Film school confidential

Student directors catch a break with the Student Film Festival 2005

by Steven Snyder

For more than two weeks, the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival reigned on campus movie screens.

Now, student filmmakers get their turn.

Tonight through Saturday, the Minnesota Programs and Activities Council’s films committee presents its first-ever festival, the Student Film Festival 2005, at the Coffman Union Theater.

In what has become a surprise success for the council’s committee, University students have submitted 29 works, ranging from two to 56 minutes long.

The committee’s co-chairman, Justin Scott, a Minnesota Daily employee, and co-chairwoman Samantha Schubnel said they are ecstatic about the number of submissions. They plan to screen the works in four different programs during the next two nights.

Saturday’s screening will feature the winners of the judge and audience competitions, they said.

“We definitely generated a lot of interest. Twenty-nine submissions on a first try, that’s pretty amazing,” Schubnel said. “We did not know what to expect.”

Their uncertainty is not surprising.

The University does offer a film major, studies in cinema and media culture, but it focuses on film theory rather than film production. The University Motion Picture Club has been working to raise the idea of a more production-oriented major since fall. The club is presenting its own film festival in two weeks.

“For the SCMC major, the program is not filmmaking, it’s film theory,” Schubnel said. “You know people are making films, but there’s no forum for them to show their work.”

Schubnel and Scott said the festival’s submissions reflect a wide spectrum of talent among University filmmakers. Between the festival’s three planned long-format presentations and one planned short-format program, Scott said, audiences will see a complete variety of works.

“I had no idea people had the ability to make films of this quality,” he said. “It runs the gamut, from really low-budget stuff made with a Super-8 camera to really beautiful visual effects and audio effects.”

Directors of works included in the festival said they approached the competition with different perspectives.

University student Taylor Stevenson submitted three works for the festival’s short program, although only one will officially be considered for judging. He said his works attempt to share his unique artistic vision with the world.

“I want people to see a range of what I’ve made,” he said. “My personality isn’t really serious or goofy all the time. I want people to see both sides of me – the really depraved, sickly side and then my attempt to be serious with an art film.”

Other directors, such as University student Alex Langenfeld, used this opportunity to provoke discussion and debate among their classmates.

In Langenfeld’s long-format “Laid: A Sexumentary,” he interviewed multiple University students on their opinions about sex and its place in today’s society and campus life.

“Before the University of Minnesota, I had gone through Catholic school all my life,” Langenfeld said. “It was weird right away seeing TAs with big bowls of condoms.

“I looked at the bigger contradiction between a society and government that shies away from sex and a media that’s glorifying it. It’s all about getting people to talk about their own sexuality and to get their insight on why this contradiction exists,” he said.

Stevenson, Langenfeld and the festival’s organizers all agreed this weekend’s festival provides an unprecedented forum for student filmmakers at a university that offers them few options.

“I’m not saying we’re changing the world, but it lets the faculty know that people are interested in making films,” Stevenson said. “It isn’t just a hobby, but people are really doing this. The University should realize that.”