DPAC rolls out new student films
Christian Myers | Sunday, January 19, 2014
Amid the Oscar buzz, student filmmakers are gearing up for their own event, the 25th annual Notre Dame Student Film Festival.
The festival will feature 14 films representing the work of 31 student filmmakers, and will be held in the Browning Cinema of the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center (DPAC). Screenings will begin at 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The running time for each screening will be just under two hours.
Ted Mandell, associate professor of Film, Television and Theatre (FTT) and founder of the festival, said the purpose of the event is to share and recognize the work of film students.
“It’s an event to showcase the great work our students do, to give them an audience for their films and to provide a launching pad for their future careers in the film and television industries,” Mandell said. “This might be one of the best collections of films in one festival that we’ve ever had.”
Mandell, also a producer for Fighting Irish Digital Media, said he founded the festival in his second year teaching film production in the FTT department as a way for students to share their work with more than just their professors, families and friends.
“When I was a student here, I graduated in 1986, the only time we screened our films was during graduation weekend for our parents. After I returned as a member of the faculty, I thought the student work should be seen by a larger audience,” he said.
There will be one award given for the single best film in the festival, as determined by audience preference, Mandell said.
“We’re excited about the Audience Choice Award, which allows the audience to vote for their favorite film via text right after the show,” he said. “We will present the award before the final screening Saturday night to the winning filmmakers.”
One film that has been selected for the festival and is eligible for this honor is “Lilith’s Game,” a horror film created by seniors Anthony Patti and Johnny Whichard.
Patti said it was rewarding for the partners to have their film selected for the festival.
“I was incredibly excited when I found out,” Patti said. “The film process is pretty strenuous, so making it to the festival, while it wasn’t the goal, was certainly a nice pay-off.
“Movies are made to be watched, so being guaranteed an audience is pretty much the best a film maker can ask for.”
Patti said believes the risks he and Whichard took in the making of their film will allow it to hold up against the competition and have a chance at earning the Audience Choice Award.
“The film demanded everything effort-wise and my partner and I decided to take a lot of risks that ended up paying off,” Patti said. “I haven’t seen many of the other films, but I do have faith in the film Jonny and I made, and I do think it’ll at least be a contender.”
The natural unpredictability of filmmaking made the process difficult, Patti said, but working at Notre Dame provides an advantage.
“Whether it’s in the classroom or on the movie set film is very up and down,” he said. “You’ll have one week with nothing to do followed by another week of non-stop work with no sleep and no food.
“Despite how difficult film is as a craft, it’s relatively easy to make a movie at Notre Dame because everyone is so friendly and obliging.”
The films featured in each year’s festival are drawn equally from all films produced in the last two semesters — spring and fall 2013 — from the beginner, intermediate and advanced production courses by the professors teaching those courses, Patti said. The filmmakers behind each film are notified and allowed one last round of editing to prepare their work for the festival.
“Lillith’s Game” has a 10 minute and 57 second running time, which makes it the fourth longest film of the 14, and was produced last semester for an intermediate production course, Patti said.
Patti said the pair began work on their film on the first day of the fall semester. They logged six total days of filming, with shifts ranging from two to 12 hours and three main locations — the off-campus house of their lead actor, the Cedar Grove cemetery and the forest near the campus lakes.
Patti said he urges everyone in the University community to attend the festival because each of the 31 student filmmakers has an important story or message to convey.
“People should come to the festival because, despite the misconception that media students blow off school, the department is full of passionate storytellers who love their craft and truly have something to say,” Patti said.
Mandell said another reason to attend is to see the work of some of these filmmakers before they make it big.
“In 2011, festival alumnus Peter Richardson won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance for Best Documentary. Some of these filmmakers will go on to very successful careers in the film and television industries. Our alums are executives at television networks, Hollywood screenwriters, editors, cinematographers, sound mixers, etc,” Mandell said. “The Student Film Festival is where they got their start.”
Patti said he hopes to eventually join the numbers of film festival alumni who have gone on to work in Hollywood.
“Right now my plan is to do a little mission work after school, but after that head out to Hollywood with a backpack and a cardboard sign saying ‘will film for food,’” Patti said.
Tickets for the festival can be purchase online or in person through the DPAC box office. The cost is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors and $4 for students and children.