On Monday, the University of Tulsa Film Department hosted its Eighth Student Film Festival. The event, conducted in the Lorton Performance Center, allows student directors to screen their films to an audience of friends, family and classmates. Ashley Etter, who organized the event, says that it is “very instructive for a filmmaker to see how a film plays in front of an audience.” She adds that “Making a movie and showing it to an audience can be terrifying. It takes enormous courage and supportive peers.”
This year, eight films were shown, with a surprising amount of variety. Genres ranged from film noir in Chandler Bennett’s “Pawn” to comedies with cheery romantic endings, such as “First Date” and “Springtime of Youth.” Many of the films were decidedly unique, such as “I Can’t Decide” which was a music video of the Scissor Sisters’ song by the same name, depicting a college student’s efforts to rid himself of his obnoxious roommate. Strangely enough, one of my favorite projects was “Deaf Code,” a twist on MTV’s “Girl Code,” in which deaf students clarified the dos and don’ts of interacting with and understanding deaf culture.
There were several awards given out at the festival. Among them was Best Score, claimed by “Magicians Anonymous.” The short film, directed and scored by student Tim Aston, took runner-up for best film as well. The story followed a support group of magicians learning to cope with their rather unique career choice. Keith Daniels won Best Actor for his performance as a gifted magician struggling to live up to his father’s grand reputation.
“Sweet Kitty,” a dark comedy in which an ungrateful slob is tasked by his girlfriend to take care of her cat for a few days, took the Audience Choice Award. The film cuts intermittently between a real cat whose improvised and instinctual reactions make its screen-time pleasantly comical, and a POV shot from the same animal, with only the occasional fake cat arm reaching into view to knock over bottles, plates and knives. Summer Thompson, who directed the feature, also won the award for Outstanding Senior, but was unable to accept it in person as she is currently studying abroad in Italy. In the words of Ashley Etter, Summer “has been an exceptional and sociable student. She understands that filmmaking requires a lot of sharing.”
Winner of the Best Film award was “Pawn,” the previously mentioned film noir tribute directed by student Chandler Berrett. The short film featured a hardboiled detective, lengthy cryptic monologues, a femme fatale and was even filmed in black and white. When asked why he chose the genre of film noir, Chandler cited its “history and visual design.” While classic noir films were usually “cynical manifestations of the fallout from the Great Depression and World War II,” he noted that the genre survives in “neo-noir stories that take the outline of noir and graft it onto relevant issues.” Finally, Chandler admitted that visually the “silhouette of someone in a trench coat and fedora smoking a cigarette has always made [him] a bit weak in the knees.” After working on “Pawn” the entirety of last semester, he was thankful to have other people view it and offer constructive criticism. He says he’s trying to use the experience to improve his future work.
The festival has a promotional aspect as well, allowing students to establish useful ties with the Tulsa community. In attendance of the event were a number of representatives from upcoming local film festivals. One such was Tulsa Overground Film Festival, which will be occurring March 24 in the Circle Cinema and the Fly Loft. Another, the Tulsa American Film Festival, is a newer organization, and is hoping to premiere independent features and short films. Both organizations offer student film programs and can be contacted on their respective websites.