Ellen Wetmore didn’t believe the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) was calling her. Not intentionally.
“I thought they were calling the wrong number,” said the associate professor of Art & Design.
It was no mistake. Wetmore was one of 18 people to win a $12,000 grant from MCC. She won in the Film & Video category, selected from a group of 137 applicants.
Her proposal: a short film updating Dante’s Inferno and set in present-day America.
“It’s a commentary on current American culture,” said Wetmore, who has dozens of short films to her credit.
In Wetmore’s version of the epic poem, Dante is led through his trip to hell by Virgil, an underemployed poet with a side hustle as an Uber driver. Dante is headed for a job interview at a local university; he and Virgil pass through the rings of Hell.
While the $12,000 budget might just cover a catering bill on a Hollywood blockbuster set, Wetmore is confident it will be enough for her film.
“I’m a pretty efficient short filmmaker, so I think I can do a lot with this grant,” she said.
Wetmore says she jumped around the room when she got the call.
“It’s a big honor,” she says. “The percentage of people who win this thing every year is something like 3 percent of applicants. I have applied every year I qualified for it – about 17 years – and I just do it like paying my taxes or playing the lottery.
“It’s something very few states do, and something the federal government doesn’t do at all – hand out money for artistic excellence that can be used in any way the artist sees fit.”