Movie Festival rolls out red carpet

It may lack the notoriety of Cannes, but the Campus Movie Festival allows aspiring student directors to display their talents before they make it to the international scene. This year, the competition saw up to 70 teams submit films for consideration, but only a select few were chosen to be screened on Tuesday, April 23 at the award ceremony.

Given the task of making a movie in seven days, student groups created five-minute short films across campus and genres. The CMF, sponsored by the School of Arts & Communications, provided each group with a camera, a MacBook Pro and pre-installed software to edit their films together.

The result was the screening of 16 contenders, chosen by a panel of student and faculty judges. Red carpet unfurled and faux-Oscar buzz in the air, the ceremony proceeded with a viewing of each film in randomized order and audience interaction for trivia and prizes.

No single genre dominated the evening. Comedies like “A Ticket to Paradise,” following a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-esque journey with a golden ticket, and “An American Bookshelf,” a puppet love story of books in the College library, drew raucous appeal from the crowd.

Elsewhere, music videos like “Donde Esta Mi Gato?” and “Still Love You” took the visual approaches to filmmaking and tied them to dynamic, and Spanish, vocal performances.

And no festival is without its intensive dramas. “Mother Warrior” depicted the daily struggles of a working class mother through spoken word and a sped-up handheld camera while “Focus” addressed campus addiction to ADHD medication. It was also adorned with colorful special effects, no easy task to complete in just a week.

“The competition pushed us to try and create a film that was not only visually powerful, but also communicated our story effectively within the five minute time limit,” sophomore “Focus” director and cinematographer Joshua Lewkowicz said.

But ultimately, only several films could secure the CMF’s award adoration. Best Actor went to freshman Steven Munoz for his portrayal of the struggling, medicated artist in “Focus,” while Best Actress was given to Olivia Nakamura for her panicked performance in “Phobic.” For Best Comedy film, the Latin ballad “Donde Esta Mi Gato?” took home the gold. Conversely, “Living Life With No Regrets,” a documentary on local lives and their lack of lament, won the  Best Drama award.

Finally, the crowning of Best Picture went to Lewkowicz’s own “Focus,” accompanied by his sophomore special effects designer Andrew Kuserk.

Lewkowicz and Kuserk accept their Best Picture award. (Photo courtesy of J.R. Hardman)

With the festival’s conclusion, these winners will move on to compete in CMF Hollywood’s national competition. And for those who were unable to attend, all 16 films can now be viewed online at Campus Movie Festival’s TCNJ page.

Although this year’s campus competition is over, its absence should not deter student filmmakers from furthering their passions behind and in front of the camera.

“Don’t stop making films. The best way to improve and learn about this trade is to practice and hone your skills. Campus Movie Fest was an incredible opportunity to learn and share experiences and talent with other people who love making films as much as we do,” Lewkowicz said.