25 years of film
By Tim Stoddard
In a world where danger lurks in familiar places, Anna’s reality is about to change forever. Alone in her parents’ home, she encounters a burglar, dodges a bullet, and sees her life pass before her eyes. Avoiding death, Anna dares to live.
This would be the trailer to a 10-minute film written, directed, and produced by Christopher Hlas (COM’04), an up-and-coming artist whose film, Interlude, was well-received by audiences and industry executives at several festivals last year. Interlude is one of 38 films entered in this year’s Redstone Film Festival, a competitive annual showcase for aspiring BU graduate and undergraduate filmmakers. Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, the festival has served as a launch pad for many cinematic careers. “It’s all about festivals today,” says Sam Kauffmann, a COM associate professor of film and one of this year’s Redstone directors. “It’s analogous to getting published in academia. If your film is selected by a festival, it gives it added credibility and makes it more attractive to other festivals.”
For students who’ve invested considerable time and money in their work, a successful showing at Redstone can also be lucrative. The winner receives a $2,000 prize, while runners-up receive $1,000 and $500. “This can be a nice way of recouping some of the cost of making the films,” Kauffmann says, noting that buying film, hiring musicians to write and record musical scores, and feeding a hungry crew adds up. “Some of the longer thesis films may have budgets of $5,000,” he says. “So this is a nice way of paying off those credit card bills.”
Most of the submissions are on 16-millimeter film, the industry standard, but two years ago the festival also began accepting videotapes shot using digital video. The films range from 2-minute shorts to 28-minute features; the only requirement is that they be produced for a COM film class. “The past winners I have seen are all quite impressive,” says Bill Linsman, a COM visiting associate professor of film and codirector of this year’s festival. “They show a great deal of professionalism and creative insight.”
Many of this year’s Redstone entries are minimalist. Chris Messina (COM’05), a graduate student in the film department, submitted his six-minute short Melo, about a boy who takes an interest in a homeless man he sees in a rail yard. The film, named after a kitten the man befriends, is the reduced version of a longer screenplay Messina wrote several years ago.
Cici Hall (COM’05), also a film department graduate student, is part of a team that produced a five-minute short about “a man, a mailbox, and the power of song.” Written by Katie Phillips (COM’05), Mail Box features a man, played by Adam Gurly (COM’04), who practices opera inside a post-office box and affects passersby with his lilting melodies.
Many COM graduate film students submit their theses, which are required for the master of fine arts degree, and often use them to gain a foothold in Hollywood. Past Redstone winners have been nominated and won festivals around the world, and two have earned Academy Award nominations. The festival helped propel the careers of filmmakers Gary Fleder (COM’85), director of Runaway Jury, Richard Gladstein (CGS’81, COM’83), who produced Finding Neverland and Cider House Rules, Scott Rosenberg (COM’85), who wrote the screenplays for Con Air and Beautiful Girls, Joe Roth (COM’70), director of Christmas with the Kranks, and Mighty Ducks screenwriter Steve Brill (COM’84).
The festival was the brainchild of George Bluestone, a COM professor emeritus of film, and Sumner Redstone (Hon.’94), CEO of Viacom, Inc., who has sponsored the festival since its inception in 1980. It began modestly in a room at COM, but as the audience grew over the years, it was moved to the Nickelodeon Theatre on Cummington Street. Now the event is too big for a small movie theater and is held in the Tsai Performance Center.
The Redstone Film Festival is on Tuesday, February 8, at 7 p.m. at the Tsai, 685 Commonwealth Ave. Winners will be decided by a jury of Boston-area film critics and curators: Wesley Morris, chief film critic for the Boston Globe, Bo Smith, the Katharine Stone White Head of Film and Video and Head of Concerts at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, and Boston filmmaker Maureen Foley. The festival is free and open to the public.