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ND’s Fifteenth Annual Film Festival

Katie Wagner | Tuesday, January 20, 2004

A select group of Notre Dame’s film students will debut their creativity, technical skills and endless days of hard work to the student body Thursday at the Department of Film Television and Theatre’s 15th annual Notre Dame Student Film Festival. The festival screens Jan. 22, 23, 24 and 26 at 7:30 and 9:45 p.m. each night. This approximately 115 minute show includes 12 student-produced short films and a brief introductory film produced by Tim Mandell, an FTT faculty member and head of the festival. Mandell, a 1986 Notre Dame graduate, has been a member of the faculty since 1988 and has run every film festival so far. His work for the festival includes providing suggestions for student films, choosing which films to show with FTT professors Jill Godmillow and Bill Donaruma, choosing the order of the films, designing marketing materials, overseeing ticket sales; putting all the films onto one DVD and making his own film.Although this is Mandell’s 15th year creating an introductory film for the festival, he is far from exhausting all of the possibilities for the subject of this film. In addition to maintaining the typical use of humor in his films, Mandell has recently incorporated a new tactic for capturing the audience. Last year Mandell began the festival with a Coach Tyrone Willingham’s big screen debut in “Survivor Tyland.” Mandell promises more humor and another surprise Notre Dame celebrity in his 2004 film. Overall, Mandell thinks the film will be full of surprises.”One thing about an ND film festival is that it’s not predictable,” Mandell said.Undergraduate students from Notre Dame’s advanced film courses have produced most of the films selected for previous film festivals. However, films created by students taking the introductory and intermediate level classes have appeared in the festival on occasion. This year the festival will include films from students enrolled in Intermediate Film Production, in addition to films from students enrolled in Advanced Film Production and Advanced Digital Video Production. Besides quality, other factors are considered in choosing which films will be used for the show. The running time of individual films does play a small role in this process.”Basically, we try to get as many deserving films in the show as possible and keep the festival to around two hours long,” Mandell said.Although Mandell said he finds it extremely difficult to give general rankings to his festivals, he does compare certain aspects of his festivals from year to year.”Each year it seems to me that the films tend to get more sophisticated and the ideas are more sophisticated,” Mandell said.Although the students come up with the ideas for their films and film them completely on their own, professors give students suggestions for their films during filmmaking classes, and students typically discuss their initial ideas with their professors. Professors then provide them students with suggestions, including a final critique of the film.Notre Dame students taking filmmaking classes say they require extreme levels of commitment and dedication. Like most producers of the films pictured in this year’s festival, senior film major Sarah Cunningham found her Advanced Film Production class to be very intense.”For that whole semester it was my life,” Cunningham said. “Almost everyone inmy class stayed for fall break and for Thanksgiving break we were asked to stayif possible.”The amount of time and energy that the students put into their films both during and outside of class is incredible. In one semester these students are expected to write, shoot, stage, cast and edit a film for just four credits.Although cameras are provided for students by the FTT department, students still must purchase their own film and props. In addition to equipment, finding a location to shoot as well as actors that will work for free is sometimes much more challenging task than one would expect.Film major Matt Amenta and Kajal Mukhopadhyay, a 2003 graduate of Notre Dame aswell as the only non-film major involved with the film festival, found that the subject of their film created quite a few obstacles for them. Their film “Martinsville” is about an unusually racist town in Indiana. These producers actually traveled four hours to get to this town to be able to shoot real footage of it from inside a car. Finding a location on campus to shoot other parts of “Martinsville” was especially challenging. Amenta and Mukhopadhyay were not allowed to shoot their film in a place that anyone would see them because of the activities and costumes that were being used. Before they shot at any of the spots pictured in their film on campus, they had to get special permission from several people and organizations of Notre Dame. They ultimately found a few isolated spots to shoot, but Mukhopadhyay still felt quite rushed during their shooting, due to guards that were required to monitor them.”Everywhere we went we had to get a clearance,” Mukhopadhyay said.Despite all their struggles, overall Amenta and Mukhopadhyay said they were pleased with their film.”This production was very big for us,” Mukhopadhyay said.Other films featured in the festival also were time-intensive and certainly added great amounts of stress to the lives of their producers.Senior film majors Justin Rigby and Ryan Steele encountered some technical errors while shooting their film “Civil Wars,” which will be the second student-produced film shown. “My experience with making this film was crazy,” Rigby said. “Our first shoot was plagued with almost every equipment problem you can imagine.”This film’s main character is a high school boy that excels in the classroom and on the wrestling mat and is quite popular with the rest of the student body. Behind his parents’ back though, he sells drugs.Todd Boruff, an ND film major and producer of “Lucky Rock,” which is featured in the festival, said that making this film forced him to pull his first two all-nighters. Emily Smith, a 2003 Notre Dame graduate, served as Boruff’s partner in producing this film about a suicidal adolescent girl.The first student-produced film that will show is “South Bend By Night.” Senior film majors Joe Muto and Garrett Fletcher produced this humorous documentary about vampires during their Advanced Digital Film Production class last spring. Muto said he is really excited about his film’s primary position in the show. “I’m really proud of this film. It’s a great culmination of four years,” Muto said. “I’m amazed it came out as good as it did.”Muto also helped produce a second film with Sarah Cunningham called “Theresa C.”Muto and Cunningham shot this film with an extremely advanced, but also rather costly type of film.”Theresa C” is about a girl out of high school that is in denial about being pregnant. Cunningham came up with the idea for this film and wrote its script. Muto was initially nervous about producing a film about such a feminine subject.”I surprised myself,” Muto said. “I thought I’d be giggling [while filming].”Another film featured in this festival includes “Assuming Identity,” produced by Taylor Romigh and Liam Dacey. This film is about homosexual students at Notre Dame.”Molly has Three Jobs,” produced by Ernie Grigg and Garett Fletcher, will follow this film. It’s about a single mother struggling to support her son, by taking on too many jobs.”Spanglish,” produced by Lance Johnson and Andy Gomez describes the hardships suffered by a character that immigrates to the United States as a six-year-old. The same twenty-year-old actor is used to play this character as both a six-year-old and a twenty-two-year-old.”Bye Bye Birdie,” produced by Alex Grunewald and Juli Baron, is about a filmmaker searching for the perfect place to put his poodle Birdie that is diagnosed with cancer.”Roses are Red,” produced by Kristina Drazaic and Kateri McCarthy, is a brief black-and-white film about a college student’s secret admirer. Chris Bannister and Saleem Ismail produced “Ad Nauseum,” which compares the reactions to 9/11 to the reactions to the United States’ entrance into war with Iraq last spring.This festival ends with “Quieres Camerografo,” a film about a Notre Dame senior desperate for a date, produced by Justin Leitenberger and Derek Horner.Tickets are $5 and are being sold at the La Fortune Box Office. If tickets are still available, they can be purchased at the festival.

Contact Katie Wagner at kwagner@nd.edu