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15 student films debut at festival

Gene Noone | Thursday, January 24, 2008

Fifteen students will have their Notre Dame cinematic debut as the 19th annual Notre Dame Film Festival begins tonight in the Browning Cinema of the DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts. The films will be screened for University and general audiences.

Film, Television and Theatre (FTT) professor Ted Mandell said this year’s selection of films is an especially creative and entertaining group.

One new feature of this year’s festival is the addition of films from students in the Introductory Film class.

“Many years we don’t have the opportunity to screen projects from the Intro class because of time constraints due to the number and length of advanced projects,” Mandell said. “This year we were able to get a few of those in there.

“They add a unique energy to the festival. It’s great for students just starting out to have their work shown to a large audience.”

The three-day festival will feature films created entirely by students in their FTT courses. Most of the films are produced in groups of two to three students and are the result of a semester’s worth of work, Mandell said.

This year, the festival will screen 15 films – two more than last year – due to the short length of several of the films. The total running time for all 15 films is 110 minutes.

In choosing what films to screen, FTT faculty looked at the combination of writing, shooting, editing and acting – all the elements that make up a strong production, Mandell said.

“We spend a lot of time in class discussing ideas, working on scripts, analyzing rough cuts, and polishing re-edits,” he said. “The final film is the result of both creative collaboration among students as well as the battle to beat the deadline, which lurks at the end of every semester. Filmmaking takes much more time and labor than most people think.”

Junior Bill DiPiero, who co-directed the film “LuvPod” with sophomore Michael Rohman, found production for his film took a great deal of time.

“The filming process was a bit tedious because we did multiple takes of each shot,” DiPiero said. “We actually had to shoot the film twice in its entirety after the first take had some lighting issues and was not up to our standards.”

DiPiero and Rohman’s film is the comedic story of a stolen iPod that leads to a not-so-chance encounter between a boy and girl looking for love.

Junior Mark Weber, who co-directed the film “The White Tree” with senior Julian Owyong, said the greatest challenge in making his film was the actual filming process because their script required a large cast.

“With a large cast, we had to complete most of the shooting in one day in only a few short hours,” Weber said. “We had to be very efficient with both our actors and our crew to get everything shot.”

“The White Tree” is based on real events that occurred at Jena High School in September 2006 where racial tensions erupted in the Louisiana high school.

“The events at Jena High framed a powerful story which I thought the students at Notre Dame, black and white, could learn from,” Weber said.

Weber said he hopes students who see the film will understand “that racial tension is still an issue we face in our society today, and it is up to us youth to change that.”

The festival’s other films come from several genres including documentary, comedy, horror and drama.

Tickets for the festival are $3 for students, $5 for Notre Dame faculty and staff, and $6 for the general public and can be purchased in advance at the DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts or online at performingarts.nd.edu.

The festival will run twice each night for three nights at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.