Students win awards in annual Media Arts Festival

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Four students won awards for three projects they submitted to the annual CSU Media Arts Festival held at CSU Channel Islands on Nov. 4 and Nov. 5.

Tyler White, who graduated in May 2005 as a CTVA major, won best documentary for “Extended Love,” a film that documents the lives of a woman from Chico and two Haitian girls the woman adopted 20 years ago from a Haitian orphanage.

White first got attached to this project when it was pitched in his documentary class (CTVA 441) by co-producer Jessie Shelley, one of those girls who was adopted.

“It seemed like an amazing story and one so different from my life experience that I wanted to be a part of it,” White said.

White was interested in discovering more about Shelley, a peer who he thought he knew fairly well, only to find out more about her storied past.

“It’s not every day that a person you thought just had a normal life in fact was adopted from a third-world country orphanage,” he said.

The CSU Media Arts Festival was established in 1991. The festival allows students from the 23-campus CSU system who are studying film, video and interactive media a chance to show off their work and let it be reviewed.

Theis said there are seminars on the film and animation industry at the festival that detail what one should have in his or her portfolio as well what one should write about.

CSU professors and industry leaders choose the student finalists and the winners in the film, video and interactive media competition.

Tyler Granlund, also a CSUN graduate from May 2005, won the Kodak cinematography prize for his documentary “That White Line,” which chronicles the life of Jake Lewis, an American soldier who recently returned from his second tour of duty in Iraq due to his humvee being blown up because of a roadside bomb in Fullujah.

During winter break before the spring 2005 semester, Granlund met with Lewis at a party through mutual friends. After hearing Lewis’ story, Granlund said he knew it needed be documented on film.

For Granlund, working on the film increased his awareness and interest in politics, foreign affairs and current events dealing with the Middle East.

“I think all Americans should be interested, at least in some respect, to the war in Iraq and its effects, young people like myself in particular,” Granlund said. “It is something that is affecting an enormous amount of young people, and many college kids don’t seem to pay any attention to that fact. Soldiers seem to be looked at and spoken of as one entity, it is rare to think of a soldier in a personal, human way, which is what I wanted to do. The armed forces aren’t just a huge machine chugging along. It is thousands and thousands of kids . . . fighting.”

Working on a political documentary was difficult for Granlund, he said.

“It is very hard to remove your personal agenda and bias from the film, but it is important to do so,” he said. “The moment a film takes a clear political stance or agenda it is more of an opinion piece or propaganda film than a documentary.”

“There have been great documentaries that cover politically significant events and people such as ‘Control Room,’ these films present the information to the viewer and allow him or her to formulate their own opinions or reactions to the material,” he said. “I would like to think I was successful in presenting an objective film that does not tell the viewer how to think, but instead gives them something to think about.”

Steven Theis, senior art major, and Hadley Hudson, senior art major and Daily Sundial Illustrations editor, produced an animated short, “The Polar Bear Who Couldn’t Climb Stairs,” that came in third for best animation film in the competition.

“(The short is) primarily a blackout gag, very quick,” Theis said.

Theis said he and Hudson saw a lot of films in the past where a lot of quick gags were funny. The gags may not make sense, he said, but they are short, sweet and to the point, and produce one good chuckle at the end.

The short film begins with Hudson’s voice performing an introduction of an artic wasteland, the last uncharted territory, stating that the story will focus on a polar bear that could not climb stairs. The frame pans across the scene to find a polar bear that takes two steps on a flight of stairs in the middle of nowhere. He then falls, hits himself on the head and starts crying immediately. The screen goes black and the credits roll.

“The short is timed to a minute and a half, Theis joked. “It’s very dialogue-driven,”

Theis said he and Hudson had a long project planned out, but since time was short, they had to think of a funny gag. The project took less than two weeks, Theis said.

“We realized that working together as a group is probably the best thing that we can do because in the industry everybody works in groups,” he said. “With this project, I did the animation, (Hudson) did the sound, the music, making sure the music we got was legitimate and we didn’t worry about copyright.”

The finalists all said they all want their audience to get something out of their work.

“I want people to take away most from this film is (that) despite many hardships, this family still loves each other, (and) despite the fact that none of them are related by blood, they still consider themselves a family,” White said.

Granlund said he wants the audience to watch the film and make a connection with his subject, the soldier who traveled to Iraq.

“If the audience feels an emotional connection to the story and subject, and is entertained for a few minutes I think I was successful,” he said. “If the audience takes anything away from the film, I don’t want to control or influence what those thoughts are.”

It is all about laughter for Theis and Hudson’s short animated film.

“For this film in particular, we wanted that funny laugh,” Theis said. “For me, when I want to (make a) film, I want the viewer to feel everything, to feel sad, happy, mad – you want to touch every single emotion.”

Granlund said he saw how much hard work and dedication is required to guide a film from its beginning to its final product.

Theis said time was incredibly important when they were working on their project.

“If we had worked on it straight through all the way, push ourselves to get it done as quick as we can, we could’ve had time to edit, or add or delete things,” he said.

Theis acknowledged the work that his fellow CSUN finalists had done.

“I think they are really talented. They had really great films,” Theis said.

John Barundia can be reached at jcb44123@csun.edu.