By Sydney Shaw
From films abounding with pining and romance to futuristic sci-fi thrillers, this year’s annual Campus MovieFest boasted the wide array of talented student filmmakers at the College.
The premiere, held at the Kendall Hall Main Stage Theatre on Tuesday, April 28, included screenings of the top 16 student-created films. It also concluded with an awards ceremony that determined which films would head to Hollywood for the annual summer screening of the best Campus MovieFest films.
Top films from the evening included “Paramnesia,” a production depicting an artificially intelligent robot who believes he is a human; “Archie,” in which a young woman helps a college filmmaker produce his first romance movie by exposing her true feelings for him; “The Work Force,” which features a man who will stop at nothing to finally get a job; and “OK Cupid,” a poem-turned-film about the struggles of dating in a digital world.
According to the competition rules, teams were given one week to write, film and edit a five-minute short film. This year 61 teams from the College participated.
The winners of the coveted Silver Tripod Awards were selected by the Distinguished Filmmakers Network and awarded to three films who succeed in specific areas, including Best Cinematography, Best Directing and Best Special Effects.
The cast and crew of “Archie” took home the Silver Tripod for Best Cinematography. Senior history major Michael Cort, the mind behind the story and the creator of the movie, is no stranger to filmmaking — his short film “Twitch Plays College” won Best Comedy in last year’s Campus MovieFest and was screened in Hollywood last summer.
“I created the entire thing by myself, so I was taking on a huge amount of responsibility,” Cort said about “Archie.” “This worked for me last year so I figured, why not? I’ll lose a lot of sleep for a few days, but the finished product is going to be my exact vision and that’s more important to me than sleep.”
Unlike most of the films screened during the premiere, the only sound in “Archie” was the music added during editing.
“Images alone are more powerful than some people give them credit for and I feel like ‘Archie’ accomplished more in five minutes as a silent film than it would have if I had chosen to weigh it down with dialogue,” Cort said. “This was only made possible by Sean (Harshman) and Kim (Ilkowski) who were absolutely brilliant with their expressions. They sold the story without having to say a word, and I think that’s a powerful thing.”
A sophomore journalism major and the features editor at The Signal, Ilkowski’s expressions earned her the Best Actress award for her role as Clara in “Archie.”
The Best Actor award went home with senior marketing major Garrett Verdone, a cast member from “Paramnesia,” which also earned the Silver Tripod for Best Special Effects and Best Production Design.
Verdone plays Alex, a seemingly ordinary individual who attempts to decipher which of the two responses on his computer screen was sent from a human and which was automated by a robot. The tables are turned, however, when the test administrator reveals that Alex himself is the robot — programmed with detailed memories and complex emotions.
“Wait! Please,” Verdone desperately cries in the film. “Please stop. I’m a person.”
His convincing performance, along with flawless special effects and editing done behind the scenes, launched “Paramnesia” straight to Hollywood.
“Due to scheduling restraints, we had to film everything in one day on Saturday, leaving us no room for pickups and only three days for post-production,” film creator Joshua Lewkowicz said. “A few sleepless nights later, we finished barely on time!”
Lewkowicz, a senior interactive multimedia major with minors in communication studies and marketing, credited sophomore interactive multimedia major Ryan Laux with the 2D Visual Effects, creating the holographic screens and cleaning up the film.
Sophomore interactive multimedia major Chris Lundy composed the musical score for the film. Senior interactive multimedia major Andrew Kuserk modeled and animated the “creepy robotic elements seen in the back of Alex’s head” at the end of the film, according to Lewkowicz.
The team’s film, “Iris,” won Best Picture at the College and Best Special Effects in the country at last year’s Campus MovieFest.
Inspiration for the film came from the actors themselves, who Lewkowicz described as talented writers and improvisors.
For junior psychology major Andrew Edelblum, the inspiration for his film “OK, Cupid” came from a poem he penned in January.
“I actually made my first online dating account (then),” Edelblum said. “I was feeling pretty lost and disillusioned about love at the time, so my thoughts were far from optimistic. But after reading ‘OK, Cupid’ to different crowds over the past few months, it became an instant favorite.”
“I’m not about to go investing my time into some website where compatibility is based around a series of ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions,” Edelblum recites during his film.
He goes on to give viewers some insight into the relationship he had before he made his OK, Cupid account, describing himself and his ex-girlfriend as “two starry-eyed cartographers charting maps of one another, slowly and carefully.”
But after two years, Edelblum says the pair traveled into territory they no longer wanted to explore.
“OK, Cupid” was a winner of one of the Jury Awards, which are given to the top four best movies. The award was also bestowed upon the cast and crews of “Archie,” “Paramnesia” and “The Work Force.”
“I had a loose idea for ‘The Work Force’ back in October,” said Folake Ayiloge, a junior communications studies and interactive multimedia double major. “When I saw my movie title appear on the big screen as a winner, I nearly burst into tears. It was surreal.”
Ayiloge celebrated her 21st birthday on the night of the premiere, making it an even more memorable win. This year’s premiere was special for several other student filmmakers, as well, marking their last Campus MovieFest before graduation.
“It meant the world to me that I could have this be one of my last big moments in college,” Cort said. “I’m going to miss this terribly, but hopefully we’ll be able to throw some money together and go to Hollywood, so who knows? Maybe the journey isn’t over yet.”
As for Edelblum, the Campus MovieFest this year proved to be the start of a new journey in itself.
“It’s amazing how much this whole experience means to me,” he said. “(Calling the experience) a turning point would be an understatement.”