T he Department of Cinema and Television Arts presented its 15th Annual Student Film Showcase at the Leonard H. Goldenson Theater Wednesday night to salute students’ skills and award filmmakers Alan Armer, alumni Darren Grant and comedian Sinbad.
The showcase, hosted by Sinbad, had more than 600 people in attendance watch the debut of four short films: “Here and Then,” “Eagle Spirit,” “The Wounded Man” and “Street 16.”
CSUN students wrote, produced and directed the short films, which depicted several different time periods, incorporating love, loss, and the psychological effects of child abuse.
Between each screening, crewmembers from each film were asked to stand-up. As each student rose in unison from their seats, the crowd cheered, clapped and whistled for the crews’ accomplishments.
Of the films that premiered that night, “Street 16” took audience members on an emotional journey of mystery and intrigue as Jenny Jackson, portraying lead character “Rita,” convincingly projected fear, sadness, loneliness and redemption in her role as a victim of child abuse.
Written, directed, produced and edited by Patrea Patrick, the film, based on a true story, showed the harsh reality of the scarring experience from a child’s perspective.
Combining physical abuse, drug use, rape, and the vulnerability of runaway teenagers who lurk the streets of Los Angeles, “Street 16” was a shocking look at the negative consequences of bad parenting.
“This was a timely film because kids are committing suicide, they are cutting themselves, and kids feel like they are not heard, so they lash out,” Patrick said.
“It’s important to address these issues because we cannot afford to lose any more kids,” Patrick said.
On a lighter note, Sinbad’s off the wall jokes entertained audience members after the premiere of director Kevin North’s “Eagle Spirit,” a film about Lunah, a White woman (Michelle Lee) raised by American Indians and snatched from her native land in a failed attempt to be assimilated into American society. Lunah escapes when her American father (Michael Blake) has a heart attack, allowing her to return to her American Indian lifestyle.
The costumes, tepees, American Indian headpieces, language, accents and drum-pounding music succeeded in transporting audience members into this untold world.
Comparing student films with box office hits, Sinbad poked fun at student filmmakers and their projects.
Students were told to “enjoy the slow rolling credits because it’s the last time you’ll see it that slow.”
Sinbad told the audience, consisting of students, their relatives and faculty, that “once they work on box office hits, the credits zoom so fast that you can’t even find your name.”
Jokes aside, the next screening was for “The Wounded Man,” a 19-minute film set in 1884 about two cowboys, Joseph (Joshua Shenkle) and Tom (Michael Hampton), that delved into their everyday struggles of financial hardships and the unfair management practices of their corrupt boss, Hammond (Walker Christopher).
The two cowboys face a dilemma as they deal with their own problems in an attempt to save Nathaniel (Scott McIntosh).
The film, although serious in matter, contained comedic elements, allowing the audience to laugh as Nathaniel picked up his gun, dropped it and shot himself.
The next film, “Here and Then,” took an entire year to film. The film was about the experience and existence of love. For Cherise (Axelle Grelet), love turned into unbearable attachment and loneliness.
Upon completion of the screening, professor Nate Thomas took time to dedicate a Cinematheque Award to Alan Armer, who was recognized for his contributions to the CSUN campus and his professional accomplishments.
Thomas also acknowledged alumnus and filmmaker Darren Grant with a Cinematheque Award.
As a director, Grant has worked with Aaliyah, Mya, Monica, Brian McKnight and Destiny’s Child, among others.
Upon receiving his award for his dedication to filmmaking and personal tenacity, a montage of his directorial work for commercials and music videos including Destiny Child’s “Survivor,” blazed across the screen.
Grant modestly accepted his award, and gave student filmmakers a message of hope, relaying his story and claim to fame.
“It’s been such a long journey, it feels good to be recognized,” Grant said. “I’ve been awarded by my peers, and it helps you take in what you did because the industry is so competitive.”
In order to make it in the industry, Grant suggests students “have a lot of hustle, and stop wondering about what to do.”
Grant also suggests students ask for internships and get on to a set to build contacts and gain experience.
At the end of the event, students mingled with Grant, Sinbad and student directors as they asked questions about the industry, sought out advice and exchanged business cards in an effort to network.
President Jolene Koester was in attendance, and said she enjoyed the event.
“Well, I think this is a first class event,” Koester said. “It definitely shows the skills of our students.”