Campus Characters: Student short film pushes boundaries with original score and puppetry


Shweta Gulati

Radio-television-film senior, Andy Young, right, is the writer and director of "Keith and Heath," a puppet-comedy musical. 

Lauren L'Amie

For the past few weeks, two faceless hand puppets have been scattered around radio-television-film senior Andy Young’s home.  

“They are currently in my living room sitting on my couch,” Young said. “It’s the scariest thing.” 

Young is the writer and director of a short film for his undergraduate thesis film production class. The short, titled “Keith and Heath,” is the story of identical twin brothers whose relationship is threatened when they fall for the same girl. Young describes it as a “Sesame Street” version of reality. 

In collaboration with fellow radio-television-film students Jon Cozart, voice actor, and Rachael Teague, producer, Young is planning to begin official production soon with support from project backers and the film community. 

“When I first wrote ‘Keith and Heath,’ they actually weren’t puppets,” Young said. “I was running auditions for ‘The Crime of the Century,’ and the first actor who came in was named Keith, and the next one was named Heath. So that was it. I spent the whole night giggling and writing this script. And I always wanted to make a film about identical twins. I thought if they’re puppets, they can easily be made identical.”

When it came to casting vocal talent for the puppets, Young had one particular friend, student and entertainer in mind: Cozart. 

“That’s what’s great about the [radio-television-film] community,” Young said. “You have friends, but you can also collaborate with each other.”

While Cozart spends his time on campus as a member of Gigglepants, UT’s short-form improv group, he may be more well-known under his YouTube moniker, Paint.

Since seventh grade, Cozart has been scripting, filming and editing videos, such as “After Ever After,” in which he parodies the lives of Disney princesses with original songs.

“I never thought I’d be a musician, but I just lucked into it,” Cozart said. “It’s really strange because you make videos online, and it’s this different world, but then you get recognized.”

Young explains that, after working on a previous project together, he and Cozart became mutual fans of each other’s work. When asked to play the voices of both the puppet brothers in “Keith and Heath,” Cozart jumped at the chance. 

“There’s a lot of people in film school who have these ideas, but you have to find people who are organized and actually put in the work.” Cozart said. “The amount of talented people is ridiculous, but the amount of people who actually accomplish the things they want to do is so different. [Young] is the kind of guy who will jump at this and make it work.”

While funding is often the biggest burden of making a student film, “Keith and Heath” quickly gained a following much larger than Young ever expected.

The “Keith and Heath” Kickstarter page started with an initial fundraising goal of $4,500. Within just 24 hours, they raised more than half that amount. The support of Cozart’s subscribers, Twitter followers and Facebook friends boosted the numbers to eventually reach and exceed their initial goal by nearly $2,000. 

“Every dollar that goes into the film is going towards getting a better composer, better production value and getting more people involved in the film in general,” Teague said. 

The students hope that, with the increase in funding, they will be able to hire more specialized crew members. Perhaps the strangest part of the hiring process, Young explained, is locating available professional puppeteers and puppet costume designers in the Austin area. 

“That’s been a big challenge,” Young said. “There is a puppet community in Austin. But it’s like finding where ‘Fight Club’ is.” 

Teague, who met Young through the undergraduate thesis class, said that, as soon as she read his script, she knew she wanted to produce “Keith and Heath.”

“[Young] sent the script and the music and basically set up this whole world,” Teague said. “My whole mind-set on film is that, if I’m going to watch something, it has to be something I want to get lost in. I don’t want to go back to the real world. I want to stay in the film world.”

According to Teague, “Keith and Heath” is expected to premiere publicly sometime in May, featuring a full cast of humans and puppets — plus an original score. 

In the meantime, Young, Teague and Cozart simply hope that every aspect of the film will come together smoothly. 

“You can stack everything up, and it can all go incredibly,” Cozart said. “But, in the end, you really just have to make a good movie.”