Tulane welcomes first ever Tulane Student Film Festival

Hannah Levitan, Associate News Editor

Hannah Levitan

Embellished with red carpets, photo backdrops and balloons, members of the Strategy, Leadership and Analytics Minor Special Topics: Film Festival course greeted attendees at the Woldenberg Art Center for the first-ever screening of Tulane University’s student-run film festival on April 20

The second night of the festival — produced by the Digital Media Practices faculty at Prytania Theatre — included a lineup of 10 capstone films from the fall of 2021, all of which didn’t have screenings due to the rise in omicron variant cases. 

The first night of the festival — produced entirely by SLAM students — featured 21 films over two screenings. 

From beautifully-shot music videos to Comedy Central-worthy comedic shorts, I left the first screening in awe. While I have no film experience, excluding the occasional TikTok, I have a lot of experience in binging movies for hours. 

Satisfied with my butter-to-popcorn ratio, I felt my attendance almost made up for the fact that I didn’t watch the Oscars this year. Even more — audience members had the opportunity to vote on their favorite film through a tear-off ballot. I’d argue it was a far more democratic process than the Academy’s.

As each audience member exited, they dropped their ballots in a bin, determining who would take home a prize. The jury awards recently announced were in-kind donations — a swag bag from Panavision, two all-film passes to the 2022 New Orleans Film festival and the opportunity to meet with a film executive — as well as a bonus cash prize raised by Will Scherr, sophomore and class member. 

“Honestly, the GoFundMe originally was meant to just draw attention to the festival and give filmmakers an incentive to submit the films,” Scherr said. “However, we ended up reaching our fundraising goal of $500 after just three weeks… The idea of working on a project for almost an entire semester really made me way more passionate.” 

The class also obtained sponsorship from Coca-Cola, New Orleans’ Pizza Delicious and an additional partnership with Creole Creamery.

Jolene Pinder, documentary film producer and SLAM professor, said she assigned the festival as her class’ final project as an opportunity for students to build their work portfolios.

“This experience really served as an interesting model for how to offer students real world experience in project management, event production, fundraising, curation and operations,” Pinder said. 

Partnering with current students and alumni, the class of 26 split into four committees and began creating a platform for young filmmakers to showcase their works. In the word’s of the festival’s mission statement: “The Tulane Film Festival is an opportunity to celebrate students’ films and provide a bridge for gaining a deeper understanding of the importance of film in New Orleans.”

“I am on the curation and programming committee, which means I watched 72 films and chose around 24 of them,” Lien Duke, SLAM student and sophomore, said. “They’re really fantastic. This has been one of the best experiences I’ve had so far at Tulane… I love working with all these people and it’s been really rewarding to see it come together today. I hope it happens again next year.” 

An unforeseeable but deserved outcome, the first screening’s poll resulted in a tie between junior Crawford Lemoine’s “Mackey & Gibbs” and senior Myles Ortiz-Green’s “Eggs and Sassage” for the audience award. In the second screening, voters seemed particularly fond of 2021 graduate Annelise Odders’ “Serial Daters.”

As for the DMP’s capstone screening, alumni Donovan Robertson’s “Monk.” Robertson won a consultation with Hollywood producer and Tulane alum Scott Niemeyer along with $150. 

Rashada Fortier, programmer and submissions coordinator with the New Orleans Film Festival, attended all film screenings and selected the winner of the $500 grand jury prize, courtesy of SLAM and DMP departments. Fortier chose alumni Cameron Woodle’s “I am One of the People.”

While I can only speak on my experience at the film festival’s premier screening, I was impressed with SLAM 3914’s final project. From their creative logo design to their successful curation of the film festival, it’s easy to forget this is being graded as a final project.

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