Last year, while working in Boston, Martin Scorsese agreed to drop by nearby Brown U. and host a master class for students at the school’s Ivy Film Festival.
If you think that’s impressive, consider the highlight of this year’s event: a panel featuring Paramount topper Brad Grey, “Chinatown” producer Robert Evans, actor Jack Nicholson and Variety’s Peter Bart.
Most festivals would settle to attract just one such industry pro. So how has a modest, student-run sprocket opera managed to land that roster?
It helps that Brown is home to so many showbiz offspring (both Grey’s son and Nicholson’s daughter are students there), not to mention alma mater for a long list of industry players (director Doug Liman and Fox co-chair Tom Rothman, both grads, have participated, and Rothman will again).
But it’s also a testament to the event’s young organizers, who created their own forum to screen student-made shorts.
“Film festivals will take student films, but they’re usually made by grad students, and it’s usually their thesis films,” says Justin Slosky, who co-founded the event with David Peck in 2001.
The first year, Slosky and Peck solicited entries from fellow Ivy League schools — most of which, like Brown, don’t offer formal film production majors. They invited industry guests such as Oliver Stone and James Toback to judge the competition or screen their latest pics.
In subsequent installments, they widened the scope to include other schools, international films and screenplays. “We thought it would be nice to have films that don’t just have brick in the background,” Slosky says.
Administering the fest can be a challenge, since there is no direct faculty involvement and the staff graduates every few years. But it’s also great prep for the industry, says entertainment attorney and fest adviser Richard Heller of Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz: “They’re running a business, arranging speakers, dealing with agents and publicists, handling sponsors.”
Literary arts major Daniel Wolfberg, this year’s IFF executive director, scaled back his course load to focus on the festival and the writing of his senior thesis (a screenplay, naturally). Back in high school, Wolfberg directed a short that was accepted by a few festivals. Now he’s providing the same avenue for others. “I know from personal experience how gratifying it is to see your work validated like that,” he says.
When: April 21-26
Where: Avon Cinema, Petteruti Lounge and other venues around Brown U. in Providence, R.I.