May 12, 2014

Tisch Graduate Film Showcase 2014

This past weekend I attended the Tisch Graduate Film Showcase at Cantor Film Center which featured the work of the second-year students from the past year. Each student was required to direct a short film that needed to be 12-15 minutes in length (though for the screening itself the cut could be any length desired). While I attended for the sheer purpose of supporting my friend who is a student in the program, I always make a point to watch at least an hours-worth of the student films so that I get a sense for what kinds of experimentation and storytelling takes place within the Tisch School of the Arts. 

Having seen all of the student screenings for my friend’s particular program since she started in 2012, I have seen their progression from first films to gradually accumulating a vocabulary and a mastery over the filmic elements. I particularly appreciated how the films have increasingly become more appropriate in scope, understanding how much can actually take place within 15 minutes of a story and also realizing how to exploit editing and expository writing styles to tell a more cogent story or curate a more cohesive aesthetic. 

Quite a few films were successful in this regard, though one element of the structure of the event did quite a disservice to the student’s work. It makes sense that the films need to be presented in blocks and that little can be done to curate the selection such that there is an intuitive flow from film to film. In order to maintain the proper pace there was very little separation between one film and the next and sometimes an extremely campy and ironic comedy would be followed by a more serious character study or verite-style film. This would leave the audience confused as to what to expect, often requiring at least several minutes of acclimating before coming to conclusions as to the tone of the film. While differing audience expectations are always an element to these kinds of screening, you were always conditioned based on the previous film to have a certain reaction to the next. Sometimes this would leave the viewer feeling like the film was less successful in capturing a certain affect when in fact this was merely a result of being disoriented by the film that preceded it. I think this is an essential component to consider, especially knowing that some of these films are the launching pad for their directors and it is screenings such as these to help to bolster their career in the near future. While very little can likely be done to alleviate this, perhaps the Tisch Film department should consider better methods for showcasing student films such that they are more properly accented. 

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