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Arts & Entertainment

And the Winner Is…

Off to the Races nabs top prize at Redstone Film Festival

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When she heard her name called as the winner of the 33rd Redstone Film Festival Wednesday night, Megan Lovallo jumped up, grabbed her producer Gabriella Grossman (COM’13) and her cinematographer Michelle Simunovic (CAS’12, COM’12), and dragged them onto the Tsai Performance Center stage, where she accepted a plaque and a check for $2,000. Just minutes before, the closing credits to their film Off to the Races had rolled to enthusiastic applause.

“It’s crazy,” Lovallo (COM’12) said, when asked afterward about her reaction. “I can’t even remember. I’ve already blacked out.” But the filmmaker said she hopes their film—about two siblings thrown together for an unplanned night of adventure—will inspire viewers to find a way to love family members as friends, not just as lifelong genetic tag-alongs. Lovallo, a twin with an older sister, drew on her own experience for inspiration in writing her film.

Second prize, which came with $1,000, went to Álvaro Congosto (COM’12), director of The Dress, about a young man obsessed with a photograph. Michela Smith (COM’14), director of Cul de Sac, a film about a self-appointed traffic cop patrolling his small suburban neighborhood, earned the $500 third prize.

The Redstone Film Festival, BU’s version of the Oscars, is sponsored by media mogul Sumner Redstone (Hon.’94), chair of Viacom. The annual festival showcases the most promising work by students and recent grads of the College of Communication’s filmmaking and screenwriting programs.

Other Redstone finalists were Bill Politis (COM’13), director of Big Kid Little Bike, a documentary about a BMX biker; John (Jack) Garrett (COM’13), whose spoof Santa Always Checks Twice, depicts a grim trip to Santa’s workshop; Jasper Lowe (COM’15), director of The Intruder, a film about a thief who encounters more than he expected; and Phoebe Waldron (COM’12), director of Zareen on a Bridge in the City, chronicling a young woman’s struggles in the days leading up to her college graduation.

“One of the things that impressed me this year was how assured the work was,” says Paul Schneider, chair of COM’s department of film and television and the night’s emcee. “It felt like the directors and everyone were really in command of what they were doing.” That’s quite a statement, he adds, considering finalists included undergraduate and graduate students from every level of film production.

33rd Annual Redstone Film Festival, Boston University student films, filmmakers, directors

Redstone finalists and family and friends and film fans packed the Tsai Performance Center.

A committee of production, screenwriting, and film-studies graduates selected the seven finalists from dozens of submissions, all originally produced for a COM film, television, or video production class or as a graduate thesis project. Winners were then chosen by a panel of film industry professionals: Carolyn Pickman, cofounder and director of CP Casting and Acting Studio; filmmaker Lyda Kuth, executive director of the LEF Foundation, a nonprofit that supports contemporary work in film; and 
Will Lautzenheiser (CAS’96, COM’07), a popular former COM lecturer in screenwriting.

Festival organizers decided to add three new prizes this year: for best cinematography, best screenplay, and best sound design. The cinematography prize was awarded to Erika Street (COM’13) for The Dress; best screenplay went to Waldron and Deena Baig (CAS’12) for their work on Zareen on a Bridge in the City; and the best sound design award was given to Garrett for Santa Always Checks Twice. Winners in each category received $500.

“Even though we single out filmmakers, rewarding the efforts of a lot of people is important and what we stress as a school,” says festival coordinator Jan Egleson, a COM associate professor of film and television. “The job of a director is really harnessing the efforts of many creative people.”

Kelly M. Genois (COM’13), who wrote Rest in Peace, Albert Lively, won the $1,250 first prize in the Fleder-Rosenberg short screenplay contest, sponsored by screenwriters Gary Fleder (COM’85) and Scott Rosenberg (COM’85). Cara Fano (COM’14) received the $750 second prize award for penning Uncle Sylvio. Richard Woolbert (COM’13) picked up the $500 third prize for Tea Time for Tyranny.

Another festival winner was Michelle Tsiakaros (COM’13), who was awarded the second annual Adrienne Shelly Production Grant by the Adrienne Shelly Foundation, for her directing of Plastic Surgery. Named for noted producer, writer, and actress Shelly (COM’87), who was murdered in her New York City home in 2006, the annual $5,000 grant goes to a female filmmaker. Shelly’s best-known film, Waitress, starring Keri Russell, played at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival before being released commercially.

Andy Ostroy, Shelly’s husband and the foundation’s executive director, attended Wednesday night’s event flanked by their 10-year-old pony-tailed, gum-chewing daughter, whom he affectionately called his “lawyer.” The foundation, he said, “is an organization I never wished I had to establish,” but he wanted to encourage a new generation of women to “stay true to yourself,” as Shelly herself had.

Watch this video on YouTube

In the video above, watch the trailer for the 33rd Annual Redstone Film Festival winner Off to the Races directed by Megan Lovallo.

Winning an award at the Redstone Film Festival is often a launching pad for aspiring filmmakers. Previous winners include Fleder, director of Runaway Jury, Richard Gladstein (CGS’81, COM’83), producer of The Bourne Identity and Snow White and the Huntsman, and Steve Brill (COM’84), screenwriter of Con Air. Just last year, previous Redstone finalists Josh Safdie (COM’07) and Benny Safdie (COM’08) won a Jury Prize for Short Film at the Sundance Film Festival for The Black Balloon.

The Boston Redstone Film Festival is followed by Redstone festivals in New York (designed primarily as a showcase for alumni) on March 15 and Los Angeles (open to both students and alumni) on March 21. The Redstone Alumni Short Film Competition, with a prize of $500, is part of the Los Angeles festival.

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Leslie Friday, BU Today, Boston University
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