University of Windsor Film Festival a goal four years in the making for graduating filmmakers
With their studies completed and eyes on their careers, senior students will be showcasing their work at this year’s University of Windsor Film Festival, a moment that some have been looking forward to for four years.
The festival by students in the Communication, Media and Film department is set for April 19. It’s an important event for soon-to-be graduates completing their fourth year film projects. For Daniel Stefanovich, screenwriter and director on Stephan Gabet and the Skull of the Good King, the idea of having the film festival provides some extra motivation during the filmmaking process.
“I think we kind of assume, as senior students, that our films are going to be shown in our own film festival. It’s something to always look forward to, instead of thinking, ‘Oh, I don’t know if the film is going to be shown,’ while you’re working.”
While a festival date is set, the venue, which has traditionally been the Capitol Theatre, is not certain.
“As far as getting the final price and being able to contact to co-ordinator, we’ve been having a lot of difficulty,” said Katie Mitchell, president of the Communication Students Association. Mitchell is also a fourth-year student, who worked as first camera assistant on Stephan Gabet as well as Let Loyal Dogs Lie, another of the fourth year projects.
Mitchell, who said the CSA has a backup venue on standby, originally believed the ownership situation at the Capitol was to blame, “because there’s been that transition. But when I spoke to the last president, he mentioned that they had the same problems last year.”
A spokesperson for the events department at the City of Windsor said that the CSA was offered the larger Pentastar Room in the Capitol, which is out of the association’s budget, as the smaller Kelly Room, where the film festival has been held in the past, is already booked for that day.
The festival is designed to be more accessible than the ones that students would otherwise be fighting for a spot in. It’s free to enter and accepts submissions from students in all years of the program, as well as those from St. Clair College and Wayne State University in Detroit, Mich.
“I’ve definitely been encouraging [first year students] to think about submitting their projects,” said Mitchell, who is also a teaching assistant for the first year production classes. “There are a large amount of them that would be good for the festival.”
The senior film production stream in the department, referred to as Studio 5, relocated from its home in the old drama building on Wyandotte Street to its current location at the university-leased St. Francis Public School on Detroit Street in January 2011. It boasts full sound and video editing suites and houses the program’s industry standard equipment, which is fully accessible to students for their work. That accessibility gives the students an opportunity that might not otherwise be available, despite their ambitions.
“I still have my script, and maybe I would have been able to cast the same actors, but the school gives us all the equipment that we need,” Stefanovich said. “Even during editing, you don’t really notice how good the equipment is until you sit down and start using it.”
The academic experience goes beyond the equipment and training, to the opportunity of simply being on set and having access to your fellow classmates.
“One of the good things about this being school is that we don’t have to pay [our crew],” Stefanovich said. “So you have people who are amazing at what they do and use them for free because they’re here for school like you.”
For Laura Hammell, who will be submitting her own film and worked in the art department on Stephan Gabet and Let Loyal Dogs Lie, being on set gave her the confidence to want people to see her work.
“I never really had the opportunity to work with a lot of people. I’m not really that sociable, I guess, with other filmmakers. (Professor) Min (Bae) gave me a chance last semester to be a director and that was the first time I was able to take a little bit of control over what I wanted to do. It was a good experience that was worth being in the program for.”
To be successful, however, the filmmakers need to look past their roles as students. Stefanovich has started a full-blown advertising campaign for his film, complete with social media updates, a website and behind-the-scenes videos.
“It goes beyond a school project. If you look at it as a school project, you’re going to be in trouble and you don’t have the right mindset. You have to think of it as, ‘I am making a movie. It has nothing to do with school, what can I do to get some exposure?’”
Ultimately, it comes down to the film festival. Mitchell, despite having to deal with the organizational headaches of planning the festival, said the festival is too important of an event to cancel.
“When you go into fourth year, you’re more oriented towards your career. What really matters is what experience you have, not if you have an A or a B. I think that it’s incredibly important to showcase students’ work, especially for fourth year students who want to get their name out there.”
Stefanovich agrees that his grades have taken a back seat to making something he is proud to put his name on.
“I haven’t thought about grades in the class since probably third year. Obviously I want a good mark, and most of us believe we deserve a good mark because we have worked so hard and given up so much, but the only thing that matters is getting the film up on screen in time.”
Hammell agreed as well. “If you did a good film, you’re obviously going to get a good grade. But I think it’s more about trying to show off your talent to everybody. When everybody in Windsor’s film community can see your work, it’s about the final content, because you’re going to use it later on for getting work. I think if you want to focus more on making your film instead of your other studies, that’s fine too. It all depends on where your passion lies.”
The University of Windsor Film Festival will be held on April 19. More information, including venue, schedule and ticket prices can be found at the CSA Facebook page as it is announced.