ERIN GANNON ’19
Nearly five years ago, John Michael Mason ’12, then in his senior year at Trinity, was helping his fellow students put on events at Cinestudio. Before screenings of Hollywood blockbusters that attracted local audiences of nearly 250 people, Mason and his friends would show short films they had created as openers for the main picture. Mason had friends at film schools across the country whom he felt worked much harder on the films they made, yet those projects were only seen by a class of around 15 people. Mason relished the experience of watching his creations on the Cinestudio screen, and wanted to share that feeling with not only his filmmaking friends, but other undergraduate filmmakers across the country. Thus, the Trinity Film Festival was born.
“It was born out of the desire to take advantage of the resource we have with Cinestudio,” Mason said. “Seeing a film in a movie theater, where it’s meant to be seen, is the most special experience.” Mason, now the Associate Head Coach of the Track and Field and Cross Country teams, remained the organizer of the event even after he graduated because of the success of the festival in its pilot years, and because of the unique opportunity TFF gives to student filmmakers.
The defining quality of TFF that separates it from other undergraduate film festivals is the requirement that all student filmmakers must be present at the event in order for their film to be accepted to the festival and eligible for awards. “When we were planning the event, we never wanted a scenario in which someone announces an award, people clap, and no one is there to receive it,” Mason said.
Now in its fifth year, the 2016 Trinity Film Festival will be held this Saturday, May 7 at Cinestudio. The pre-reception will be held this Friday, May 6 at 7pm. On Saturday, the Red Carpet rolls out at 4pm, screenings begin at 5pm in Cinestudio, the reception happens at 8pm in the Terrace Rooms in Mather, and the awards ceremony takes place at 9pm.
This year’s TFF continued the five-year trend of receiving an extremely competitive submission pool deliberated on by the TFF Student Screening Committee. “This is potentially the most competitive selection of films we’ve had yet,” Mason said. “Of all of the festivals, this one also probably hosts the most miles traveled for TFF.” Submissions were accepted from as far as Canada, California, Washington, Florida, Texas, and France, and as close as TFF’s own Trinity College.
Daming Xing ’17 is the first Trinity student in two years to have a film accepted to TFF. Made for Jeff Bemiss’s FILM 301 Advanced Filmmaking course, Xing’s film is called “Bitterpill”, and was based on a script by Peter Jung ’17, and stars James Nash ’19, and Colleen Sweeney ’18.
“Bitterpill” “tells the story of a high-achieving college student who resorts to a neuroenhancer (similar to Adderall) in order to cope with the pressures of college life,” Xing said.
“It’s meant to be a message piece about the things we sacrifice when we prioritize academic success over our health and relationships,” said Jung. “It also talks about the dangers of a society that offers easy, short-term solutions for the intractable situations we face in life. In the end, it’s the people who care about us that get us through the hard times and keep us balanced.”
Films are submitted by undergraduate students both nationally and internationally, accepted to the festival by the TFF Student Screening Committee, and winners are chosen by a panel of judges after the screening portion of the festival. Members of past panels have included active filmmakers and professionals. This year, the panel will include a Trinity alum. The names of this year’s judging panelists have not yet been released but will be announced prior to Saturday’s event.
The inaugural year of TFF, 2012, also saw the soft opening of the Film Studies major here at Trinity. Mason hopes that being accepted to TFF becomes a goal for Trinity film students. “It’s like being born in Boston, and hoping to play at Fenway park. That’s the idea,” he said.
If hometown glory isn’t the incentive for Trinity students to submit their work, the generous prizes awarded to winners of the festival just might be. The first, second, and third place winners receive monetary prizes of $1,500, $1,000, and $500, respectively. The winner of the Audience Choice prize gets $250. The best cinematography awards comes with a $7,500 camera package sponsorship from Panavision, a motion picture equipment rental company, for the filmmaker to utilize on future projects.
Mason emphasized the importance of recognizing the Trinity students who make TFF possible. “The students who work on it deserve a lot of props for doing this, along with everything else going on in their lives,” he said. “This is an education outside of their education. It’s practically like running a small business.”
Arleigha Cook ’16 is this year’s event coordinator for the second year in a row. She, along with other members of the TFF student group look forward to seeing their hard work pay off this weekend. “This year we have films from some of the best undergraduate filmmakers in the country, which were decided on by our best screening committee yet,” Cook said. “This year’s festival is in the running to prove the most successful one yet.”
The fifth annual Trinity Film Festival is shaping up to be one of the best in recent years. The excitement among the filmmaking community at Trinity is palpable. “There is nothing more special than seeing student filmmakers interacting with one another and with audience members,” Mason said in anticipation of the event. “I look forward to it every year.”
ERIN GANNON ’19