Tuesday, May 7, 2013

University of New Orleans Film Festival Rises to New Heights

Fifty-five films will roll over the course of four days this week at the University of New Orleans annual film festival. Forty-five of those films were made by UNO students vying to win a top prize at the esteemed annual film competition.

The annual film festival is designed to allow students an opportunity to showcase their work in a juried competition, learn more about burning issues in film and celebrate accomplishments among peers and industry experts.

"It's definitely still growing," said Dawn Spatz Roe, a Master of Fine Arts degree candidate who organized the festival for the second year running. "It's bigger and better," said the UNO Film Festival President, noting that a committee of 11 film students met at least once a week all semester to plan the event.

"I feel like it's going to pay off. I think the students are going to be excited."

The University's 7th Annual Film Festival runs Thursday, May 9 through Sunday, May 12 in the Robert E. Nims Theatre on main campus. The event is free and open to the public.

A keynote talk by a young Louisiana filmmaker starts at 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 9 in the theatre and is followed by an opening party at 8 p.m. at The Cove on Founders Road. Filament, a UNO student band, will play.

On Sunday, an awards ceremony takes place at 9 p.m. following a 7 p.m. talk by a leading lawyer in the local film industry.

Movies roll in between.

Low and Behold

Headlining the event is Louisiana filmmaker Zach Godshall, who will present his first feature film, Low and Behold, at 6 p.m. Friday and will hold a question and answer session after the screening.

Godshall's low-budget feature film takes place in New Orleans and is based on a true story. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the failure of federal levees, a young insurance claims agent risks his job to help a local man find his dog.

"As this unlikely pair traverses the city, [the insurance agent, Turner Stull] comes to realize that some damage is immeasurable...Low and Behold blurs the line between reality and fiction, creating a mosaic of images, face and voices that together makes for a unique cinematic experience," reads a synopsis.

Godshall is also director of Lord Byron, which debuted at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival as a New York Times Critics' Pick. Low and Behold, produced in 2007, is Godshall's first feature film, Roe said.

"The reason that we chose his film is it's something that we feel could be made by the students. It's a feasible film and it's a great film...The reason his film is [accessible to] students is not lack of talent, but that he used the tools that were available to him and not necessarily a high-budget [production team]" said Roe.

"It kind of gives you hope. You feel you can follow in his footsteps as he makes it in the industry. He's won some awards in the industry and he's not much older than some of our students and he's doing it," Roe said. "He's making it. That's the dream."

Juried Competition and Awards Ceremony

A panel of five film industry professionals arrives on campus tonight to judge the top 15 entries, said Roe. Awards for Best Screenplay, Best Director and other prizes include: Movie Magic scheduling and budgeting software, an annual NOVAC membership, a $150 lighting gift card, 1550 Pelican case, two Lokemino 35 mm cameras, Scrivener software and four taped video auditions provided by local film industry retailers.

"We've got films from all over," said Roe. "We're expanding our reach."

One submission is This Shining Night starring Oscar Award-nominated actor Eric Roberts, brother to Julia, Roe said.

Lights, Camera, (Legal) Action

Also drawing attention is attorney Robert L. Wollfarth Jr. who will address key legal issues relating to developing, producing and distributing a motion picture. His talk, "Lights, Camera, (Legal) Action" at 7 p.m. on Sunday, May 12. Wollfarth will address key issues related to developing, distributing and producing a motion picture.

"It's huge for students to have access to learning about that because once you're out and making feature films, you need a lawyer."

A Major Motion Picture Viewing Experience

The festival will showcase students' best films and up-and-coming independent films on the University's new 4K DLP projector, said UNO Film Professor John Hampton "Hamp" Overton. Festival goers will enjoy a major motion picture viewing experience as the projector projects high-definition film on a special screen in the recently refurbished surround-sound Nims Theatre.

The $200,000 Barco 4K DLP projector, paid for by state grants, is the only one of its kind at a university in Louisiana and projects films at four times the resolution of high-definition TV.

Through the festival and other successes, campus leaders hope to continue to raise the visibility of the University's famed film studies program, which boasts a master's degree program and more than 350 undergraduate students.

7th Annual UNO Film Festival schedule, location and more