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U. student filmmaker to craft film on greek life, New Brunswick

Members of traditional fraternities are often portrayed and pride themselves as wholesome, constructive young adults who actively contribute to society. They prioritize philanthropy, maintain exceptional GPAs and work hard to prove themselves as decent, well-rounded men in order to gain acceptance into a fraternity in the first place. Recently, though, fraternities have been the face of controversy more often than exemplars of brotherly good, for offenses that are deeply rooted in a heritage that many believe is fueled by toxic masculinity and rape culture. 

This is a phenomenon that student filmmaker Charles De Agustin, a Mason Gross School of the Arts junior, hopes to explore in his first feature-length film “Good Men.” Self-described as someone always with a camera in his hands since childhood, De Agustin developed a passion for filmmaking in grade school and continued to pursue the art at Rutgers. Intrigued by the significant presence that greek life has on college campuses and the growing controversy that surrounds them, De Agustin felt compelled to depict the culture he’d witnessed in a short film. 

In a loose narrative, proof-of-concept short “Broken Dicks” illustrates instances of rape culture and hyper masculinity through the lens of college greek life. Although proud of the finished work, Agustin felt the story he wanted to tell was too dense to fully convey in a short film. 

“I took a feature screenwriting class last semester and that’s when I knew I wanted to write a feature-length version of the short film,” De Agustin said. “I felt like I wasn’t fulfilled, that I had more to say in this world.” 

To help reach his goal of $8,500 for the film’s budget — he aspires to finish the film’s production before he graduates in 2020 — the student filmmaker is kicking off a fundraising campaign on Monday, Sept. 17 on Seed&Spark. Although scripted, “Good Men” will make use of some documentary techniques and will be highly based on true stories. While the film has a large focus on greek life, De Agustin says the film will critique issues that transcend beyond college campuses, and that are actually deeply-rooted in our culture as a whole. 

“College greek life is the context I’m exploring (toxic masculinity) in, but I’m hoping that the film is effective to the extent that its lessons and themes are applicable to far more themes other than university greek life because these problems exist in far more contexts in this country,” De Agustin said. 

De Agustin is entering the film in the Seed&Spark’s Hometown Heroes rally contest, as the film will not only be about and based in the city where he resides, but also produced with local resources. He said one way the film will go beyond the college-bubble narrative is that it’s not just a movie about university life but about New Brunswick as a city in its own right. 

Protagonist freshman Trent starts to question his commitment to his fraternity when he learns one of his brothers has raped his best friend, Sofie. Through Sofie, a Latinx woman and New Brunswick local, the film will show the danger of the passivity that De Agustin says is present in the greek life culture, and offer a deeper portrayal of New Brunswick’s vibrant Latinx community. 

“I’m being careful not to just paint her as the victim or Latinx woman at the university, which is sadly too common in our media today,” De Agustin said. “(Sofie’s story) will provide us with a window to seeing New Brunswick as far more than this college town.” 

Staying true to his focus on the city, De Agustin plans to produce the film in New Brunswick and feature a cast and crew that’s exclusive to the community. The filmmaker says building relationships with Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance, Rutgers NO MORE and other local organizations will help better promote his writing and film. By exploring issues in an accessible and relatable way, De Agustin hopes the film will be interesting to a wide audience of people and in turn create a wider societal impact. 

“Unless you’re really invested in these spaces, its hard to see them manifest on a day to day level. But the more you think about it, you start to realize how common these issues are, the results of toxic masculinity in these concentrated spaces,” De Agustin said. “Rape culture isn’t just the literal act itself but it manifests in just words, in day to day verbal communication, so that’s kind of what I’m going for.” 

More information about the film as well as the benefits of donating to the productions of  “Good Men” can be found on De Agustin’s Seed&Spark campaign page. Above all, any contribution will support independent student filmmaking. 

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