For one of their first assignments, students in Jason Livingston’s film distribution class had to research a large-scale film festival.
Then, they had to create one.
“From the beginning, I thought that a festival would be a great way for students to learn about distribution,” said Livingston, an assistant professor of cinema, photography and media arts. “It’s a way to learn how to present your work to other people.”
This week, the students are busy making final preparations for their festival, The Siren International Film Odyssey, which will begin at 7 p.m. tomorrow in the Park Auditorium and is free to the public. The festival will feature 18 entries from six countries, chosen from more than 120 submissions and spanning all genres, including documentaries, narratives, animation, music videos and experimental. The festival is sponsored by the Roy H. Park School of Communications, No Radio Records in Ithaca and Avid, a digital media production company.
Students began working on the festival about a month into the semester, Livingston said. The class of 23 split into seven committees, including publicity, screening, programming and operations, among others.
Sophomore Christina O’Rourke, cinema and photography major and member of the class, said students took on full responsibility for all aspects of the event, but Livingston was a great source because of his experience with festivals in the past.
“There were so many different factors going into this one event that [Livingston] was the one to see the bigger picture,” she said. “That’s where he was really crucial.”
Junior Rachel McIntire, a cinema and photography major, said filmmaker Amos Vogel inspired the class and the aim of the festival. Livingston introduced his students to the Austrian-born filmmaker he describes as legendary, at the beginning of the semester. Vogel, tired of a commercial and monotonous film industry, created Cinema 16, a film club aimed at audiences searching for alternative screenings. Within two years of its 1947 opening, the club screened works by more than 3,000 artists a week.
McIntire said the festival’s goals were influenced by Vogel’s passion for diversity in film.
“We wanted [the films screened] to challenge the audience,” she said.
Livingston said Vogel also inspired the group to create the Amos Vogel Cinema 16 Award, given to a film that best uses diverse themes and images.
Within their committees, the students created a Web site, Facebook group, MySpace page and an ad on craigslist, calling for international submissions. But with no budget for advertising, Livingston said, they relied mostly on word of mouth.
“We’re all film people and we all have film friends, even internationally from people who have studied abroad,” McIntire said.
The group received submissions from around the world and decided which films to run.
“We have all these films from all these countries, and we had to get them together to get the festival itself to be one work of art,” O’Rourke said.
The students believe the project is an important part of their education, and could contribute to the education of other film students.
“It’s an opportunity to see more work,” said McIntire. “It’s like reading. The more you read, the better you get.”