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Students interact with filmmakers at CIFF panel

By Aziza Doleh

April 18, 2013

Going to the Cleveland International Film Festival was a pretty cool experience for big movie buffs and filmmakers. They only wished they had more time to go and see more films. It was a chance for students to interact with all kinds of producers, directors, editors and so on roaming around the festival, and to have an open dialogue about their passion for great filmmaking.Photo By Jeffery 'Phoenix' Allen

One film that stood out for me was “Rafea: Solar Mama” directed by Mona Eldaief and Jehane Noujaim. Rafea was given a chance to travel to Barefoot College in India and participate in a program that trains illiterate women to become solar engineers. If successful, she’ll be able to provide electricity for her village and earn a living training others. The movie was very eye opening and moving. However, for students a major attraction of the festival was the filmmakers’ panel.

On Saturday, April 13, and Sunday, April 14, Cleveland State University’s School of Communication, in conjunction with the Cleveland International Film Festival, hosted a two-day event featuring visiting filmmakers whose works were shown at the festival.
Members of the Cleveland State faculty discussed the art, craft and business of moving image production for both narrative and documentary forms.

Professor Kim Neuendorf and her crew of Cleveland State film and digital media students arranged for all directors, writers, editors and producers to attend and join the panels. The students volunteered their time to help Neuendorf with coordination, transportation and filming and taking photos of the events. The team included Kara Radar, assistant and panel coordinator; Matt Egizii, crew chief; Alex Farmer, transportation coordinator; and crew members Jeffery Allen, David Goertz, Briana Jones-Hanby, Clinton Harris and Dorian Neuendorf.

“Dr. Neuendorf is an excellent professor here at CSU and was the driving force in putting these panels together,” said Alex Farmer, a sophomore film and digital media major. “Without her, none of this would have been possible, and I’m thankful for everything she does. The filmmakers on the panels gave great insight on different techniques they’ve used to create their films. I’ll definitely be keeping their advice in mind when I’m working on my project in my production class.”

The panels gave festivalgoers, students and all who were interested in the art and commerce of cinema an opportunity to meet the filmmakers, hear them talk about their films and ask questions about their work or moviemaking in general.

“I’m very thankful that I went, whether or not it was required for me to go,” said Mike Vamos, a junior communication major. “It was a great way for me to network, because you never know who to depend on when you graduate.”

The crowd of guests, students and festivalgoers listened to the filmmakers as they answered questions about the art of filmmaking.

“It’s not about the money,” said Tim Cawley, director and producer, referring to the topic on hand about the process of documentary filmmaking.

“You really have to love this topic from start to finish,” Eric Ginsberg, producer and writer, said.

As the crowd of students listened to the words of wisdom from the directors and producers on the panel lots of students were taking notes and asking more questions.

“This was very eye opening, and experiencing all this advice was pretty amazing and educational,” said Jordan Stack, a senior communication management major.

Associate Professor Michael Rand continued to moderate the panel discussion on the importance of storytelling in documentary films, as well as how to represent yourself, your team and your production company.

“The trick is get the ball going… get your Facebook going, get your mailing list going the second you get started,” said director Ben Popik. “Help others, donate that $50 to a film. It will help you in the end.”

On day two of the panel discussions, students were given words of wisdom from the filmmakers with guidance on how to be successful in the filmmaking industry.
Ron Fleischer, associate professor at Columbia College Chicago and teacher and coordinator of the animation program, advised all to dive right in (in reference to learning all kinds of art and software from Photoshop to drawing). He went on to say that there is always something to learn.

Composer Silas Hite and editor Katie Damien both agreed on the topic of being able to take criticism from other filmmakers as guidance for critique.
Cleveland State alumni Joe Jurecki and Travis Pollert returned to Cleveland State to join the panel discussion on the importance of production.

“With all the software, know where it will take you,” Jurecki said. “Know how far it will take you in what your plans are doing for your film.”

John Ban, associate professor at Cleveland State and moderator of the production panel, chimed in and reminded the crowd, “Get over your baby, and learn at least one software. Then the others will get easier.”

The panel discussions ended with international film discussions where the audience was taught that cinema is for all cultures, and with the right storytelling it can reach all audiences and cross all boundaries, but with different perspectives.

The wrap-up of CIFF ended with traditional awards announced during closing night festivities around the fountain at Tower City Center.

Freida Mock won the inaugural Reel Women Direct award and $10,000 for “G-Dog,” her documentary about a Jesuit priest. Ryan White’s “Good Ol’ Freda,” the tale of the Beatles’ longtime secretary Freda Kelly, won the Roxanne T. Mueller Audience Choice Award for best film. “Honor Flight,” a tearjerker about helping aging World War II vets, took one of the documentary awards in the Greg Gund Memorial Standing Up Competition.

The 12-day festival trounced its previous attendance mark, drawing 93,235 (a jump of 165 percent since 2003). The CIFF added an extra day this year, which meant additional screenings.

They used every theater inside Tower City Cinemas to show 180 features and 164 short subjects from 65 countries.

“Underdogs,” a football drama directed by Canton native Doug Dearth, won the Local Heroes Competition and a $5,000 prize. A $7,500 prize went to Treva Wurmfeld, whose film “Shepard & Dark” won the Nesnadny and Schwartz Documentary Film Competition.

“Bear Me” was named Best Animated Short, while “Kolona” took the Best Live Action Short prize. Both will now be submitted for possible Oscar nominations (The CIFF is a qualifying festival for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science). “Mariachi Gringo” won the American Independents Competition and $5,000 for director Tom Gustafson.
Goran Paskaljevic’s “When Day Breaks” won the George Gund III Memorial Central and Eastern European Competition and a $10,000 prize.

“When Day Breaks” was one of only 14 festival titles being shown on 35mm film (the rest were shown on various digital formats). Organizers said that as the digital wave continues to rise, “When Day Breaks” would likely be the last award winner to be exhibited in the festival on actual film.