Friday, April 15, 2016

Perspective Through Film: The ACM Student Film Festival and Conference

It has been a while since my last blog post.  During that time, I have been traveling to member campuses meeting with faculty and staff, while simultaneously participating in the creation of a professional development course surrounding the economics of higher education at small liberal arts colleges.  However, one activity I really want to highlight is the first annual ACM Student Film Conference and Festival.  While you can find more detailed information and links to the winning presentations here, there are some personal impressions I would like to convey.
  • Student Engagement – During the reception on Friday evening, students, faculty, and judges were encouraged to have informal conversations that would help set the tone for the rest of the festival.  I was able to meet students from St. Olaf, Grinnell, Colorado, Macalester, and Lawrence just to name a few.  I learned about what motivated them to make films, their different approaches and their passion for the medium.  At dinner, I sat with students from Macalester and Colorado and discussed the important role technology plays in storytelling.
  • Faculty Engagement – Also during the reception, faculty were busy interacting with students and judges.  They provided tours of the Hurvis Center and other facilities at Lawrence, connected groups and made introductions.  Facilitating these informal conversations and making sure that everyone had an opportunity to engage was a large part of what made the conference successful.
  • The Judges – I cannot say enough about how approachable, honest, and personable the judges were while attending the festival.  Whether talking to the faculty members, students or me, they took the time to listen and engage on a very personal level.  During the panel after dinner, they answered pointed questions honestly about the power structure in Hollywood, what it takes to be successful, and where to begin the journey.  They did not shy away from tough questions or attempt to downplay the realities of the industry.
  • Diversity – Although I truly enjoyed the reception and dinner, my favorite part was the next morning, when I was able to view two screenings of student work.  I was in awe and amazed at not only the quality but the diversity of student projects.  The level of storytelling and emotion was captivating and impressive.  Whether irreverent and comical or serious and haunting, the students told stories that impacted you on a personal level.  Several told the story of an individual or family member in a way that truly made you feel connected to the individual. 

I have always enjoyed the film and believe the use of feature film or documentary clips can have a tremendous impact in the classroom.  However, after attending the festival, I have a renewed appreciation for the art of storytelling through film.  Capturing not only the emotion of those on the screen but also, that of the director behind the lens is an art that can draw the viewer into another persons’ world, bringing context and perspective.  I look forward to the subsequent years of the festival, and I hope to be allowed to attend and continue many of these conversations.