The 14th Annual Nevada City Film Festival, Sept. 4th-7th, will feature a brand-new program this year, featuring brand-new filmmakers. The festival’s first “Student Film Showcase” will include shorts produced by the best and brightest of America’s education system, from high school precocities to MFA thesis projects.
Many of the films were discovered through the festival’s College Outreach Program, a new initiative that seeks out films demonstrating youthful, unique points of view at top film schools around the country.
“We really value ingenuity and resourcefulness,” said assistant festival director Zoe Toffaleti, a recent graduate of the University of California, Santa Cruz film department. “Student films have this unpredictable quality to them. When you first start making movies, you’re just constantly reinventing the medium, trying to make everything work the way you want it to – and that produces some really interesting work.”
“The Boy Scout,” directed by Patrick Brooks, is a tense, claustrophobic drama about Grant and Leah, a couple stranded in their car during a blizzard. Produced at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, the visually exquisite film was shot over a single weekend in Mammoth Lakes. The pristine snowscapes, expertly captured by director of photography Leigh Lisbão Underwood, contribute to the sense of literal and emotional isolation.
Another film featured in the program is “XTAL,” a post-apocalyptic short by Vacaville high schooler Jason Carman. Using a variety of standard editing software, he was able to create a fiery post-nuclear version of suburbia. Two brothers (played by Carman’s friends Solomon Hood and Vincenzo Vecchiola) are trying to get out of town, and trying not to think about what they’ve lost. “XTAL” is a perfect example of the ideals that the Nevada City Film Festival was founded on: resourcefulness, independence, and passion for the craft.
The program will also feature three projects from the communications studies department at Sierra College. The three films were produced in the journalism concentration, which emphasizes identity, culture, and performance through mass media. Nicholas Zoffel, a Communications Professor at Sierra College in Rocklin, is excited to see his students’ work at a well-respected festival.
“To me, there is no better place to bring together the theory and practicum of the classroom. People at festivals are interested in the contemporary stylings of the film form, the avant-garde of the yet-unknowns,” said Zoffel.
He believes that the elements of a strong student film are simplicity, story, and focus. With the advent of digital video and affordable special effects, the art of “authentic storytelling” is getting put on the backburner, Zoffel says, and great students films are those that really hone in on characters, relationships, and communications.
The student showcase will be followed by a Q&A session with the young directors, so you can find out what they think about student films and the state of independent films.
The Student Film Showcase will be at 11 a.m. Sept. 6 at Miners Foundry Cultural Center. For more information about the showcase, or the Nevada City Film Festival, go to www.nevadacityfilmfestival.com.