Despite the clouds of stardust surrounding Hollywood celebrities such as Forest Whitaker, Jennifer Aniston and Will Smith, this year’s Santa Barbara International Film Festival still had room to allow some of UCSB’s rising filmmakers to shine. Of the students involved in the festival, the UCSB Film and Media Studies Department publicized the work of a number of individuals. The list included Michael Weinreich, who worked on “A Wake on the Pier.” The documentary about locals in Santa Barbara coming together to erect a temporary monument at Stearn’s Wharf dedicated to soldiers who died fighting in Iraq was very different from Weinreich’s film “Sister Mary Catherine’s Happy Fun-Time Abortion Adventure” – a comedic black and white silent film about a nun who has an abortion.
Kevin Harman, director of “The Dancing Llama,” which featured a llama with tap-dancing skills who has to overcome a spitting problem to win a yearly dance competition, was also highlighted by UCSB Film and Media Studies adviser Joe Palladino in an e-mail he sent out to UCSB students. Palladino also mentioned Jess Riegel, director of “Trials Course Love 99,” a work combining music and film about building and riding a unicycle course. Other student works presented at the festival were Mikael Mossberg’s “The Playmate,” a short about a boy who hides his very first Playboy and discovers a dead body when he goes to retrieve the magazine. Another UCSB student, Nathaniel Fuller, directed the short “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Clay,” a love story in clay animation featuring the infamous Beatles’ song.
According to Weinreich, the organizers of the festival gave student filmmakers a complimentary tote bag and a platinum pass. The platinum pass allowed students to go to several of the events, including panels with directors and producers, film screenings and SBIFF after-parties. Students also had the privilege of exemption from the fifty-dollar entry fee that other participants must pay, Riegel said
“SBIFF goes out of their way to make you feel good about having your movie in the festival, and to try to make you feel accomplished for it.” Weinreich said.
The showing of the films at the festival gave the student directors a rare opportunity to be able to hear the reaction of the audience. “Every time the film is screened, I hear the audience laugh at something new,” Harman said. “This is the greatest reward for any filmmaker – that’s what its all for. Why make a film if no one sees it? The audience is the main reason I make any kind of film.”
The movie screenings, which took place at Center Stage Theater and the Majorie Luke Theater in downtown Santa Barbara, were scheduled toward the end of the week and during the weekend to make them more accessible to movie-goers of all ages.
“There was definitely an older crowd,” Riegel said about his film’s screening. He added that there were also “a lot of people from the biking community” present at his film.
Harman, Weinreich and Riegel were too busy working on new film projects to attend many of the events, however Weinreich did get the chance to check out the directors’ and producers’ panels.
“It was fascinating to see what the process is on how a feature is written and how it is directed, and how it is similar and how it is different to that of a short,” Weinreich said. “It’s really amazing that the festival gets such great people to the event. It was very inspirational.”
For students who are interested in filmmaking, the student directors who made it into SBIFF had words of encouragement. Weinreich recommended students not spend a lot of money on their first projects, so that they don’t blow their savings when they make their mistakes.
“The core essence of storytelling is the same with a $200 miniDV camera as with Genesis HD camera from Panavision. Just go make it,” Weinreich said.
Harman, a Corwin Award-winner and participant in SBIFF’s 10-10-10 competition, advised students to join in on other projects if they cannot make their own.
“Get involved wherever you can,” Harman said. “There’s so many resources on the_campus and so many productions to get involved with. If you can’t get_on one of the 106s, its not the end of the world. Just ask Joe_Palladino or Dana Driskel.”