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Gearing Up for the Redstone Film Festival

Awards for best student films, screenplay

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The BU student works in this year’s Redstone Film Festival range from the chilling to the whimsical, with tales of zombies, spirit assassins, even seashells.

The 31st annual Redstone Film Festival is on Wednesday, February 9, at the Tsai Performance Center. It showcases films and screenplays created by undergraduate and graduate students in the College of Communication’s filmmaking and screenwriting programs. The festival—often described as BU’s own Oscars—is sponsored by media mogul Sumner Redstone (Hon.’94), chair of Viacom. The festival finalists are chosen from a preselection committee made up of production, screenwriting, and film-studies graduates, who view all submissions and choose the semifinalists. Then a panel of prominent film industry professionals selects the winners. The first prize is $2,000, second prize is $1,000, and third prize $500. The winners of the Fleder-Rosenberg short screenplay award, sponsored by screenwriters Gary Fleder (COM’85) and Scott Rosenberg (COM’85), will be announced at the festival. The award’s first prize winner gets $1,250, second prize winner $750, and third prize winner $500. The festival, free and open to the public, is back on track after last year’s snow rescheduling and projector issue. In previous years the auditorium has been filled to capacity.

The Redstone Film Festival is held in three locations around the country. The Boston event is followed by a festival in New York in March and one in Los Angeles in April.

“The Redstones are the premier screening event of the year,” says Paul Schneider, a COM associate professor and chair of film and television. “They are so prestigious because the films are judged by film industry leaders. By holding viewings in major cities, it is a great way for our films to be viewed by the outside world before they go to other festivals.”

“I was surprised my script was honored,” says Marta Armengol Royo (COM’12), who wrote the still-to-be produced Christmas Dinner, a finalist for the Fleder-Rosenberg award. “English isn’t my first language, and to have my story appreciated like this—I thought it might have been a mistake,” says Armengol Royo, whose native language is Spanish.

While their films and scripts vary greatly in scope, Redstone winners have an edge when it comes to career success. Previous winners who have made names for themselves in the industry include Fleder, director of Runaway Jury, Richard Gladstein (CGS’81, COM’83), producer of Finding Neverland and The Bourne Identity, and Steve Brill (COM’84), screenwriter of The Mighty Ducks.

Festival coordinator Scott Thompson, a COM assistant professor of film and television, says that more than 30 films were submitted this year. The films are first produced for a COM film, television, or video production class and are nominated for the award by faculty.

Judging the winners this year are Peter Keough, film editor of the Boston Phoenix, producer and director Gabrielle Savage Dockterman, and Kurt Fendt, research director of MIT’s department of media studies.

Redstone finalists for 2011 are Dimitri Kouri (CGS’09, COM’11) and Zack McGeehan (COM’11), directors of Salty Dogs, a documentary about fishermen in Winthrop; David Wells (COM’11) and Wes Ford (COM’09), director and writer-producer of The Life Smugglers, the story of two retirees who smuggle drugs; Maya Tanaka (COM’10), director of September, about a store clerk triumphing over a robber; Álvaro Congosto (COM’11), director of Seashells, a film about a boy who is intrigued by a girl who carries seashells; Pietro Nigro (COM’10), director of Your Way Home, a tale of an orphan Italian boy; Steve Ohl (CGS’09, COM’11), director, Michael Nusbaum (COM’11), writer, McGeehan, director of photography, and Kouri, director of sound and editor, of ¿Qué? a story of two laborers who must escape a murderer.

Finalists for the Fleder-Rosenberg Screenplay competition are Armengol Royo, Christmas Dinner; Haeli Dunstan (COM’11), ’Twas the Night; Jason Hellerman (COM’12), Flesheaters; Eran Navot (COM’12), Guitar Hero; Sarah LaBrusciano (COM’12), Newly Renovated; Keya Vakil (COM’13), Too Cold to Cry; and Steve Jacobs (COM’12), Hang These Rusty Spurs.

Student filmmakers interviewed agree that COM’s film program, and this festival, inspire a strong sense of teamwork and camaraderie. “You need to network and help others with their films,” says Ohl, “because the more experience you get and the more connections you make, the better your films are going to be.”

For example, Kouri, who directed Salty Dogs along with McGeehan, also was sound director and editor on ¿Qué? and ¿Qué? director Ohl assisted in filming Your Way Home. He acted in September as well.

“Besides acting and directing, I got to go to Italy to help shoot another festival nominee, Your Way Home,” Ohl says. “It’s great to get out there with a group of friends and work really hard, and then see the success from it.”

The 31st annual Redstone Film Festival will be held on Wednesday, February 9, at 7 p.m. at the Tsai Performance Center, 685 Commonwealth Ave. The event is free and open to the public.

Amy Laskowski can be reached at amlaskow@bu.edu.

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