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When Xavier Vance graduated from Olivet College in 2017, her goals were clear: she was determined to become a filmmaker. In August, Xavier officially checked that goal off her list when her film, “Day One,” was selected as the Best Student Film in the Detroit Trinity International Film Festival (DTIFF).

“’Day One’ actually started as a short story that I wrote for a graduate school application during my time at Olivet,” Xavier said. “I decided to write through a male perspective because it was something I hadn’t done in a while, and I thought it would be good to help me grow. I also wanted to portray Black fatherhood in media and film from a different angle. You often see Black fathers who are emotionally immature, especially when a wife or girlfriend tells a man that she’s expecting a child.

“’Day One,’ the film, is about a young Black couple who have just found out they’re expecting their first child. In my original short story, the young man is dealing with things on his own, but the need to see Black relationships and parenthood done with attention and care was just as important. As this idea grew, I created a story where the boyfriend and girlfriend could have the conversations that they needed to and could grow together. The film itself seeks to talk about Black love in a non-toxic way and break down some of the stereotypes/stigmas of the Black family structure in media.”

As the storyline of “Day One” expanded, the film also grew Xavier’s thesis project during her graduate studies at the University of Windsor. She graduated in the spring of 2020 with a Master of Fine Arts in film and media arts and spent the previous two years fine-tuning her first major film. After a successful thesis defense, Xavier’s adviser encouraged her to take “Day One” to the next level.

“I couldn’t stop thinking about Black fatherhood and Black family structure during graduate school, even though I had a million ideas,” Xavier said. “I decided that I really wanted to tackle the presentation of that in film. I struggled to find Black actors, so I ended up stepping in to portray one of the main characters, Dasia. It was interesting to be both directing and starring in a film, but my great team made it possible.

Xavier directing “Day One.”

After so much hard work, I decided I had to at least put my film in a festival. I knew that if anyone was able to see it that would make me happy. I uploaded “Day One’ to Film Freeway, which is a mecca for film festivals, and it took a while to hear if my film had been selected by DTIFF. It was such a beautiful moment when I learned that it had been chosen as just one of 42 films for the actual competition portion, and I was blown away when the first person congratulated me on earning Best Student Film. The support I have gotten has been overwhelming, and I credit much of that to my Olivet College family who I am still so connected with.”

This month, Xavier found out that “Day One” has also been selected to play in the Montreal Independent Film Festival, and she’s eagerly working on feature-length scripts for future projects. Her production company, Blaize Films, recently gained its LLC, and Xavier hopes to be filming again next year.

“Whatever I make, I want it to have a message, and I want people to relate to it,” Xavier said. “No matter what, I want to create Black-based content to show the Black experience and its authenticity. In traditional media, that hasn’t always been seen, so my mission is to make films in a loving light created with care. It’s about sharing a message with a take-away to help create mutual understanding and respect.”

In addition to her personal work, Xavier also serves as a media arts specialist for a law firm in southwest Michigan. She’s responsible for production work and social media management, especially on the firm’s YouTube channel. Xavier began this role in March, and she only worked in the physical office for two-and-a-half weeks before transitioning to at-home work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Xavier on the set of “Day One” as Dasia.

“Something that I learned from my time at Olivet thanks to the words of President Steven M. Corey, Ph.D., and Provost Maria Davis, Ph.D., is that every experience is what you make of it,” Xavier said.” I know that I would not have done as well in grad school without that experience at OC or while overcoming the challenges in my first professional position during a pandemic. I know I have a great support system, but you have to put in the hard work on your own. I take that lesson and use it in everything that I do.

Through my recent experiences with ‘Day One,’ I have been especially grateful to have so many amazing people to share this with. No matter where you end up in life, Olivet College will always be a place where I know I can give love and get love, and that’s so exciting.”

Learn more about Olivet College by contacting the Office of Admissions at 800-456-7189 or admissions@olivetcollege.edu. Get connected with Olivet College alumni and friends by visiting www.olivetcollege.edu/alumni. Be sure to follow the Office of Alumni Engagement on social media to read more great updates about alumni, like Xavier, on Facebook @OCAlums and Twitter/Instagram @OC_Alums.

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