“Work for the future, so that you can play now.” Those were some of the words that famous Director/Writer/Producer Roger Corman started off the evening with. The event was packed with young filmmakers who were not only eager to support their colleagues, but were bursting with the the un-jaded excitement for film. Who better to open the night, than Corman, a filmmaker who has literally set the stage for independent filmmakers, made nearly 400 films and dared Hollywood to think, take risks and go against the obvious. Not only is he talented, but he’s responsible for most of the best talent in Hollywood. From Martin Scorsce and Henry Fonda, to Ron Howard and James Cameron, and now, possibly someone new.

For any independent filmmaker, he’s godfather, he’s the one that spots the talent, makes the talent and is the talent — but did he spot any at newbies to mentor at the Academy of Art University’s annual student film festival called The Epidemic Film Festival? Well there certainly were some films and filmmakers worth talking about…

In a world of the jaded, beaten down cycnists — otherwise known as Hollywood, it’s refreshing to see that the up and coming generation is still eager to share their voice in new and interesting ways. Film Festivals are not what they used to be, more often than not the films that play there have already been bought by major studios before they even hit the big screen. The big ones have films that star Robert De Niro, Cate Blanchett or some other known face and the small ones can’t find an audience — where/how does anyone even get their foot in the door when they’re competing with the almighty dollar and the pressures of Hollywood?

Apparently they start at the Academy of Art’s Film Epidemic Festival — a place where it’s okay to make something that doesn’t completely make sense, to make something that people don’t know how to feel about, to create something on the verge of greatness that strives to be more than just the run-of-the-mill. A place where people like Corman, along with legends Diane Baker and Eva Marie Saint come to mentor students and get them on their way.

The night was filled with angst, sexual frustration, searching for ones identity, discovery, acceptance and even a bit of broad humor — though these are all things you would somewhat expect from a group of college kids, what you might not expect is some of the quality of the work that’s being produced. I’m not sure if it’s because of modern technology, or a growing pool of artists being honed down to such an elite group, but I will say some of the films at this festival rival some of the ones ones at Sundance both conceptually and in technique. Some of them were even superior, mainly “I’m Not Vietnamese” a film for me which stood apart both emotionally and technically.

The devil’s in the details and despite the venue having both issues with the speakers and a shaky projection box — for the most part, all these students came to play.

The Films:

Though some films were very much an example of filmmakers in the process, some of the films were made by directors that if anyone catches wind of, will be snatched up in a second…

  • My two favorites “I’m Not Vietnamese” by directors Derek Maher and Shahaub Roudbari and “Angelito”(sans some awkward editing) by director Paula Lima. Both films showed an amazing sense of character, development, subtly and detail that make up some of the best films out there today.
  • Then of course there was “Booty Call” by director Marcio Goncalves — someone sign this guy up to direct and while you’re at it, make his two actors the next big comedy duo! Give them a budget and some room to play and you will not be disappointed! This was so much better than the majority of broad, mainstream comedies in theaters.
  • “Rent” had one of my favorite female characters on screen for some time. Samantha Edelstein gave a wonderfully twisted performance and gets extra points for eating in nearly every scene she was in. Though the ending was a bit too soppy for my taste, there were some great moments in this film and one that I could easily see expanded into a feature length film.
  • The winner for best screenplay, David Moutry, who had two screenplays nominated definitely seems to be a force to recon with. I only saw a small clip for his film “Nobody’s Laughing” but I can tell you that I was indeed laughing, and despite the four hours of film viewing, wanted to see more!
  • “We’re Just Like You” — now this is one director/writer who will either go on to make the next American Psycho or simply go mad. There are hints of genius in this, that with a bit more time may truly flourish, let’s hope that the creativity takes over on screen and not elsewhere!
  • “Sous” — next time don’t show us the dog and suddenly there’s a REAL short film there with some truly beautiful moments.
  • “Larkin “was by far the big winner of the evening, it was not necessarily my favorite, but it was extremely well made, and there’s not doubt that the cast and crew are onto something great.

There is an obvious growing theme through the school of a certain type of filmmaking. The 5D camera seemed to be very much in use, as did a number of other formerly still camera. I feel like most of them will grow out of the extended extreme close-ups and over-saturated look, but hey, maybe they know something I don’t!

Overall, the energy of the evening made me as both a journlist and a filmmaker re-invigorated and eager to get back to creating. So if you don’t mind…