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Film, Television and Theatre students spread their wings

Liz Byrum | Friday, January 20, 2006

It’s not very often that Notre Dame students can come together on campus to examine and admire the collective works of a group of students. This weekend, one of those rare chances arrives with the introduction of Film, Television and Theatre’s 17th annual Notre Dame Student Film Festival.

The modest beginning of this thriving festival took place in 1988 when professor Ted Mandell came to Notre Dame to work on a graduate degree and began to compile the film work of FTT students. Over time, the project grew out of its original location, and has found homes through the years at the Snite Museum, Hesburgh Auditorium and most recently in the DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts.

It is in DPAC’s Browning Cinema where the films of talented FTT majors will be featured today, tomorrow and Sunday. With the new technology available in the state-of-the-art theatre, the short films assembled for the festival will make an even more enjoyable experience.

As an introduction to the two-hour showcase of film studies, Mandell has created a short film called “Flanner Hall 1974,” which depicts a fictional story of Charlie Weis’ time as a student on campus.

“Charlie Weis goes to Badin Hall and decides to coach their football team,” Mandell said. Residents of Badin may be even more enthusiastic about seeing this introduction because some of the girls currently living in the hall were given a chance to play small roles in the film.

Besides the retro ’70s feel of “Flanner Hall 1974,” the variety of films stretches through many genres, including dark comedy and documentary.

“We have three professors who teach production – Bill Donaruma, Jill Godmilow and myself. We each have our own style,” Mandell said.

These differences in style shine through in the students’ work – with different focuses including areas such as thematic structure and cinematography.

“We had great freedom to make the film we wanted to. He was always there to offer advice and to guide us, but he accepted our personal visions and interests,” junior Brandon Kusz said about his time working with Professor Donaruma. Kusz’s film, titled “Variable 17,” which he directed with Elyse Allen, took the entire semester to create. The storyline revolves around a man who is brainwashed into believing he loves a woman. The creation of the film included the initial writing and storyboard work, many days of filming and hours of editing afterwards. “Even the easiest shots would take hours to set up because there is so much equipment and it’s all very heavy,” Kusz said.

One of the documentaries featured in the festival this weekend is titled “Two Dollar Ride.” The film, created by recent graduates Jan Wohrle and Lyndsey Grunewald, allows viewers to take a trip around South Bend with the taxicab driver most commonly known as “Super Dave” as he shuttles students from bar to bar.

For the first time in the Notre Dame Student Film Festival’s history, there is a musical on the lineup. Brittny Heinrich and Nobel Robinette direct “Senior-etta,” a film starring four Notre Dame singers.

“We have a really goofy film and we loved getting the freedom we did to make it as silly as possible,” Heinrich said of her favorite part of the making of “Senior-etta.”

Films are chosen for the Student Film Festival by starting from the top of the production ladder with the most advanced classes. The professors look for films that are the most well made and make an effort to keep the final compilation under two hours.

“There are films that could have been in the festival that we just didn’t have time for. The film festival is really just a collection of films done in our production classes – not a competition,” Mandell said. However, some of the films featured this weekend might go further, being entered into film festivals all over the country, where the creators could win awards for their work.

With the dedication and creativity the FTT students have put into their films, the Notre Dame Student Film Festival should continue to be a success. Tickets are available the DPAC box office at 574-631-2800, or by going online at www.performingarts.nd.edu.