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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Film Festival to Showcase Student Work

Since 2002, WCC’s digital video production program has gone through a lot of changes: more students, new full-time faculty, upgraded facilities including an editing lab and a green screen, and new top-of-the-line cameras, light kits, and software. One thing that hasn’t changed is the end-of-the-year Digital Video and Animation Festival, where the best of the students’ work is judged before an audience.

This year’s festival will be Wednesday, April 27, at 5:30pm in Towsley Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.

“We watch about 30 hours of student work from three semesters and pare it down to the best two-and-a half to three hours,” said Dan Kier, digital video production instructor.

The short clips run the gamut from works of fiction to public service announcements, documentaries, and animation. Over the years, the students’ styles, themes, and content have varied tremendously.

“At first, many of the students were trying to emulate popular feature film genres and directors. The students who are rising to the top are the ones who find their own voice,” said Kier.

“The level of sophistication has risen tremendously with the new technology,” said Matt Zacharias, another digital video production instructor. “The students’ work shows a greater variety; it’s more interesting with creative content. Now that there are 20 different sections and more students, I can see their competitive edge come out as they try and out-polish each other. It’s a healthy competition.”

In addition to the new equipment and upgraded facilities, something else new to the program is public accolades. This year, for the first time students from the digital video production program have been nominated for Emmys and had their work accepted into the Ann Arbor Film Festival.

“Our students’ films are good because their work reflects the eclectic nature of our student body,” said Zacharias. “With diverse ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds comes a greater variety in their final projects.”

Cathy Smillie, executive director of Public Relations and Marketing Services, has been a Digital Video and Animation Festival judge since 2002. “The first few years I judged, it seemed that the student films were full of their own angst and raw emotions,” she said. “It was a bit overboard. But each year the work gets more refined as they become more comfortable with technology. Now they write amazing scripts, and some have become good actors. They’ve really learned how to tell a story.”

A quick search of YouTube or Vimeo for such WCC students as John Inwood, Martin Thoburn, or Zeke Burhans will give good insight into the creative and professional caliber of the digital video students’ work.

“As our participation in the Ann Arbor Film Festival shows, our students can compete with the best around the country,” said Smillie.

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