SJSU Rivals Hollywood at Cinequest 2014

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Spartan Film Studios staff storyboards “Park Arcadia,” a short-film to be showcased at this year’s Cinequest Film Festival.

Student filmmakers may walk into the Radio-Television-Film department as amateurs but they are soon immersed in the filmmaking industry through Spartan Film Studios and the Cinequest Film Festival student short contest.

“Park Arcadia” takes audience on time leaping adventure

“Park Arcadia,” a short-film and “Mis Ojos Estan Sangrando” (“My Eyes Are Bleeding”), a student-short, will be showcased at this year’s Cinequest.

The whole point of going into film school is to have projects where you can also get real-world experience,” said Shebaz Aslam, ’13 Radio-Television-Film, producer, co-writer and cinematographer.

“Park Arcadia,” a high-concept short film, captures the story of a young woman who uses her murdered father’s invention, a dimension-jumping watch, to find a reality where he is alive.

Falling into this year’s Cinequest theme of “connect,” this film focuses on the main character desperately seeking to reconnect with her father, said Barnaby Dallas, Spartan Film Studios co-director.

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Darren Rae, ’13 Radio-Television-Film and Shebaz Aslam, ’13 Radio-Television-Film.

Aslam said he and Darren Rae, ’13 Radio-Television-Film, director and co-writer, developed the short after brainstorming science fiction ideas about multi-dimensions.

Both Darren and I had been interested in film and we both dealt with the death of family member whom we were close to, and we played with this idea,” he said.

Rae said the film’s writing allows the audience to explore the character and what she experiences.

“It was about the character dealing with a loss,” he said. “I think everyone can relate to losing a loved one and this is something we wanted to capture and a way to engage with the audience.”

The film rivals anything that you would see professionally in Hollywood,” said Nick Martinez, co-director of Spartan Film Studios.

“Park Arcadia” was produced by an all-student crew with professional mentors during the summer.

“Mis Ojos Estan Sangrando”: A glimpse into a dark reality in Mexico

Liam Goulding, ’14 Radio-Television-Film, “Park Arcadia” script supervisor and casting director, said he enjoyed working with the crew in the summer program, but he also took it upon himself to submit his own student-short to Cinequest.

Mis Ojos Estan Sangrando” (“My Eyes Are Bleeding”) is a four and a half minute short that highlights the life of a filmmaker who is daunted by the task of filming the brutality of the Mexican cartels.

Goulding said this short is far from “cheesy zombie movies” he shot with his cousins at age 14.

My goal as a filmmaker with this short, and things after it,” he said, “is to just show everyone an issue [that provokes the question] how do you feel about it?”

Young man looking down, while a little boy sits on his shoulders. A woman looks off to the side smiling.

Cinequest Completes 23rd Year

By Sarah Kyo and Amanda Holst, SJSU Marketing and Communications

A Korean family wearing traditional clothing and a dog standing in front of a Korean house

“A Knock on My Door”

Spartans left their mark on the recent Cinequest 23 film festival, whether through short films or features, live action or animation.

The downtown San Jose event wrapped up March 10 with Encore Day, re-airing award winners and fan favorites.

Among the showings was Shorts Program: Animated Worlds, a collection of animated short films including “A Knock on My Door,” which depicts the life of SJSU Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering Hi-Dong Chai. His son David, an SJSU animation/illustration professor, directed the piece.

Chai said he and his wife had an opportunity to watch his life on the big screen during Cinequest. He is grateful that his son turned his life into a movie and remembered the first time he saw “A Knock on My Door.” 

“My first reaction was, ‘When did he learn all about what was shown on the film?’ because I did not remember telling my life stories to him,” he said. “Secondly, I was really impressed. Somehow he put my 50 years of life experience in a 10-minute animation movie in such a way that the story is complete in itself. My coauthor and I e-published Blossom and Bayonets, a historical novel based on the life of my family under Japan last October, and it is 400+ pages long and only covers half of my story.  But Dave did it in 10 minutes in a very meaningful way.”

