B.U. Bridge is published by the Boston University Office of University Relations.
Lights, camera, action, cut! BU presents the Redstone Film Festival
By Brian Fitzgerald
Sam and Claire are in the midst of a messy divorce. When Claire publishes a best-selling tell-all book about her movie-director husband, he buys the movie rights to tell his version of how the marriage fell apart.
This is the synopsis of Parting Shots, a 30-minute comedy written, directed, and produced by Kevin Anderton (COM'00). It is one of 4 films out of 13 entries that will be shown at the Redstone Film Festival, which will be held at the Tsai Performance Center on Thursday, February 1, at 7 p.m. The festival, BU's very own "Academy Awards," will dole out $10,000 in prizes to both graduate and undergraduate filmmakers at COM.
While art often imitates life, Anderton had to tell actors in the film that his eight-year marriage was doing just fine. "One of them met my wife and tried to console her," he laughs. "She thought that the film was about us -- that we must have a horrible relationship."
However, all fiction has some basis in reality, and Anderton did have "a relationship years and years ago with a woman who fancied herself a writer," he says. "Last year, for some reason, I thought to myself, 'What if she ever wrote a book about me?' Then when trying to come up with ideas for a script, I thought about filming a movie about the making of a movie. That's how Parting Shots came about."
The film opens with Sam making the mistake of buying Claire's book with his credit card -- the bookstore's cashier instantly recognizes his name as the villain in the best-seller. He can take the indignity no longer. After sneaking into one of her book readings and listening to his image get further trashed, he disrupts the event by phoning in a bomb scare.
Like the other students in the festival, Anderton wrote the short as a thesis project and hopes to expand it into a full-length film -- should a movie company be interested. It's entirely possible: films from entrants in past Redstone Film Festivals have gone on to enjoy commercial distribution and critical acclaim. For example, Squeeze, a film by Robert Patton-Spruill (COM'94), written and directed in collaboration with Patty Moreno (COM'94) and Stephanie Danan (COM'94), was purchased by Miramax in 1996 for $1 million. The story of three inner-city Boston teens struggling to resist the pull of urban gangs opened in 40 cities nationwide in 1997.
Redstone awards have propelled others to outstanding careers, including Kiss the Girls director Gary Fleder (COM'85), Scott Rosenberg (COM'85), who wrote the screenplays for Con Air and Beautiful Girls, and Mighty Ducks screenwriter Steve Brill (COM'84).
"This is getting to be one of the most lucrative student film festivals in the country," says Sam Kauffmann, an assistant professor in COM's department of film and television. The festival, which started in 1980, is sponsored by Sumner Redstone (Hon.'94), president of Viacom, Inc. It began modestly in COM Room 101, but was moved to the Nickelodeon Theatre on Cummington Street as the audience grew over the years. Now the event is too big even for a small movie theater. "Last year we had an overflow crowd," Kauffmann says. "People were sitting in the aisles. We had to move to a larger venue."
Like the festival's prestige, the reputation of COM's film program keeps growing. It was recently named one of the top 12 film programs in America by Entertainment Weekly. "And because the universities are listed alphabetically, we're in the number two slot," says Kauffmann. "Seriously, the recognition is due to many years of hard work here at BU."
Kauffman is proud to point out that films in this year's festival are already garnering favorable notices. "Heroes, written and directed by Eduardo Moral [COM'00], has already won three film festivals," he says. In addition, Cherry Blossoms, written, directed, and produced by Julie Yuen (COM'00), captured the Silver Award at the WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival last April. Anderton was the cinematographer for the film.
As with Parting Shots, there is a hint of autobiography to Cherry Blossoms, which is about a young girl who shuts out the world around her after the death of her father. Yuen, whose father died at the end of her first semester at BU, credits Film Assistant Professor Bill Lawson not only with imparting his technical knowledge of moviemaking, but also with emotional support. "When my father was dying, Bill truly expressed concern over what I was going through inside," recalls Yuen. "In some ways, he made me realize how strong I had to be to get through that difficult time, as well as assist my family in doing the same. He had quite some influence on my film in the early stages."
Despite its brevity (25 minutes), the film wasn't easy to shoot. The scenes containing cherry trees were rescheduled five times because of the late blooming caused by unseasonably cold weather. And Geoffrey Bowler, who plays Neil, had to suppress his fear of heights during the final scene, when he climbs a ladder next to one of the trees. "He was a good sport," says Yuen, "even while wearing a short-sleeve shirt in temperatures only in the 30s."
The films screened at the Redstone Film Festival will be selected by a jury of Boston-area film critics and curators: Joyce Kulhawik, arts and entertainment reporter for WBZ-TV, Bo Smith, head of the Museum of Fine Arts' film program, and Joe Zina, executive director of the Coolidge Corner Film Foundation. The festival is free and open to the public.