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3rd Annual Epidemic Film Festival Launches Film Careers

San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre buzzed with anticipation as 1,400 students, instructors, local film enthusiasts and industry professionals gathered to celebrate the best student work from the School of Motion Pictures and Television. The festival has grown from a single screening ceremony the year of its inception to four days of panel discussions, culminating in an Oscar-like awards gala.

Emmy Award-Winner Melanie Mayron (thirtysomething) hosted this year’s student film awards evening and Academy Award-Winner Mike Medavoy was the guest of honor. Academy of Art University President Dr. Elisa Stephens gave 45-year industry veteran Medavoy an Honorary Doctorate of Letters during the awards ceremony.

Chairman and co-founder of Phoenix Pictures, Medavoy brought films like Zodiac, The Thin Red Line and The People vs. Larry Flint to the screen. Sixteen of Medavoy's films have been nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards; seven have won the distinction.

Hundreds of students vie for the opportunity to show their work to industry professionals at the festival. "This year we challenged students to create films that educate, inspire, challenge and promote change. It's a wonderful celebration of outstanding work and promising futures," said Jonathan Fung, Epidemic Film Festival director.

Student film Thru was a sweeping success, taking home four awards including Best Narrative. The film is about an agoraphobic musician who finds the cure to his problems in a relationship with a confrontational conceptual artist. His world collapses when she creates an art piece out of his deepest fears.

Standout filmmaker Michael Street won the Special Achievement in Cinematography Award, which includes the William A. Fraker Scholarship and a two-week internship at Technicolor, Inc. in North Hollywood. The internship is tailored to the winner’s area of interest and includes a cash award for expenses. The scholarship honors William A. Fraker whose cinematography credits include Rosemary’s Baby, Baby Boom, Tombstone and many more. Fraker was the first film professional to receive an Honorary Doctorate at the Epidemic Film Festival in 2007.

“There was definitely excitement in the air,” said Fung. “Increasing the festival to include four days of panel discussions was a nice buildup for everyone. And of course the industry professionals flown in by the Academy to review student work made the atmosphere that much more electric.”

Among those who took time out of their busy schedules to review work from the film school was three-time Emmy Award-Winner Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future Trilogy  & One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest). Steven McGlothen (I Robot), Michael Goi (My Name is Earl), Harry Winer (Veronica Mars), Bob Ducsay  (GI JOE & The Mummy), Jim May (Terminator & Chronicles of Narnia), Dana Glauberman (Mean Girls & Pirates of the Caribbean), Alan Heim (The Notebook & American History X) and many more were also available to give feedback.

The Motion Pictures and Television School kicked off the festival the Friday before with a special advanced screening of Magnolia Pictures’ The Answer Man directed by John Hindman. Recently picked up at the Sundance Film Festival, the film is set for release in July.

Other events held during the week were Lender and Investor Financing of Independent Films, Cinematography Symposium and Sundance 2009 Director’s Panel Discussion featuring Peter Bratt (Follow Me Home), Tze Chun (Children of Invention), Destin Daniel Cretton (Short Term 12), John Hindman (The Answer Man) and Matthew Jacobs (Hallelujah Anyhow).

“The panels were educational, relevant, entertaining and a great lead-in to the festival on Friday,” said Fung. “I think they really prepared the finalists for speaking with industry professionals before the ceremony. The festival is all about students being able to showcase their work, ideally leaving with an internship. Without the festival, students would never have the opportunity to meet industry professionals at this level, let alone have them review their work. Many students got business cards and made connections that could lead to their first big break.”

The School of Motion Pictures and Television would like to thank its sponsors who provided valuable prizes for award recipients. FotoKem provided a $5,000 student grant, Spy Post gave a $4500 student grant, and Otto Nemenz gave a $1,000 cash prize. Other sponsors included Kodak, B&H Photo-Video, JCX Expendables, Chapman Leonard and Adolph Gasser, Inc.

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