Oscar-nominated directors to speak at Film Festival

By Alice Phillips

Academy Award winner Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”) and Academy Award nominee Jason Reitman ’95 (“Up in the Air”) were the guest speakers at the seventh annual Harvard-Westlake Film Festival March 19 at the Arclight Cinerama Dome in Hollywood. 

 

 

The festival featured 17 student films, all 10 minutes or shorter, from across California that were selected from over 150 entries. 

 

Audience members were encouraged to bring new or used DVDs to be donated to Kid Flicks, a charity run by Lexi Barta ’03, Romi Barta ’06, Marni Barta ’09 and Berni Barta ’10 that donates movies to children’s hospitals.

 

A panel of film industry judges  voted on  the Lizzie Awards (in honor of founder Liz Yale ’04), which were presented in the Cinerama Dome. Awards include Best Overall, Best Directing, Best Cinematography, Best Acting, Best Special Effects, the Founder’s award, and the Humanitarian award. The names of the industry professionals are released on the night of the festival.

 

After the screening, Reitman interviewed Bigelow on stage in the Cinerama Dome. In the past, Reitman hosted the series “Speaking of Movies” in Ahmanson Lecture Hall in which he interviewed film professionals including screenwriter Diablo Cody and producers Jonathon Dayton and Valerie Faris.

 

The DVDs that all attendees received were underwritten by Summit Entertainment, the distributor of Bigelow’s Academy Award winning film “The Hurt Locker,” and Deluxe Digital. This is the first time the festival directors have asked companies for sponsorship. The New York Film Academy gave a full scholarship to a filmmaker of the festival directors’ choosing.

 

When festival directors Romina D’Allessandro ’10 and Jake Gutman ’10 began searching for a guest speaker, they tried to fulfill two goals: drawing people to the festival and representing women in film.

 

“Last year we were horrified to realize that there was only one female director out of the 13 films were selected for the festival,” Gutman said. The lone female director was D’Allessandro.

 

“[Bigelow and Reitman’s] names make people want to attend the festival,” D’Allessandro said. “I hope they’ll say some awesome things to inspire the filmmakers and have people stay interested in film.”

 

The finalists were selected in a two-tiered voting process by festival directors Gutman and D’Allessandro, several Video Art and Cinema Studies students, Upper School Dean Tamar Adegbile, Gaulke, and performing arts teacher Ted Walch.

The panelists’ varied backgrounds made for the selection of a varied set of films. “Some people are interested in more indie films and guerilla filmmaking while others prefer beautiful cinematography and well-developed stories,” Gutman said.

 

The panel looked for myriad qualities in student films like content, technical prowess, and entertainment value and also looks to represent a diversity of film styles, from public service announcements to narrative stories to music videos, Gaulke said.

 

“We look for a good story, which is one of the more challenging things for the filmmakers. We look for technical excellence, but not at the expense of story,” Gaulke said.

 

“Most high school film festivals are in their school auditorium, and we started out that way,” Gaulke said. “To be at the Arclight Cinerama Dome, I mean when are you, as a teenager, going to see your film on that gigantic screen and when are you going to have a multiple Academy Award-nominee and a multiple Academy Award-winner in the audience watching your film?”

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