Screenings of 75 student films, research presentations, live readings of screenplays, talks by film industry professionals, and networking events made the second ACM Student Film Conference & Festival a showcase of students’ creativity and artistry in film studies across the ACM.
The biennial event, hosted by Lawrence University on April 20-22, drew 150 submissions from students at 10 ACM colleges, almost double the number of submissions to the inaugural ACM Film Conference & Festival in spring 2016.
“From the students to the judges to the faculty, everyone put a lot of positive energy into it, and it really is a chance for people to show what’s possible in filmmaking, film research, and screenwriting at the ACM schools,” said Amy Ongiri, Jill Beck Director of Film Studies at Lawrence and a lead organizer of the festival. “We’re turning out the talent of tomorrow.”
Best of the Midwest and Audience Choice recognition was awarded for films, scholarly research, and screenplays, with additional awards for films in the categories of Social Impact, Cinematic Artistry, Out of the Box for original content, and Films Under Four for short works. The genres of films screened varied widely, as did the length, ranging from around a minute to more than an hour.
“The festival gives faculty and students across ACM who are interested in film studies a chance to come together and share their work, share ideas, make connections, and network with each other,” Ongiri said. “Part of the idea is also to bring people in the film industry closer to the Midwest, so they can see the possibilities and know the kind of work our students are doing.”
Collaboration across campuses is integral to the event, and faculty from several ACM colleges selected the films, screenplays, and research papers that were screened and presented at the festival and nominated for awards.
Guest judges for the 2018 ACM Student Film Conference & Festival were (l-r) Garrett Brown, Cecelia Condit, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, and Deanna Morse.
A panel of guest judges made final decisions on award winners, gave presentations related to their work, and engaged with students and faculty throughout the festival. The guest judges were:
- Video artist and educator Cecelia Condit
- Intermedia and experimental animator Deanna Morse
- Scholar, author and poet, publisher, and mixed-media artist Alexis Pauline Gumbs
- Actor, writer, and theater producer-director Garrett M. Brown
This year, festival organizers collected submissions through the Film Freeway website, which allows students to upload their work and then easily submit it to other festivals, as well.
According to Ongiri, Lawrence students in film studies have had success in landing film-related jobs after graduation, which she chalks up to their liberal arts background.
“We’re teaching students film history and film theory as well as filmmaking, and about how to think about visual culture,” she said. “I’ve been teaching film for 20 years now, and this is the program I’ve worked in where people immediately get really good jobs. I think it’s because their critical thinking skills are on point. Even if they’re not directly trained in a particular skill set, they have the critical thinking skills to figure it out.”
The first ACM Student Film Conference & Festival in 2016 was led by Ongiri and professors Theresa Geller from Grinnell College and John Kaufman from Beloit College, with funding from an ACM Faculty Career Enhancement (FaCE) grant. From the beginning, the organizers hoped to make the festival a regular event and current plans are to hold one every two years.