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Film Festivals

It’s Award Season on Campus Too

1 Mar , 2008  

Written by Randy Steinberg | Posted by:

Boston University’s Redstone Film Festival celebrates top student work at screening and awards ceremony.

Each year, in January and February, buzz spreads through the film and television industry about the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards.  Something similar happens each January and February on the campus of Boston University, but the buzz is not about which Hollywood hits will take home top prizes rather who will triumph at BU’s annual Redstone Film Festival. 

The Redstone Film Festival has established itself as a not so quiet secret on the Boston University campus.  In its 28th year, the festival is sponsored by Viacom CEO (and honorary BU degree recipient) Sumner Redstone and has become a launching pad for some of the film and television industry’s top players by selecting and honoring the best of current BU student work.  Redstone Film Festival winners from the past include director Gary Fleder (Runaway Jury) and producers Joe Roth (The Great Debaters, Mona Lisa Smile) and Richard Gladstein (Finding Neverland), all one-time BU students.  

But the Redstone Film Festival does not rest on laurels from the past and each year looks forward to honoring up-and-coming talent from within the University’s ranks.  This year, on February 13th, despite a driving rain, an enthusiastic crowd (a mélange of students, parents, friends, and faculty) packed BU’s Tsai Performance Center for the event.  Six finalist films were screened and the winners announced.  In addition, the winners of the annual Fleder-Rosenberg, short screenplay contest were revealed.  (In what is becoming its own tradition, winning scripts in the Fleder-Rosenberg contest are made available to students for production.)  

Festival organizer and assistant professor of screenwriting at BU, Scott Thompson, characterized the evening by saying, “I thought it was a fun night and very entertaining. It had something for everyone. Heavy drama, comedy that pushed the envelope, and some clever experimental work.” 

Competing for top honors at this year’s Redstone fest was an interesting mix of short films. Rosita Lama Muvdi and Jeff Boedeker offered experimental films, Auscultare and Being Dead, respectively. Three documentaries were among the finalists. Jessie Beers-Altman examined the crafting and care of violins in A Tradition of Sound, and Jenny Alexander recounted the infamous immigration raids in New Bedford, Massachusetts in Detained. Along with Stacey Palmer, Jessie-Beers-Altman offered another documentary: this film nearly brought the house down, as it documented the exploits of a comedian who performs buck-naked — the name of the film and the comedian both Andy. There was also one narrative drama entry, the compelling tale of two pool-playing brothers titled Fratelli Breaks. Real-life brothers Alex and Marcus Scigliano played brothers onscreen and also directed and produced the film.

The path to the Redstone Film Festival began long before the February 13th screenings.  Any film or video made under the auspices of certain film and television courses at BU is eligible for the competition,
providing the project is no more than 30 minutes in length.  As long as a film was commenced as part of a course, the project remains eligible for entry into the festival, and it is not uncommon for a student, who may not have trod the halls of the University for a year or two, to return with an entry that required
post-graduation finishing.

The Festival opens its doors to submissions each year in December.  Both undergraduate and graduate students compete on a level playing field, and by mid-January the first round of judging commences.  In any given year, entries can number up to 50 films or videos.  This year, around 30 projects were submitted.  From these 30, a student panel narrowed the field to 12 projects which then went on to be judged by local film and television professionals.

By the time of the screening night, six films remained with the winners known only by the festival organizer. Third place and an award of $500 went to Being Dead. Second place and $1,000 went to the documentary Detained.  First place and $2,000 was taken home by the Scorsese-esque Fratelli Breaks. Speaking about his first place award and the evening’s events, an enthused Alex Scigliano said, “The films that were chosen were very diversified, and the film that won was ours, so that being said, I loved the Festival!”

Second place winner Jenny Alexander reflected on her experience making the documentary Detained and the evening of screenings at BU, saying, “Few people have had the opportunity to learn about how the New Bedford immigration raid affected not only those caught in the raid, but their children as well.” She was pleased to have the opportunity to show the film at the Redstone Film Festival. “Immigration is a controversial topic, so it was meaningful that there was such a positive response to the film.” Though honored by her success at the Redstone Film Festival, Alexander is not complacent. She intends to promote her film beyond the confines of Boston University by taking it to the festival world at large. In fact, just days after the Redstone Film Festival, Alexander learned that Detained had been accepted into the prestigious Tel Aviv University International Film Festival in Israel. This festival is one of the premiere showcases for student work worldwide, and the power of her documentary is sure to resonate overseas as well as domestically.

Scigliano is also promoting his film to worldwide festivals.  “The short got into the Memphis Film Festival,” Scigliano notes, “…and we’re hoping we get into New Orleans and Hoboken, and finally, the Boston Film Festival in the fall.”  And the brothers don’t plan to stop there.  “We just finished writing the first draft of the feature script,” Scigliano says.  The Fratelli Breaks story is, so it seems, not one that will end at the Redstone Film Festival.

What’s more, the Redstone Film Festival itself does not conclude in February.  Each year, the dozen or so films that pass through the preliminary round of judging are sent out west to Hollywood where a panel of prominent BU alums working in the industry conduct a separate judging of the films. The results of the Redstone Film Festival East and West are often different.  The Redstone Film Festival West takes place on March 13th at the Arclight Cinema in Hollywood. On hand will be student-winners, alumni in Los Angeles, and many distinguished players in the film and television industry.

Professor Thompson has high hopes for all the students who competed, whether winners or just finalists. He says, “The Festival begins the necessary process of students getting their work out there.  Over the years, Redstone finalists have gone on to participate in film festivals across the globe. This sort of exposure is critical in helping these beginning filmmakers to network.”

As Oscar statuettes are passed out and the glitterati gather, it’s worth noting that those award winners were once students — hustling to get their work out there and garner attention. Each year, at Redstone East and West, new crops of hungry students begin this same journey — who knows where some of these talented filmmakers could end up.

Learn more about the Redstone Film Festival here

Learn more about the Redstone Film Festival here.