Student filmmakers vie for spot at Oakland film festival
by Lindsie Trego
Lights will dim once again for the annual Student Film and Animation Competition in the Robinson Teaching Theatre Feb. 22.
The competition, a part of the Leonard Oakland Film Festival, gives Whitworth students who are interested in film an opportunity to show their films on campus, said Fred Johnson, English professor and member of the festival committee.
The committee invited students from all disciplines to submit films in a variety of categories, ranging from films that are less than 60 seconds to slightly longer, experimental and documentary-style films.
Junior English major Rosie McFarland submitted a film for the first time this year.
“I’ve always been interested in film, but it hasn’t really been a passion until this year,” McFarland said.
Her love for film began as a minor hobby in her elementary school days, took a hiatus for a while, and came back recently as a full-blown passion, she said.
McFarland said she saw the student film competition as a rare opportunity to bring her passion for film to campus, as Whitworth doesn’t have as broad a film curriculum as some other schools.
She began the quest to film her six-and-a-half-minute piece in November and employed the help of a few theater students, a music student, and a fellow English student to make her script a reality.
“I emailed the theater department, and got an immediate response,” McFarland said. “And so I had to write a script super fast. I started writing it in class, actually.”
She finished the script in one week, and started filming soon after.
It was not all fun and games, though. McFarland said she hit a couple roadblocks on the way to creating her video.
She shot her film with a $60 Sony camcorder and said she struggled to work within the confines of the technology available to her.
Another struggle came when McFarland waited for snow to hit Spokane, thinking that normally when it snows here, it sticks for a while. This would be a perfect situation, she said, because it would allow her to shoot her film over a series of days, but keep it in the same environment. She said she didn’t want to risk beginning to shoot in sunny weather and then have it snow, creating an incongruence in her film.
Unfortunately, the snow didn’t stick. Instead, McFarland was left needing to re-shoot all of the footage she had already taken.
“I decided not to edit the film at all until Christmas break,” she said. “I knew that if I started editing it, I would not do any homework because I enjoy film more than I enjoy my homework.”
Once she did start editing, though, McFarland said she isolated herself in a room for hours doing nothing except editing her piece.
McFarland’s end result is a film that looks at “interpersonal communication from an outside perspective,” she said.
Senior art major Darrien Mack took a different approach to the competition. He has submitted to the competition multiple times, and won second place once. In his submission for this year’s competition, “Reprie — Laura Venemon,” Mack weaved together footage he took of his girlfriend, senior Laura Venemon, dancing in the Cornerstone dance studio and in his room, with home video of her dancing as a child.
“The video focuses around Laura’s dream of being a dance teacher,” Mack said.
Mack, who said he aspires to work in videography as a future career, said the competition and the Leonard Oakland festival provide a rare glimpse of film at Whitworth, allowing students to learn about and experience the art form.
On the other hand, Mack said he thinks it’s important for audience members to know that this film competition is not necessarily representative of film competitions everywhere.
“It’s very sheltered,” he said.
In his experience, the films in the festival and competition tend to shy away from foul language, questions of sexuality and other content that might be considered questionable. In this way, he said he feels the films shown are catered to a “Whitworth audience.”
The film festival gives the Whitworth audience a chance to engage with cinema outside of the classroom or traditional movie theater, especially given that the university has fewer than 15 regular courses on the Whitworth books that focus on film.
Johnson said he encourages students who are interested in film to start thinking about next year’s competition now. For those who do not normally create video, he said the less-than-60-second option is a great opportunity to try out the medium.
“I think people who normally don’t make films could make a brilliant one-minute film,” Johnson said.
As the Student Film and Animation Competition gains more years, Johnson said he hopes it will begin to grow by bringing in more students from more diverse academic backgrounds.
McFarland and Mack have both submitted their films and now must wait until Friday night with the rest of those who submitted films to find out which will be shown at the festival and which one wins the competition.
The fifth annual Leonard Oakland Film Festival will begin Feb. 21, showing one or more films each night through the end of the weekend. The main films for the festival and the showtimes can be found here. The chosen student films will be screen Friday.
The festival honors English professor Leonard Oakland, who introduced film studies to Whitworth in 1970, according to the festival website.
Contact Lindsie Trego at email@example.com