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Redstones Top Prize Goes to Movie about Alien Abduction

Aspiring filmmakers celebrated at COM’s annual film festival

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  • The 38th annual Redstones celebrated the best COM film and TV undergrad and grad work
  • Winners took home Canon cameras, Avid and ProTools software, and MacBook Pro computers
  • The festival, sponsored by media mogul Sumner Redstone (Hon.’94), next travels to Los Angeles

This weekend Wes Palmer (COM’17) nabbed top prize at the 38th annual Redstone Film Festival for directing The Boswell Incident, a science-fiction comedy about a young deputy sheriff forced to launch an investigation after her ex-boyfriend’s brother is abducted by aliens. The film, which drew the most laughs of the evening, also won best screenplay, by Luke Shields (COM’14), and best sound design.

Palmer raised more than $11,000 from a Kickstarter drive to finance The Boswell Incident. The 25-minute film, with a crew and cast of about 30 people, took eight months to produce, Palmer said after the ceremony. It was his second first-place Redstone win in three years: he also won in 2016 for directing You Are Here, a feat enjoyed by only two other alums over the past 16 years. “I like to think every film I make gets better, that I’m always improving,” Palmer said.

Second prize was awarded to Butterflies, directed by Melissa Bennett (COM’17), a Black Mirror-esque short film about a young woman’s struggle to reclaim her life after a shooting leaves her with PTSD.

“I suffer from depression and anxiety, and have since elementary school,” Bennett said after her win. “I wrote the film after a really horrible panic attack I had that left me out of commission for a full 24 hours. I don’t feel like we talk about mental health issues, and whenever we do, it’s in the wake of something like a mass shooting. Anything can trigger you. What I wanted to do with this film was showcase what that feels like.”

The documentary The Shepherd, directed by Luke Catena (COM’17), took home third-place directing honors, as well as awards for best cinematography and best editing. The film follows a shepherd in the ancient Yongtai Village in China’s Gansu Province.

Catena shot The Shepherd while he was abroad with Looking China, a collaborative program between Boston University and Beijing Normal University, which sponsors aspiring filmmakers on two-week summer trips to China. During his acceptance speech, he thanked Geoff Poister, a COM associate professor of television, who accompanies the BU students on the trip. “It was an incredible experience,” Catena said.

View the trailers for the nominated films above.

All of the works shown in the festival, which is sponsored by media mogul Sumner Redstone (Hon.’94), were originally created for a COM film, television, or video production class or as a graduate thesis project. This year’s finalists were first chosen by a committee of production, screenwriting, and film-studies graduates, with a panel of film industry professionals as final judges. Among the competition’s prizes were Canon cameras and accessories, Avid and ProTools software, and MacBook Pro computers.

Other festival finalists were Thomas Cross (COM’18), Ethan Cappello (CGS’18, COM’18), and Alex Benitez (CGS’18, COM’18), who directed Amontillado, about a man who can’t overlook a friend’s grave sin; James Logan Alexander (COM’17), whose film Breakdown is about a couple en route to a wedding who run over the runaway bride; and Jeffrey Palmer (COM’17), director of the Nesting Doll, about two grown brothers searching for a missing family keepsake.

The winners of the Fleder-Rosenberg short screenplay contest, sponsored by screenwriters Gary Fleder (COM’85) and Scott Rosenberg (COM’85), were also announced at the festival. First prize of $1,500 went to Taylor Zaccario (COM’18) for DiMaggio, second prize of $1,000 was awarded to Rachel Thomas (CAS’16, COM’19) for Rappa, and third prize of $750 was won by Allyssa Swearingen (COM’18), for John Doe.

“I’d like to express how proud I am of our students, both undergrad and grad,” said Scott Thompson, a COM assistant professor of film and director of the screenwriting program. “When the industry needs inclusion binders to force companies to do the right thing, I believe our next generation of writers and filmmakers are doing what’s right in setting the standard. And they’re doing what’s right because it’s the right thing to do.”

The Redstones are a two-part festival and conclude in Los Angeles on April 12. The finalist films from Boston compete again, judged by a West Coast panel of industry experts. The Los Angeles festival also holds a short competition for alumni.

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Amy Laskowski

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

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