Since retiring from teaching in 2002, Chai has dedicated himself to writing about his life and the hardships that his family faced during World War II and the Korean War. He has worked with coauthor Jana McBurney-Lin on e-publishing a book and short stories.

Spotlight on Spartan Films

Mom and son talking to a man at a desk

“Always Learning”

The San Jose Repertory Theatre was packed March 5 as anxious onlookers, many who watched the rough cut about this time last year, waited to see the final cut of “Always Learning,” a coming-of age film through the eyes of a home-schooler.

Before the showing, Cinequest spotlighted San Jose State’s Spartan Film Studios in a panel discussion, highlighting the hands-on opportunities given to students in making highly expert films.

The forum opened with an interview with executive producers Barnaby Dallas and Nick Martinez, alongside the directors of “All About Dad” and “Cheap Fun. ”

When asked what Spartan Films adds to the Cinequest culture, Dallas articulated that it was about the teamwork of theatre and radio working together to provide folks that “Napoleon Dynamite” aspect.

“We use all resources at SJSU to harness ideas that evolve,” Dallas said. “When our films get in [Cinequest], it’s a great opportunity for our students.”

On the topic of creating opportunity for students to work with professional mentors, production management instructor Martinez emphasized the significance of the hands-on component of filmmaking.

“We give every student an opportunity to see what it’s like in real life,” Martinez said. “The ones who know they want to gain experience know what they need to do and get a safety net in college.”

“Always Learning” gave 60 students the opportunity to produce a full-length feature. The actual filming took 26 days with students working up to 90 hours weekly to wrap up shooting on time and within budget. The film won a Rising Star award at the 2013 Canadian Film Festival.

SJSU TW Cinequest Slideshow

Cinequest Showcases Spartan Films

San Jose State is playing a leading role in Cinequest 23, the film festival underway now through March 10 in downtown San Jose.

The films from SJSU’s radio, television and film and animation/illustration programs are definitely worth seeing, not just because they are professional quality, but also because they offer real insight into the lives of people who may be sitting right next to you in class.

Cinequest student tickets for regular movie screenings are $5 with a valid student ID, while general admission is $10. Prices vary for special events, and festival passes are also available for purchase. Want to check out films and events with ties to SJSU? Here’s more:

“KILL NO EVIL”

Backside view of cowboy grabbing gun

“Kill No Evil”

Students created this brief cowboy showdown for an intermediate film/TV production course taught by RTVF Professor Harry Mathias. A one-minute version is being shown before a feature-length Chinese Western movie, “An Inaccurate Memoir.”

  1. Mathias said this is the first SJSU student short film that will be shown outside of Cinequest’s Student Shorts collection.
  2. “It really is a testament to the fact that with hard work, a clear concept and a dedicated crew, you can achieve anything in the film business,” said cinematographer Shehbaz Aslam. “The fact that the short is being shown as a companion piece to ‘An Inaccurate Memoir’ is an honor in that not only will it give the short exposure, but that it will be shown before a film shot by a cinematographer I really admire, Yu Cao, whose work was part of the visual inspiration of the short.”
  3. Director Ricky Dellinger said the original filming location was supposed to be Bodie, a Californian ghost town located six hours away from the Bay Area. “We scouted the area and thought it was perfect, but of course due to our college student budget, we didn’t have enough money to pay the fee to film there,” he said. Instead, Montgomery Hill Park in San Jose was a stand-in for the Wild West.

“SPOTLIGHT ON SPARTAN FILMS”

Mom and son talking to a man at a desk

“Always Learning”

Spartan Film Studios provides students with real-life filmmaking experience, according to production coordinator Barnaby Dallas and studio coordinator Nick Martinez. Some of the on-campus production company’s feature-length films have been featured at Cinequest in the past, including “All About Dad” and “Super Hero Party Clown.” The directors of these two films, in addition to Dallas and Martinez, will be part of this forum.

