The 11th annual Open Frame Film Festival launched a new tradition and set the bar higher than ever at the Palace Theatre on Saturday, April 14.
Program Director Andrew Rudd said the change in location from campus to the Palace had always been a dream of his, though it took time to grow the budget for it to be possible. With last year’s crowded turnout, Rudd decided it was time to transition to the Palace after the event had to turn away 75 people due to lack of seating.
Another new feature to this year’s Open Frame was the additional block that was added at 4:00 along with the 8:00 showing. According to Rudd, more films were submitted this year than ever before and to avoid going over the two hour time slot, he decided to designate two separate blocks for showings.
“We call the 4:00 block the up-and-coming block so it would include both filmmakers whose films weren’t quite ready for the primetime and alumni whose films are polished … and who are up and coming in the real world,” Rudd said.
This Open Frame proved to be a landmark year for the festival as the variety of films brought unique vision. According to Rudd, this year produced more documentaries, female-made films and showed a greater representation of people of color, which Rudd said has been a goal of his. He also commented on the diverse range of genres in this festival such as stop-animation, animal documentary, war epic drama, romantic comedy and horror, just to name a few.
“This year we had such close races, closer than we ever had before in almost every category,” Rudd said. “One thing I love about this … no matter how same what I do is every year, it’s completely new and [the students] have fresh voices and fresh ideas.”
Open Frame veteran and senior communication arts major Taylor Hazlett submitted her film The Moviegoers. This is the third year Hazlett has been involved in Open Frame with previous films including (W)hole and Customer Satisfaction. The idea for The Moviegoers was birthed after last year’s Open Frame when Michael Popp approached her with the idea of making a movie that was homage to Richard Linklater’s movie Before Sunrise. Much like Linklater’s movie, Hazlett’s film follows two people who meet in a movie theater and “fall in like with each other.” The rest of the film follows the characters, played by junior Trisha Landis and senior Luke Taylor, as they walk around the city talking about movies.
According to Hazlett, having the Open Frame at the Palace Theatre was a great experience which she hopes will continue in the future.
“I’m so grateful to Andrew Rudd for coming up with that and doing all the work for it,” she said.
A new voice added to this year’s Open Frame, was first-time filmmaker junior communication arts major Mike Lawson. What originally started out a play script for a class assignment, Lawson turned his script into a short film called Pirates of the Fairway. According to Lawson, his only goal for this movie was to make others laugh. After his daughter tragically passed away several months ago, Lawson wanted to make a comedy and dedicated it to her.
“I want [the audience] to take 15 minutes to forget their troubles, take a break and just laugh at something absurd. If they laugh … I’m successful.” Lawson said.
Lawson also adds that writing comedy was a challenge to himself.
“I think writing comedy is a million times harder than writing drama,” he said. “Anyone can write a drama and make the audience have deep thoughts, but it’s harder to make someone laugh.”
Though Pirates of the Fairway was slotted for the 4:00 block, Lawson was not discouraged.
“I know nothing about filmmaking,” Lawson said. “It’s not like a great film, but we’re proud of it because it was all done by students.”
His first Open Frame experience provided conflicting emotions for Lawson, however.
“I thought it was supposed to be a collaborate effort,” he said. “[The students’ attitude] was my biggest disappointment.”
According to Lawson, he was disillusioned by what he perceived to be a cutthroat nature of the film festival. Regardless, he also said the process was a great learning experience and a lot of fun and he intends to enter into next year’s Open Frame.
“I still believe in the concept of Open Frame … for students by students,” he said. “We just need to drop the ‘me’ attitude.”
Lawson won the Best Actor Award, but it wasn’t for Pirates of the Fairway. Lawson played the main role in junior communication arts major Chloe Asselin’s film The Ledge, which also grabbed the award for Best Actress. Lawson worked on several films this year which also included senior comm. arts major Michael Garwood’s film State of the Union.
State of the Union is a war drama which centers on the theme “love conquers all” and trying to keep a family together, according to Garwood. Because of the resources needed to create an authentic war film, Garwood struggled to find all the equipment needed, he said. Even with those trials, Garwood’s film was still recognized at the award ceremony, taking home Best Sound Design, Best Editing and Best Supporting Actress.
“From start to finish, I love my film,” he said. “It’s grown into something even better. The whole production was effective and helpful for me to show off my skills as a filmmaker.”
Open Frame proved to be tough competition, but there was one film that stood out above all the rest: Junior Bible and theology major Kaitie Fox’s stop-animation film Art Wars. Fox has been working with stop-animation for several years now, she said and has always wanted to make a stop-animation film. She was first attracted to the idea after watching a student film at Open Frame her freshman year. The film was done in stop-animation and Fox was less than impressed with it. According to Fox, her goal became to before graduation “make a better stop-animation than that and reveal to the community that stop animation are sweet.”
Art Wars is centered on two girls to battle each other through their imagination and drawings. The intricate movie was filmed in the Heritage second floor classroom as well as around campus and took approximately 2900 photos to make.
According to Fox, inspiration and creativity played a key role in making this film.
“It was very thoughtful and incorporated a lot of ideas and inspirations and processes from many different people so it became very colorful and vibrant,” she said.
Fox also said that she wanted to push everyone in their creativity while making the film and that by the end “each of them developed creatively and beautifully.”
The stop-animation was not the only creative push of the film. Fox also approached freshman music production major Lauren Seveney with creating the score with one condition – it all had to be done using only her voice and no instruments.
But possibly the greatest feat, Fox had to overcome was teaching her cast and crew how to do stop-animation.
“It requires a lot of patience and keeping a calm head,” Fox said, although she praised her team for being so willing to work with her.
Fox said that the overall message she wanted to get out to viewers was “why we war.”
“There’s a lot of meaning there and I really hope people just don’t watch it and think that was cute and leave it at that,” she said. “It’s much more far-reaching than that and it can make you really think about … who are the people you war with? How significant and how necessary forgiveness is and how difficult it is as well. It really gets into a deep issue of forgiveness and war.”
According to Fox, it was crucial to create the movie in stop-animation because she was trying to get communicate these ideas without the use of dialogue, film or instruments.
The creativity and inspiration behind Art Wars paid off in a big way as it won four awards including Best Production Design by sophomore art major Jacob Redmon, Best Original Score by Seveney, Best Director, and above all Best Film. Fox shared that she was both honored and shocked that their film was awarded several times. Among all the awards though, winning Best Original Score was the most exciting moment, she said.
“We all grew very close throughout process. That was the most beautiful thing … how each of us started to open up and allow our creativity to have a voice,” Fox said. “It cultivated an environment of community and appreciation.”
The process for Open Frame began at the start of the year with orientation. The students then had until April 5 to produce their movies and submit it for judging. This year’s Open Frame was judged by outside contributions including journalists, film festival programmers, alumni, and filmmakers from all over the country.