Film festival presents own academy awards to students

Sept. 2, 2013

April Wefler
[email protected]

Every year, avid moviegoers anticipate their favorite movie walking away from the Oscars with top honors.

The Student Short Film Festival, which held its 12th annual presentation last spring, is UCCS’ version of the awards show.

“I am always impressed by the quality of the work that is presented every year by the students, and by the openness and honesty the campus’ filmmakers portray in their projects,” said Sean Purcell, former president of the Film Club, in an email.

“The films are judged the night before the festival by fellow students,” said Melina Dabney, current president of the Film Club said in an email.

“How competitive a genre is really depends on the roster of films in each section for that specific year, so one year can have a more stiff competition in one category, say, Animation and the next year can have the same effect in Documentary,” she added.

This year’s winners included: Vanessa Los for Best Music Video, Chelsea Lewis for Best Documentary, Sean Purcell for Best Experimental, Gabe Warrick for Best Live Action Comedy, Matthew Alvarado for Best Live Action Drama and Gabriel Constantino for Special Award for Cinematography and Audience Choice.

Los, who graduated last spring and hopes to get her master’s of fine arts next fall, submitted a piece called “Salad Girl.” The film was taken from her own experience at working at a restaurant.

“It’s more of an emotional experience, more of a sentimental thing. You experience the person without having to understand what they said,” Los said.

She said she was overwhelmed when she learned her piece won. “I was trying my best not to cry. It was honoring. I kind of underestimated myself a lot and to feel validated like that. It was really quite wonderful.”

Purcell, who was accepted to NYU and will attend Loyola Marymount University School of Film for his MFA, won for Experimental Short Film Award but mentioned he wasn’t in the room when the judges discussed his film.

He said that the film, “Future Present Past,” is best described as a three-part meditation on memory, identity and mortality and “is a love letter to the late French filmmaker, Chris Marker.”

Another winner, Matthew Alvarado, is a senior majoring in digital filmmaking. His piece, “Steel Son,” won Best Live Action Drama.

“His film was in stiff competition against Gabriel Constantino’s ‘House of Neon.’ We found that Alvarado’s film was a more cohesive text, whereas Constantino’s was strong in visuals but the narrative was loose,” Purcell said.

Alvarado’s piece, a mockumentary about the son of a famous fictional character, is set up so at the beginning of the piece, the audience doesn’t know who the fictional character is.

“You don’t really know it’s fiction until you see the film,” said Alvarado.

Alvarado, a former business major, always loved movies. “When I was a kid, I was a big fan of the ‘Indiana Jones’ films,” Alvarado said. “My dad used to bring home old Cary Grant movies and stuff and as a kid, I wanted to be Indiana Jones.”

He said that when he realized he couldn’t be Indiana Jones, he decided that he would become the guy who makes movies like “Indiana Jones.”

“I remember trying to make animations with Legos when I was little, but they weren’t very good, and getting frustrated, ’cause it’s such a long process, animation, but it’s an experience that kinda paid off.”

Alvarado, along with another student and David Nelson, communication department chair and professor, is working on a new piece about a cat burglar called the Fantom.

“He goes to steal a piece of art from a house, but the woman who lives there is expecting him, and it’s just kinda their back-and-forth,” he said.

“We’re trying to make it kind of in the style of old movies,” he added, mentioning the style of Cary Grant, Hitchcock, Peter O’Toole and Audrey Hepburn films.

“I’m enormously proud that what was a one-time experiment so many years ago has become a campus tradition,” said Robert von Dassanowsky, professor and director of film studies in the VAPA department.

“Not only does it give our students a nice platform to show their short work to the public; many of them have had their films screened by national and regional festivals after participating at our Student Film Fest,” he said. “And the first screening is such an important first step in a filmmaker’s development.”

Auditions for two male characters and one female character for the Fantom movie will be Sept. 7 from 10 a.m.-noon in the El Pomar studio. Any interested students are asked to send an e-mail to [email protected].