Film festivals are an important forum to showcase the work of aspiring filmmakers. They can also launch careers. As the provider of industry-standard professional video and sound editing tools, Avid figures prominently in the creation process, giving filmmakers of all kinds the creative wings to bring their visions to life.
With the 2018 film festival season already well underway, we take a look back at some of the student film festivals Avid supported over the past year to help inspire the next generation of cinematic talent. Winners were awarded free Avid Media Composer and Avid Pro Tools subscriptions.
Columbia University Film Festival
Held in New York City and Los Angeles last spring, the Columbia University Film Festival celebrated 30 years this year. Presented by Columbia University School of the Arts Film Program, the festival has grown to include several days of screenings, panels and events in both cities.
Jon Branden was the fortunate recipient of the Richard Haber Award for Comedy for his film You and Me and Her and Them, which tells the story of a young man trying to find love and romance on Halloween in New York City. Using Media Composer to give voice to the story was one of his earliest and easiest decisions. “I’ve used Avid for a long time,” he says. “It’s the easiest way to work – straightforward and logical. Its bins and organization make it very easy. And when we couldn’t get something to work over the weekend with a critical deadline looming, customer service was right there. That dependability is crucial.”
The Redstones, named in honor of sponsor Sumner Redstone, recognized feature film projects written and directed by graduate and undergraduate students from the Boston University Department of Film and Television. Over the years, Redstone winners and finalists have gone on to become some of America’s most successful directors, screenwriters and producers.
Writer-director Derin Kiyak could be one to join those illustrious ranks. For his Instincts short film, which landed in the festival’s top three, Media Composer gave him the advanced editing and remote working capabilities needed for the project, especially since the film’s editor was 3,000 miles away in Los Angeles. “The ability to collaborate and see cuts and changes in real time was a huge benefit – it’s the only editing software that allows that kind of workflow.” For sound, Kiyak and his team turned to Pro Tools. “I love the way Avid works with sound,” he added. “It’s extremely user friendly and allowed us to experiment with industrial sounds that were critical to the narrative.”
First Look Film Festival
The School of Cinematic Arts at USC (University of Southern California) has long been known for nurturing film talent. Its First Look Film Festival showcases top student-produced films and screens them for the Hollywood film community, including agents, producers, managers, studio executives, film festival programmers, as well as alumni and faculty. It’s not surprising that this year 47 films were entered across a range of categories.
For sound designer Jan Bezouska, his ethereal short When Pigs Fly required extremely nuanced sound to be closely integrated with the film’s imaginary characters and animated characters. “I needed real, natural not computer-generated sounds reflecting the ears of children,” explained Bezouska. “I wanted it to feel pleasant, not aggressive. Pro Tools allowed me to create those warm, soft sounds.”
Chris Witt, a longtime Avid user and editor of The Suitcase, which screened at the festival, likens using Avid to “driving a nice big Cadillac.” Faced with a brief two-week window to edit the ambitious short based on the real-life events of 9/11, Witt took full advantage of “tools engineered and designed with the tactile film editing philosophy in mind” to realize his vision. “The way Media Composer caters to the editor allows you to think creatively and do the storytelling – the technical just disappears into the background,” he says.
Independent Film Festival
Avid teamed with MPC (Massachusetts Production Coalition) at IFF (Independent Film Festival) Boston, which brings standout films and filmmakers to Boston every year. Talent was out in force and included co-writers/directors Shaun Downey and Christopher Masih who brought Sleeping Together to the screen. The 15-minute short follows two former lovers who discover they can communicate through a shared dream space.
For Masih, who was also the film’s music director, Media Composer’s advanced capabilities like the trim tool were essential to the editing process, “to stitch together various shots to give perception of one long shot.” Much like Media Composer’s built-in ability to zero in on different parts of the editing timeline, Pro Tools’ cohesive design allowed the soundtrack, which included lots of auditory ambience and tones, to be built alongside the sounds effects and foley, which streamlined the process.
New York-based The New School holds two annual student awards shows. Held last May, Fine Cuts 2017 featured film and video works produced by students taking graduate, undergraduate, and certificate classes in the School of Media Studies as well as New School alumni.
For winner Samah Abaza it was an opportunity to bring Climb the Wall, her inspirational short documentary about rock climbing in New York City, to audiences. The more observational, non-scripted nature of the film presented its own challenges for Abaza, who spent countless hours collecting footage at a small bouldering gym under the Manhattan Bridge in Brooklyn.
“This film was really made entirely in production and post,” she says. “I spent seven months collecting footage, and having confidence that your system won’t crash or lose footage is a huge relief. Media Composer manages your progress and its professional features, including easy connection to back-up storage, are essential with editing-heavy projects like this one.”
As Avid continues to support these film festivals (and many others like them), we’re excited to see more impressive work from the next generation of aspiring filmmakers.