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Showcases let students shine

Education Impact Report 2012

While the primary mandate of most film schools is to give their students the professional skills they need to work in the entertainment industry, the bar of entry to actually landing those jobs remains dauntingly high for many graduates. One way schools can give their talent a boost is by hosting showcases for agents and alums in the industry hubs of Gotham and L.A., the idea being that screening student-made shorts for the right eyes could lead to jobs or industry signings.

That is part of the thinking behind Boston U.’s Redstone Film Festival, a bicoastal competition that starts on campus in Boston, travels to New York City and ends in Los Angeles, with tastemakers from CBS and HBO lending their vote to who wins.

Because the fest, named after its financial backer and Viacom topper Sumner Redstone, is judged in advance by pros watching screeners, film and television chair Paul Schneider says it can be hard to get viewers in seats for the L.A. or New York legs. As a result, Boston U. relies on its network of West Coast alumni, industry insiders among them, to come support the show. They’ve even added an alumni short category.

When he was a student at the American Film Institute, Schneider says students used to sign with agents as a direct result of their showcase screenings.

USC alumnus Matthew Breault says participating in his alma mater’s First Look Festival was a great start for him. “If I say to people I won USC’s First Look, which is the best student film, undergraduate or graduate, for that year, it gets people to listen.”

But it’s a little more complicated than that. Breault says he turned down most of the offers that came at the time because he didn’t have his next project lined up, something he wishes he’d developed while a student. He’s now developing his first feature, “Impulse Control,” with the writer who penned his award-winning short, “Efrain.”

Across town, UCLA hosts a week-long film fest. According to faculty mentor Myrl Schreibman, because the fest is student run, the onus for attracting insiders is also shared by the students.

Schreibman says RSVPs for the fest fill up so quickly, they don’t feel like they’re competing with showcases hosted by other local and out-of-state colleges.

CalArts tries to draw attention to student talent by presenting their work where pros already are, as in taking toon shorts to the Annecy animation fest and market in France.

“You can kind of go in two directions with these showcases,” concludes Schneider. “On one side, you can really push to have it purely about getting industry professionals there in the hopes that they’re going to jump-start people’s careers, or you can make it … an alumni-community kind of event.”

2012 Student Work Showcases

American Film Institute
March 15: DGA Theater, L.A.

Boston U.
March 16: Viacom Theater, N.Y.
March 30: Lynwood Dunn Theater, L.A.

May 2-4: Redcat, L.A.
May 9: Samuel Goldwyn Theater, L.A.

Chapman U.
March 31: DGA Theater, N.Y.
Sept. 27: DGA Theater, L.A.

Columbia U.
May 4-10: Lincoln Center, N.Y.
June 12-14: TBA, L.A.

Emerson College
March 8: WGA Theater, L.A.

Florida State U.
Feb. 7: WGA Theater, L.A.
May 1: Angelika Film Center, N.Y.

Loyola Marymount
Oct. 27: Paramount Studios, L.A.

New York U.
April 5: Cantor Film Center, N.Y.
May 31: DGA Theater, L.A.

Pratt Institute
May 7: BAM Rose Cinemas, N.Y.

June 14: DGA, L.A.

April 24: DGA Theater, L.A.

U. of North Carolina
May 4: Campanile Theater, L.A.

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