4th Annual Epidemic Film Festival Debuts Work by the Future of Cinema
On April 16, a group of 1,200 students, instructors, industry professionals and film lovers descended upon San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre to celebrate the best student work from the School of Motion Pictures and Television. Academy of Art University’s Epidemic Film Festival has grown from a single-screening ceremony in its first year into a noteworthy event with two days of panel discussions, culminating in an Oscar-like awards gala.
Hundreds of students vie for the opportunity to show their work to industry professionals and possibly land their next big project. “As the festival day approached, I think there was a sense among the students that this year’s crop of entries might be something special,” said Tim Boxell, Epidemic Film Festival director.
Actor William Mapother (Lost) hosted this year’s student film awards evening. Anticipation grew as students were recognized for impressive work in 12 categories. “As soon as the crowd realized that no one film would dominate the selection and that it was anyone's game, the enthusiasm resulted in screams, cheers and applause,” said Boxell.
The theme of the festival, “Social Activism,” explored the idea that films can make an impact on the world. Students stepped up to the challenge, creating films simultaneously thought-provoking and enthralling. From film shorts to a commercial to a documentary about a man making his living on San Francisco streets, the winning films each had a unique and compelling vision.
Top-winning student films Perfume and Death by Scrabble took home two awards each, including Best Director Yang Li for Perfume and Special Achievement in Screenplay to Christian Ospelt for Death by Scrabble.
Student cinematographer Harold Escotet won the Special Achievement in Cinematography Award for Bora Ozan’s visually stunning film, Marvin the Clown. The award includes a cash prize and a two-week internship at Technicolor, Inc. that is tailored to the winner’s area of interest. This award honors William A. Fraker, and the School of Motion Pictures & Television is proud to present one of its students with this recognition.
Academy of Art University President Dr. Elisa Stephens presented guests of honor Academy Award Winning producer Barrie Osborne and director Randal Kleiser with Honorary Doctorates of Humane Letters for their outstanding achievements in film.
Barrie Osborne worked under the tutelage of esteemed directors such as Francis Ford Coppola, Alan Pakula and Sydney Pollack on films including The Godfather Part II, Three Days of the Condor and All the President’s Men. As producer of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Osborne won a 2004 Academy Award.
Randal Kleiser’s first feature Grease is the most successful movie musical ever made. Other credits include directing The Boy in the Plastic Bubble starring John Travolta, The Blue Lagoon, and White Fang. Working in 70mm 3D, he directed Honey, I Shrunk the Audience, which has run for over a decade at Disney Parks in Anaheim, Orlando, Tokyo and Paris.
A multitude of industry professionals made their way to San Francisco to share their years of insider wisdom and to catch a glimpse of the spectacular work created by the next generation of filmmakers at Academy of Art University. Among those attending were Golden Globe Winning actress Tippi Hedren (The Birds), Emmy Award Winning director Robert Butler (Hill Street Blues), actor Bruce Davidson (Touched by an Angel), producer Steven McGlothen (I, Robot), casting director Alyssa Weisburg (Star Trek), and director Harry Winer (Veronica Mars). Many others were on hand with feedback for students.
While the industry elite inspired students, the emerging talents also impressed the professionals. “It was exciting to sit next to established producers, directors and actors and hear the enthusiasm and delight the good work elicited,” said Boxell.
Academy students get the unique opportunity to learn from seasoned industry professionals. Executive Director Diane Baker shares insights gleaned from her years in film and television, including roles in The Diary of Anne Frank, The Net, Law & Order: SVU and House. She has also produced movies such as Ashiana, Never Never Land, and others.
Director of Online and MFA Curriculum Michael Helmy began his movie career at Warner Brothers, learning from directing greats such as Francis Ford Coppola and amazing production designers like Richard MacDonald. He worked as a production designer on shows that include Miami Vice, Nash Bridges, and the wildly successful TV show, ER.
Director Eduardo Rufeisen also offers unique industry understanding. Rufeisen’s more than 17 years of experience includes producing and directing short films, commercials and documentaries aired on ABC, MTV and Fox, as well as working for international companies such as MTV-Brazil and others.
The School of Motion Pictures and Television would like to thank its sponsors who provided valuable prizes for award recipients. Panavision gave a $25,000 camera rental package, FotoKem provided a $1,000 cash prize and $5,000 in certificates for services, and Otto Nemenz gave a $1,000 cash prize. Other sponsors included Kodak, B&H Photo-Video, JCX Expendables, Chapman Leonard, TEK Media Group Inc. and Adolph Gasser, Inc.