  1. A preview of Spartan Film Studios’ latest feature, “Always Learning,” will be shown at this event. This coming-of-age story is relatable to director Robert Krakower, ’11 radio-television-film, since he was homeschooled just like the main character.
  2. Spartan Film Studios was recently featured in the Metro’s Cinequest preview and on the front page of the San Jose Mercury News.
  3. In addition to cinema, Spartan Film Studios has worked on a variety of projects, including filming the 2012 Spartan football team intro, creating a SJSU commercial that aired on ESPN and participating in the Green Ninja project.

“SHORTS PROGRAM 4: ANIMATED WORLDS”

Old man and younger man riding in a car

“A Knock on My Door”

In this collection of diverse animated films is a personal piece directed  by Animation/Illustration Professor David Chai. “A Knock on My Door” is the biographical story of Chai’s father, SJSU Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering Hi-Dong Chai, who escapes war-torn Korea to make a new life in the United States.
  1. Just like in the film, Chai went on a cross-country road trip with his father, who was in the process of writing about his life. The trip was a reminder of how none of us know what our parents went through before we were born. In Hi Dong Chai’s case, the losses were gut-wrenching, but Chai said the story is ultimately about perseverance.
  2. About 70 students and alumni helped with the short film last summer, including alumni who work at Dreamworks, Zynga and “American Dad.”
  3. This film won the gold medal in the Moving Image Category at the New York Society of Illustrators 55th Annual Exhibition, marking the first time that SJSU has earned this distinction.
Cinequest showcases up-and-coming filmmakers, including Michelle Ikemoto, ’12 animation/illustration. Ikemoto directed the short animated film “Tule Lake” about her grandmother’s World War II experience at the Tule Lake internment camp located south of the California-Oregon border.
  1. With her health worsening, Ikemoto’s grandmother began opening up about her time at Tule Lake. This inspired Ikemoto, who was looking for a short story for one of her animation classes.
  2. Ikemoto and student artists visited Tule Lake, but the camp had been deconstructed. Instead, the best resource came from the Japanese American Museum of San Jose where they studied replica barracks at an exhibit. They also met a museum docent who was construction director at Tule Lake and  gave them access to a personal collection of photos.
  3. “Tule Lake” has earned multiple awards, including top prizes at the 2012 CSU Media Arts Festival and 2012 CreaTiVe Awards. It was also nominated in the student film category at the 40th Annual Annie Awards, “the highest honor given for excellence in animation,” according to its website.

Director Shohei Shiozaki, ’04 radio-television-film, makes his feature debut with this tale of a Brazilian immigrant boy Ricardo, his friend Hanako and a magical, blue goldfish. The children try to protect the fish, the reincarnated spirit of a Chinese princess, from opposing forces including the mayor and Japanese gangs.

  1.  This Japanese film is set in Shiozaki’s hometown of Yamato Koriyama in Nara Prefecture, an area known for raising ornamental goldfish. This tradition, coupled with a desire to make a movie in his hometown with local resources, inspired the director. “I thought it might be a good idea to start writing a story about it and I tried to speak to the local people, ‘Let’s make a movie in our hometown,’” he said. “And after three years of financing and finding the support, the film finally got made.”
  2. Just like the character Ricardo, the young actor Takeshi Nagata is actually Japanese-Brazilian. There were more than 200 auditions among the Japanese-Brazilian community for this lead role, and Nagata, who makes his screen debut, stood out for being the funniest, Shiozaki said.
  3. Shiozaki took an SJSU class taught by Cinequest director and co-founder Halfdan Hussey and was a 2002 film festival intern. Because of that internship, he became acquainted with John Williams, a Welsh filmmaker based in Japan. “When I went back to Japan for summer break, I called him and eventually I was able to enter the Japanese film industry,” Shiozaki said. “He is the producer of ‘Goldfish Go Home,’ so we both came back to Cinequest after eight years of time. So … it is true that SJSU gave me all the chances and opportunity to become a filmmaker.”
A group of men sit on dark-let stage at San Jose Repertory Theatre for Cinequest's Rough Cut Forum. Photo by Dillon Adams

Cinequest Wraps Up Its 22nd Year

A group of men sit on dark-let stage at San Jose Repertory Theatre for Cinequest's Rough Cut Forum. Photo by Dillon Adams

Panelists discuss Spartan Film Studios’ “Always Learning” as part of Cinequest’s Rough Cut Forum at The Rep. (Dillon Adams image)

By Sarah Kyo, Public Affairs Assistant

Cinequest attendees had the opportunity to catch Spartan talent at downtown San Jose’s world-renowned film festival, including the rough cut of Spartan Film Studios’ “Always Learning” at San Jose Repertory Theatre and the shorts “Elder Anderson” and “Bloom” in the student competition at Camera 12.

