’ receives dozens of award nominations, wins

Paige Irene Bruns is receiving recognition for her first film, “Anchor,” which has garnered 25 awards or nominations. 

She wrote and directed the short film, which first debuted at Ringling College of Art & Design in 2020 and was released online in June. 

After completing her BFA in film from the Florida film school, Bruns has returned to West Michigan to launch Affinity Insight Pictures, an independent production company.

“COVID heightened my awareness of the potential the West Michigan area has for producing projects, and I have become very passionate about bringing film to the area,” says Bruns, who grew up in Whitehall and attended Spring Lake Schools and her senior year at Interlochen Arts Academy. 

Her love of storytelling began at 3 after she was mesmerized by “The Wizard of Oz.” By high school, she was heavily involved in the theater program and had the rare opportunity to direct a one-act play her junior year.

“This was a transformational experience that helped me to discover that I had the intuitive ability to guide and direct actors through a scene in order to successfully convey emotion at the highest level,” Bruns says. “My passion for storytelling led me to apply at Interlochen Arts Academy for my senior year. This best positioned me to be accepted by Ringling College of Art & Design, which is one of the top film schools in North America.”

The ‘Anchor’ story

At college, she made “Anchor,” which tells the story of Haleigh (Sierra Green), a bright and independent college student focused more on academics than making social connections. Her best friend, Cam (Sergio Myers), is a soon-to-be national swimmer and highly regarded relay anchor with an eye on the Olympics. A confrontation at a post-swim meet celebration will ultimately determine if their relationship can survive conflicting priorities. Filmed in Bradenton, Florida, the short film powerfully tells the story of a teenage sexual assault, fostering empathy with edge-of-your-seat action.

Bruns has been recognized by more than a dozen film festivals worldwide, earning nominations and wins in several categories, including the Young Filmmaker Award, Best Director, Best Narrative Short, Best Woman Short, and Best Short.

“‘Anchor’ was a story that I wanted to tell for what felt like forever,” says Bruns. “It really came from a place of me just being angry with the way society views sexual assault and the way we’ve almost normalized these types of events. With criminals, it’s always innocent until proven guilty. But when it comes to survivors of assault, they are always the villain until proven to be a victim, and that just didn’t sit well with me. ‘Anchor’ was my way of working through those emotions with the hopes of creating a community of support for those struggling.”

Resonating with people

The response to the film took her by surprise. 

“When you release a film, you never know how it’s going to be perceived, especially with something like this. But the feedback from both the festival circuit and the public has been extremely overwhelming. When I found out we had been recognized for Best Narrative Short, Best Student Director (Female), and Best Acting Ensemble, I was over the moon. Just knowing that the story was resonating with people made me really proud of what we had accomplished with the film,” she says.

Still, she has more work ahead in promoting the film. Industry experts typically evaluate a project in three different segments: film festival recognition, audience response, and media coverage. 

“As far as segment one, we are doing quite well while steps two and three are yet to be determined,” she says. 

Bruns is currently in post-production on a film called “VOID” and has a mental health documentary titled “Beat-Down” about to hit the festival circuit. Through Affinity Insight Pictures, she is also in development of a drama series that she hopes to shoot in the West Michigan area. 


Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.