A REPORT FROM THE FESTIVAL FRONT LINES
by Frederick Bailey Directing Mentor, IAFT/LA
From the 2013 DANCES WITH FILMS Festival at the world-renowned Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard!
You know, the one with all the footprints in the concrete.
This is the 16th annual rendition of this festival, billed as Sweet 16, with a tag line that reads, “Defiantly original, uniquely inspired.” This year from May 30th through June 9th.
I went to a couple of screenings of short films, including yesterday’s program, labeled Fusion Shorts Group 2. IAFT student Sarah Kitchen’s 7-min. project, AIR, was one of 7 films in the lineup.
IAFT Mentors Steve Boe and Joe Romersa were also there, along with students Freddy Jimenez and Joseph Sanchez. All three actors in the film were in attendance—Louiza Zouzias, Brian Barth, and Marci Richmond—and a number of Sarah’s friends, roommates, and even a cousin from Sweden!
The audience was just about full, and it’s a fairly large theatre. The lobby crowded with festival-goers.
Many of the films I saw were student Thesis films, from AFI, UCLA and USC, among others. In case you don’t know, a Thesis film is the project a student makes at the end of his or her course of study at an institution, qualifying that student for a diploma, i.e., if a faculty jury approves.
I must say, in my judgment, Sarah’s film compares extremely favorably with the best of the lot, and is demonstrably better than the rest.
Naturally, I’m biased, since she’s one of my students.
These other films on the program were made by students who spent four years in film school and paid loads of money in tuition fees, plus they had big budgets, some as much as 40 grand. And the credits at the end go on and on…meaning huge crews!
Sarah’s film was not a Thesis film. She shot it in her first term at IAFT (finished in her second) on a budget of about a hundred dollars, and her tuition has been a small fraction of what these other students paid. And she had a tiny crew.
Of course, it has a lot to do with the individual talents of a particular student…not all our students get their projects accepted into festivals…but nevertheless, I feel like we must be doing something right at IAFT.
I saw a bunch of student films in another local festival last year, and I would say with confidence that almost every student film made here so far is better than what I saw there.
After the DWF screening, all the filmmakers were invited onto the stage, Sarah included. Each made brief remarks about the making of his/her project. I noticed that Sarah was the only one who prominently mentioned her school in her opening remarks.
I’d like to give extra credit here to our mentors, who helped Sarah a lot with her production and post: the afore-mentioned Steve and Joe, and Rich Hyatt as well. Steve and Rich both handle Cinematography and Editing classes, and Joe is Sound. Also, Steve was instrumental in getting Sarah’s film into the sights of the festival jurors and even helped out with her promotional materials.
Also, of course, Russ Marleau and I had a modest hand in her pre-production. (Russ is our Screenwriting mentor and I do Directing and Class Film, a production course.)
I recall Sarah initially had written a completely different script (and not a bad one) for her 101 project, but she ultimately switched to AIR while in Russ’s class. A good decision, in the final analysis.
The DWF Festival is competitive, with the audience at each screening being asked to vote on each film, by rating it from 1 to 5, 5 being the best.
You needn’t wonder how I voted.