For “Cheap Fun” director Zack Sutherland, five years of hard work paid off: The historic California Theatre hosted all three screenings of his feature-length comedy about a group of college friends’ escapades during a pivotal night.

“It’s kind of the theater to play your film in at this festival, and I wasn’t expecting it,” said Sutherland, ’10, Radio-Television-Film and Minor in Theater Arts. “While I was thrilled, the enormous, beautiful theater never looked more intimidating with well over 800 seats.”

This theater was also the site of Cinequest’s Opening Night and Closing Night.

“Opening Night especially will stick in my mind because we got to do so many interviews and get so much attention from Cinequest and the press,” Sutherland said. “It was the first time a reporter had ever wanted to talk to me.”

Sutherland plans to create a website for “Cheap Fun,” a Spartan Film Studios production, and is looking for a distributor to release his film to audiences. A potential screening at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum in Fremont is being planned. The date is to be determined.

Encore Day

Cinequest finished on March 11 with Encore Day, offering extra screenings for films that won festival awards or were audience favorites.

One of the encores was “Worth the Weight,” a romantic comedy produced by Kristina Denton, ’07 Kinesiology. The film focuses on a 413-pound, former college football player named Sam who begins going to gym and develops a relationship with his personal trainer Cassie.

“This honor means the world to me,” Denton said. “To have our film be so well-received and brought back to play again for more to experience — it’s a dream come true. To have worked so hard on something, for so long and have people get that much joy on a simple, superficial level and also on a deeper more emotional level, makes me feel like mission accomplished.”

One of her most memorable moments was the night of the film’s world premiere when she and about 70 cast and crew members, family members and close friends walked to San Jose Repertory Theatre together.

“I’ll never forget rounding the corner of the theater and seeing the line that formed outside before the film started,” Denton said. “It was down the block! I couldn’t believe it!”

Fostering Young Filmmakers

The image of two young, aviator-attired boys gliding on a skateboard adorned Cinequest 22 posters, guides and passes. It was an appropriate illustration for this year’s festival, which shone a special spotlight on youth filmmaking, thanks to initiatives such as Picture the Possibilities and Adobe Youth Voices.

At SJSU, Cinequest director and co-founder Halfdan Hussey has been working with college students through his RTVF course, The Business of Film.

“The business side of the film arts is rarely taught and it’s critical to making films and reaching audiences,” Hussey said.  “And I like to teach the process of creating any kind of business. I’ve had a unique experience in that I know both the artistic and the business sides to producing and to distribution, festivals and sales.”

Students experienced the behind-the-scenes operations of a film festival through volunteering at Cinequest.

“I got into creating a film festival because of the wonderful treatment I received at festivals as a 23-year-old filmmaker,” Hussey said. “It’s great to understand all sides of the film and creative processes, and volunteerism and internships are great real life experiences, not to mention there’s beauty and power in giving.”

Dillon Adams stands outside camera 12 in front of the Cinequest box office.

Director of Cinequest Teaches at SJSU

By Dillon Steele Adams, Public Affairs Assistant

Dillon Adams stands outside camera 12 in front of the Cinequest box office.

Dillon Steele Adams helps prepare Camera 12 for the world-renowned film festival, Cinequest (Ryan Whitchurch photo).

Upon stepping into Hugh Gilles Hall for my RTVF 185 Special Topics class, I was greeted by Halfdan Hussey, one of the co-founders and the executive director of Cinequest.

