The familiar scent of popcorn filled my nostrils as I walked into the Beverly Arts Center. BAC was hosting their first annual student film festival, and, to be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Shoddily made spy flicks using a backyard as a set and Nerf guns as props came to mind.
Sitting in the empty four hundred-seat theater, I spoke with program coordinator Jonathan Moeller before the festival began.
“It’s kind of an experiment this year. I’ve been here for two and a half years now. We already do an Irish film festival here, so it wasn’t hard to make a student film festival. My coordinator though it would be great if we had a culmination type event. We’ve got a lot of stuff that looks like seasoned work.”
With recent Oscar nominations stirring conversations of filmmaking being a boys club, Moeller assured the audience’s expectations for the future of diversity in the industry. “About half of our work for this festival was made by women, and we had nineteen filmmakers who were people of color.”
My hopes raised, I sat back, relaxed, and enjoyed the show.
The first film, Curtis, focused on the titular janitor, who knocks over a student’s science fair experiment into his mop bucket. The water then animates photographs and brings them to life. He pours the substance on a photo of his wife and child and is reunited with them in black and white hanging on a dark room clothesline. It’s a touching story with light-hearted humor and heart wrenching emotional elements that is met with fantastic special effects used on the photos.
Ferris is a delightfully simple project: one minute and sixteen seconds of breath-taking visuals from the Navy Pier Ferris wheel. The shots are something that most writers would struggle to capture, but is done masterfully by Columbia College student Ciara Holloway.
Animated features were well represented in the festival. The filmmakers used what they had ready access to, such as a desktop and clay to create, the Claymation Blob and Clayvid. Similarly,Wake Up, Frankie is an expertly crafted stop-motion animation of eleven-year-old filmmaker Megan Riordan’s dolls as they prepare for their day.
Dissolve is a delightful black comedy. A young man in an apartment prepares to take his own life with a pill dissolved in water. Suicide note in hand, he is repeatedly interrupted by his roommates’ problems. After consoling them about dead pets and girls who don’t text back after a date, he pours his glass into the sink in a subtle but uplifting conclusion.
After the screening, some of the young filmmakers were in attendance to answer questions from the audience. Justin Leyba, writer and director of Dissolve, described filmmaking as a new avenue for expression. “It’s really great to see your movie on the big screen. It makes all the hard work worth it. It’s also great that you can meet other people. I’m normally really shy; I can’t express myself verbally. Through the medium of film, I can truly express myself and tell people things I believe in and really care about.”