If the phrase "student film" makes you think of last night's exploits splashed across YouPorn.com, you haven't embraced the Greater Philadelphia Student Film Festival (GPSFF). A contest for Philadelphia-area university students, the festival gives awards in five different categories. The winners are then entered into the Philadelphia Film Festival in April.
Begun in 2006 by a pair of Penn students, the GPSFF is confidently striding into its third year, armed with sponsorship from Urban Outfitters, Bank of America and Qdoba and tallying 120 entries from 16 different schools. Wharton senior Jason Gurwin, who co-directs the event with College sophomore Yanik Ruiz-Ramon, said the goals of the festival have been to expand its presence throughout Philly's college campuses, as well as to partner with big names to increase exposure for fledgling filmmakers.
The exposure seems to have worked - Gurwin expects over 500 people in attendance at the awards ceremony on Friday, up from 350 last year. Penn alone submitted 34 entries, a 60% increase from last year. After the films are submitted, a student judging panel cuts down the pool to about 25 submissions, which are then judged by industry professionals such as independent producers and entertainment lawyers. The winners receive an STA travel gift certificate, submission in the Philly Film Festival pool and of course, everlasting glory.
The awards ceremony will be held Friday at 7 p.m. at 401 S. Broad Street on the University of the Arts campus. Tickets are $9 and include admission to the ceremony, movie screenings during the night and a taco dinner. Buy them online at GPSFF.com.
In honor of the upcoming Greater Philadelphia Student Film Festival, Street sat down with two finalists, College sophomore Kevin McMullin and College senior Mark Rubbo. Proving they're more media-savvy than Michael Moore, the duo talk about green screens, animation and their plans to dominate (or document) the world.
Street: Congratulations on being finalists this year. This isn't new for you, is it?
Kevin McMullin: I placed last year and this year I'm up for the Comedy, Drama and Experimental categories.
Mark Rubbo: I was a finalist last year too; this year I'm nominated for Experimental and Animation.
Street: Tell us a little bit about your films.
KM: For my experimental film, I used a green screen with live action and animation. It's a black and white fairy tale I wrote, and a seven-year-old girl narrates. We shot it in one day, and the whole film is only five minutes, but I spent weeks editing it.
MR: For my animation film, I adapted a story from the Brothers Grimm tales and made charcoal drawings and puppets. For the experimental, I used animation to explore dreams and the psychological realms that bleed into each other.
Street: Is there a specific subject matter you find yourself coming back to?
MR: Dreams, definitely. They lend themselves nicely to animation.
KM: I like my films to have a dirty look; I'm not so concerned about the subject matter.
Street: What about actually making the films? Can you describe the process?
MR: If you're lucky enough to have a large production team, they basically do all of the setting up. If you're by yourself, you use a blue or green screen, key out the background and use visual effects that you like.
KM: I tend to shoot in two hours using natural sunlight - you try to get in what you can. I use one or two actors, usually they're friends or related to me. Even though it takes so little time to shoot, you end up spending half of the semester editing the final product.
Street: Who are your greatest industry influences?
MR: I hate this question. But if I had to choose, Norm McClaren, who originated the principles of animation. And Bill Plympton - he uses dark humor.
KM: Paul Thomas Anderson. You have to watch his films multiple times; they force you to pay attention.
Street: Career plans after Penn? Is film a path or a pleasure?
KM: Both. I want to do this the rest of my life.
MR: Yeah, I'm working for a production company after I graduate in May. This is what I'm going to be doing for a long time.
Come support McMullin and Rubbo at the GPSFF Awards Ceremony this Friday night.