By Gabrielle Beacken
Nation & World Editor
As a kid he believed in the art of magic. Discovering the elements that made magic so spectacular led him to pursue a path of wonder and storytelling.
Class of 2015 interactive multimedia major Josh Lewkowicz always wanted to know what was happening behind the scenes. Now, as a pursuant cinematographer, Lewkowicz knows what it’s like to have the backstage pass.
But this is a different kind of magic — this is movie-making magic.
Lewkowicz, along with his film teammates Chris Lundy, Andrew Kuserk and Ryan Laux, received high praise and earned the “Best Special Effects” award for their five-minute short, “Paramnesia,” at Campus MovieFest (CMF) 2015 on Thursday, July 9 through Sunday, 12 this past summer in Hollywood, Calif.
“If a machine was intelligent enough to believe it was human, would we be morally obligated to treat it as a human?” asked Laux, “Paramnesia’s” 2D and 3D visual effects artist and editor, a junior interactive multimedia major. “(‘Paramnesia’) raises the question of the fine line between being human and being a machine.”
The film’s protagonist, Alex, takes a test to establish the difference between a human and artificial intelligence. Throughout the short, Alex makes shocking revelations about himself, and viewers are able to catch a glimpse of a possible “disturbing reality,” Laux said.
“Reality and life as we know it is a matter of perspective. How does one know the extent of reality,” posed the film’s composer, sound designer and writer, Lundy, a junior interactive multimedia major. “The thing everyone should take away from ‘Paramnesia’ is that there is a fragile, almost nonexistent line between artificial and human experience from the point of view of the individual.”
“Paramnesia” offers thought-provoking questions, while delving into a futuristic world where psychology, humanity and technology converge — the entire film was created in just seven days. With a script finalized only four days before the deadline, the team shot the five-minute film in one day and edited for three, according to Laux.
To successfully submit a piece to CMF, all filmmaking, besides pre-production, must occur in one week. Pre-production endeavors, such as writing scripts, casting actors and finding locations are allowed.
“In our usual fashion, we submitted the film about 10 minutes before it was due,” said Lewkowicz, who served as the film’s cinematographer, editor, colorist and gaffer.
Most of the editing done is to try to make the special effects look realistic as possible, according to senior interactive multimedia major Kuserk, who was the 3D visual effects artist and heavy-shots coordinator.
“In a week… I’ll only get three hours of sleep a day,” Kuserk said about the production week for CMF. “It’s never an easy task.”
In last year’s successful CMF film, “Iris,” the team featured a grand 3D concept that appeared for over half of the film. This year, the team decided to take their piece in a subtle visual effects direction.
“We went for a much more compelling story and cinematic piece that would really pull in the viewer’s attention, and in the end, I think that is what we achieved with ‘Paramnesia,’” Kuserk said. “Likewise, with the viewers’ attention being drawn in by the story, cinematic feel and amazing sound design this had left them wide open for the final visual effects shot in the film to really finish out strong.”
Travelling to Hollywood together, the team enjoyed a week of workshops, Q&A sessions, screenings and a red carpet finale. Adobe, RED Digital and Panasonic representatives attended the week-long event, as well. Guest speakers, such as actor Elijah Kelley and cinematographer Michael Goi, offered “cool and insightful” lectures, Lewkowicz said.
From each school competing, the top four films are able to see their short on the silver screen in AMC Theatres in Universal City Walk. Creators of the film then participate on a panel where they answer questions about their film.
Students from all over the country had the opportunity to talk and connect with one another.
“Meeting and talking to these people was a valuable experience,” Lundy said. “I learned much from them not only about the industry but where my passion lies and how I can apply it to my career down the road.”
The red carpet finale — held on the last day — took place at the Universal Globe Theatre. Here, the top five films in the country nominated for Best Picture are screened.
The nominees aren’t revealed until the ceremony the last night. “We all lost it when our film started playing — and it was the last one announced so it was extra exciting,” Lewkowicz said.
“Two years ago I would have never imagined that my work would be displayed on a national stage,” Laux said. “I am beyond fortunate to have met and worked with such talented people… I know the friendships I have formed will last me a lifetime.”
Classwork and club commitments were put on pause for their week of production. Ewing was just a small town back home during their time in big-town Hollywood.
“For a week, a bunch of my best friends and I drop everything and make a movie and have the time of our lives… nothing gets in the way,” Lewkowicz said. “For me, I’ve been able to produce work I’m genuinely proud of, have some incredible life experiences and make some of my best friends. No class can teach you that. ”