Student filmmakers début work


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Forget about winning Oscars or making millions in Hollywood.

Budding filmmakers have to start somewhere, and usually that’s submitting work to any film festival possible.

“It’s really nerve-racking, because you can never tell what other people will think, especially because I was the one who came up with the idea of the film, wrote it, directed it, sometimes acted in it, and edited it,” UI cinema student Patrick Bottaro said.

Bottaro and others will observe those long-awaited audience reactions today, as the Student Film Showcase, presented by the Campus Activities Board and Student Video Productions, lights up the IMU Black Box Theatre screen at 9 p.m.. Admission is free.

UI students created all the films, and they range from one to 15 minutes in length. UI senior Molly Golemo, the film director for the Campus Activities Board, is excited about providing student filmmakers a stage on which to show their work.

“[The Campus Activities Board] caters to the students who love to watch movies but never really caters to the students who have the talent of making movies themselves,” she said. “The UI has the only cinema program in Iowa, so we figured we should probably start helping out those people.”

Entries will automatically receive a $10 Best Buy gift card. The winner, chosen by the audience, will receive an additional $40 Best Buy prize. Viewers will also have the opportunity for goodies, because votes on best film will double as raffle tickets for Activities Board giveaways.

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“We’ve always had open-mike nights in the past where a lot of student comedians and student bands would come in, but then we started to get involved with film — we now have movies every weekend,” Golemo said. “So we thought it would be really cool to have an ‘open-mike night’ for students who make films.”

Student filmmaker Bottaro usually spends about two months on each of his short movies, from his initial ideas to the final edits. In the Student Film Showcase, the senior said he is thankful to not only have an outlet for his art but a chance to gauge his results.

“The best part about it is to look at where I expect people to laugh, and it’s always nice to know what’s working and what isn’t working,” he said. “Initially, you really have no idea what people are going to honestly think. But [through reactions] you can always get a good sense of that.”

The director typically takes the comments and reactions and uses them to grow in his filmmaking process. He said seeing audience responses in person helps the most.

“It’s always different when you’re actually there,” Bottaro said. “People’s reactions have an effect on you. It’s kind of scary, I guess, but you just have to look past it, because I’m not making this just for me, but for other people to see.”

Activities Board officials expect hundreds in attendance, noting the event is held in a theater with a live audience.

“When you’re in a cinema class, you workshop each other,” Golemo said. “This is a chance to see what other people or students who are interested in film think — people who don’t necessarily know the tech behind it.”

Throughout the submission process, she said, the Activities Board looked for a variety of film entries.

“We have avant-garde, comedy, animation — the wider the range the better,” she said. “It makes it more interesting, especially to see what the students want when they vote on the best film.”

Mocking a ’70s horror flick, Bottaro’s submitted film, “Cult of the Damned,” portrays a newlywed couple celebrating their honeymoon. They stop in a small town in Iowa that’s been overtaken by a devil-worshipping cult.

While creating his film, the director said, he intentionally used cheesy lines and over-the-top dramatic moments to satirize the genre.

“My film is a comedy, and I hope people catch that,” he said.

Student Video Productions general manager Derek Renfeld hopes students take advantage of the opportunity to see their peers’ work.

“Our goal is to get student’s work out there for people to see,” the UI senior said. “There isn’t anything like this on campus. The biggest reward for any students who make things, if you ask them, is to be able to show it to people.”

Renfeld encouraged students to enter but also noted that submitting to film festivals is only the first step for anyone entering the cinema world.

“This is an experience that everyone should almost be required to have as a student,” he said. “It’s just awesome to watch students who have never shown their stuff to a large group of people react. Sometimes, it’s fun, and sometimes it backfires, but it’s always a learning experience.”

Bottaro loves to show his work to the public, and he doesn’t worry about being critiqued.

“Those are my favorite people to have watch,” he said. “They’re watching to be entertained, not to critique it or tell me what I did right or wrong. They just want to enjoy themselves.”

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