After the first class, everyone was given the opportunity to join one of two teams, the Hospitality Team or the Special Forces Unit. I joined the Special Forces Unit, which determined how I would spend the rest of my semester working for a world-renowned film festival, which featured many Spartan filmmakers.

I first started working at Camera 12 setting up for the film festival by putting up posters and cleaning up the theater. A couple of days later, the opportunity for me to do security on Opening Night and escort a V.I.P. opened up. My jobs varied greatly throughout my time during Cinequest, which gave me the chance to experience all aspects of the film festival.

My final project in the class is to write a business plan for any kind of business or project I would like to take on. The point of this project is not to force me to write a business plan focused on creating a feature film or production company, but rather a chance for me to be creative and pursue what I am passionate about. With the two most important aspects of this class being my experience at Cinequest and creating a business plan, I would highly recommend this class to anyone who is interested in film festivals and pursuing their dreams.

Woman holding potted plant, while standing near window with potted plants in Cinequest animation "Bloom." Courtesy of Emily Johnstone.

Cinequest Film Festival Showcases Spartan Talent

By Sarah Kyo, Public Affairs Assistant

SJSU students, alumni and staff are among the filmmakers displaying their “Neverending Passion,” the theme of this year’s Cinequest. Now in its 22nd year, the independent film festival will attract international industry members to San Jose, Feb. 28 to March 11.

Student tickets for regular movie screenings are $5 with a valid student ID, while general admission is $10. Prices vary for special events, and festival passes are also available for purchase.

Barnaby Dallas, director of productions at Spartan Film Studios, will co-moderate “How to Pitch Your Screenplay” as part of a Writers Celebration event.

“It’s just something that hasn’t been done at Cinequest,” said Dallas, regarding the interactive workshop that will give panelists and audience members a chance to practice promoting their work.

Additionally, here are some of the Cinequest films with ties to SJSU:

Two men look to the left in the Cinequest movie "Worth the Weight." Photo courtesy of Cinequest.

“Worth the Weight” (photo courtesy of Cinequest)

“WORTH THE WEIGHT”
As he attempts to lose weight, former football player Sam Roberts strikes a bond with his personal trainer Cassie in this romantic comedy directed by Ryan Sage.

Three Fun Facts About “Worth the Weight”
1.  The mother of producer Kristina Denton, ’07 Kinesiology, encouraged her daughter to supplement her acting pursuit with a “back-up plan.” Denton’s degree and background as a personal trainer came in handy when coaching the lead actress in this film. “After those days on set, I would call my mom and say, ‘See I used my degree!’” Denton said.
2. After graduating from SJSU, Denton moved to Los Angeles to study acting and pursue a career. “When I opened my personal training business as my ‘day job’ in L.A., (Sage) actually became my client while trying to get in shape for his wedding,” she said. “I trained him and his wife for about two years.”
3. “We have never met the writer!” Denton said. “We will be meeting him for the first time at Cinequest the night of the premiere!” Writer Dale Zawada sold the script for $500 on Craigslist.

A young man wearing a hat rests his head on another young man's shoulder, while they sit in a car. Image from Cinequest film “Cheap Fun.” Photo courtesy of Cinequest.

“Cheap Fun” (photo courtesy of Cinequest)

“CHEAP FUN”
College student Ian hosts friends in his garage for nightly drinking and smoking sessions, but he desires something more to life in this comedy.

Three Fun Facts About “Cheap Fun”
1. “Cheap Fun,” from Spartan Film Studios, was the subject of last year’s Rough Cut Forum at Cinequest. Audience members saw an early version and provided constructive feedback. “Most of the suggestions made it in, so the feedback was crucial to finishing this film,” said Director Zack Sutherland, ’10 Radio-Television-Film and minor in Theater Arts.
2. Some of the items at the friends’ hangout spot are actually from Sutherland’s backyard, where he and his friends used to hang out.
3. Sutherland is the radio voice in the beginning of the film. He also played drums on several music tracks and sang on one of them.

Two young boys look off to the right in "Always Learning," the film at Cinequest's Rough Cut Forum. Photo courtesy of Cinequest.

Rough Cut Forum of Spartan Film Studios’ “Always Learning” (photo courtesy of Cinequest)

ROUGH CUT FORUM for Spartan Film Studios’ “Always Learning”
The audience will watch an early version of this film about a homeschooled boy and his overbearing mother before providing feedback for the final edit.

Three Fun Facts About “Always Learning”
1.Director Robert Krakower, ’11 Radio-Television-Film and minor in Psychology, plans to finish editing the film and then submit it to multiple film festivals, including next year’s Cinequest.
2. Krakower and producer Jon Magram were both homeschooled. “Numerous things that happen in the film are from our actual experiences,” Krakower said.
3. “I didn’t let my mom read the script because I knew she’d be too embarrassed by it,” Krakower said. “She’ll be seeing the film for the first time at Cinequest.”

STUDENT SHORT FILM COMPETITION
SJSU has two entries in this contest: “Elder Anderson,” a comedy about Mormon missionaries in Las Vegas, and “Bloom,” an animation about a lonely, depressed woman who receives a gift.

 

Two young men in white collar shirts, ties and black slacks and shoes are at The Strip in Las Vegas, as part of Cinequest short film "Elder Anderson." Photo courtesy of Marty Fishman.

Three Fun Facts about “Elder Anderson”
1. None of the cast or crew members are Mormons. For research, Director Daniel Maggio met with a few missionaries in San Jose to ask about their faith, the Book of Mormon and their lives as missionaries.
2. Many of the scenes are shot on location in Las Vegas, while some were shot in San Jose. “The film we made last year that played at Cinequest, ‘JIMBO,’ was being honored by the Broadcast Education Network in Las Vegas, so we wanted to make a trip out of it and film a short while we were there,” Maggio said.
3. Maggio and his crew did not receive permission to film at any Las Vegas locations, except for a bar. Instead, he said, “Every shot was creatively acquired.”

image from "Bloom"

“Bloom” (courtesy of Emily Johnstone)

Three Fun Facts about “Bloom”
1. The film won first place student short film at the CreaTV Awards and second place animation at the CSU Media Film Festival. “Nobody makes a film to win awards, and the business of awards ceremonies can be strange,” said Co-director Brian Kistler. “But it’s always nice that people respond to what you made and seem to like it.”
2. For the film, Kistler and Co-director Emily Johnstone bought amaryllis plants to study and draw from, which Johnstone later kept. “They’re just now about to bloom a year later,” she said.
3. Kistler and Johnstone paid their student crew with pizza and gummy bears. “We’re all students, just doing it for the love of creating something together,” Johnstone said. “We don’t get to collaborate on a lot of things, and it’s great to be able to make a finished product at the end.”

SJSU in the News: Cinequest Features Campus Filmmakers

San Jose State University has starring role at Cinequest

Originally published in the San Jose Mercury News March 6, 2011

By Sal Pizarro

San Jose State University has a big role at this year’s Cinequest Film Festival.

The school has two entries in the festival’s student short film competition: “Jimbo,” directed by Daniel Maggio, and “No Robots,” directed by Yung-Han Chang and Kimberly Knoll.

David Chai, an assistant professor of animation and illustration, directed his students’ work on the animated short “Enrique Wrecks the World” — and they also made the Cinequest trailer that plays before movies.

Two other movies from Spartan Film Studios — the production arm of the department of TV, Radio, Film and Theatre — “Super Hero Party Clown” and “Cheap Fun” will be shown at the festival.

“Super Hero Party Clown” was shown in a “rough cut” version at Cinequest last year, and director Jeremy Inman incorporated some audience feedback into the finished film, which includes an added scene and improved special effects. Its last screening is Sunday at 9:30 p.m. at the California Theatre.

Barnaby Dallas, co-director of Spartan Film Studios, says the process of bringing the audience into the filmmaking process inspired Cinequest to create the Rough Cut Forum for this year. Of course, SJSU was happy to provide a movie for the forum, as well.

Audiences will get a chance to see an in-progress version of Zack Sutherland’s “Cheap Fun” and provide their thoughts at 9 p.m. Tuesday at the San Jose Rep.