Film Festival Offers Screenings, Educational Opportunities

New date paves way for collaboration with Oxford Film Festival

UM film students Sam Cox (left) and Emily Faye Cobb make camera adjustments between takes during the recent UM Department of Theatre and Film production of ‘MANGRY.’ Pictured on the monitor is actor Mike Dolan, who plays real estate agent Gus Davis in the film, which is written and directed by Ole Miss assistant professor Harrison Witt. Photo by Chris Floyd

OXFORD, Miss. – If the words “2018 UM Film Festival” inspire in you a sense of history repeating itself, you’re not going crazy. In fact, the weekend of Oct. 12-13 marks the second time the University of Mississippi Department of Theatre and Film has held the festival this year.

Previously held in April, the festival is moving to October so that it can take place before the Oxford Film Festival, which unspools annually in February.

The change in schedule allows filmmakers to use the Ole Miss festival as a proving ground for films they might like to submit to the larger Oxford Film Festival.

“Now the festival serves as an opportunity for filmmakers to receive feedback in advance of the Oxford Film Festival,” said Alan Arrivée, head of the university’s BFA in Theatre Arts emphasis in film production and one of the festival’s organizers. “This way, if they want to make edits or enhancements in order to have a better chance of getting screened at OFF, they’ll have time to do so.”

The free festival will take place in Fulton Chapel. It kicks off with a block of film screenings at 7 p.m. Friday (Oct. 12) and continues Saturday, with another set of screenings beginning at 7 p.m. Both days’ programs run about an hour.

For a full schedule and more information on the 36 films being screened, click here.

All the films screened will be shorts created by UM faculty, staff, students and alumni, as well as top-finishing submissions from the festival’s first-ever One-Minute Film Competition, which is the only portion of the festival open to high school students. The festival includes 10 films submitted by high school filmmakers

Style-wise, films run the gamut from experimental and narrative to animation, documentary and even music video.

Besides the film screenings, a new program Saturday will include a workshop in lighting and cinematography and a panel discussion on film festivals and the process of submitting and screening films.

The workshop, named “Dark to Camera,” will cover an approach that Harrison Witt, assistant professor of film production, said a lot of people already use.

“It’s very important for indie and student filmmakers because it’s all about going into a place and using what’s there,” Witt said. “It’s using lighting in the smartest way possible.”

A technique called three-point lighting – where two lights are placed at 45-degree angles on either side of the subject and a third light is used behind the subject – is a primary technique taught in most film programs, despite the fact that it’s not used in most modern filmmaking, Witt said.

“It’s a reaction against the foundational teaching of three-point lighting,” he said.

The workshop is set for 10:30 a.m.-noon in Fulton Chapel.

A panel discussion, titled “Film Festival Survival Guide,” brings together four festival experts, two filmmakers and two programmers. UM faculty members Sarah Hennigan and Alan Arrivée will speak from the perspective of filmmakers; Melanie Addington, executive director of the Oxford Film Festival, and Morgan Cutturini, who heads the High School Film Competition for the Tupelo Film Festival, will represent the programming side. The panel runs from 1:30 to 3 p.m. in Fulton Chapel.

Hennigan, a Dallas-born Cherokee filmmaker who is new to the Department of Theatre and Film this year as assistant professor of film production, has ushered films through the festival process as a writer-director, a cinematographer and a producer, so she can speak to the different experiences a filmmaker might have relative to the role played in creating a film.

“The goal is really just to help new filmmakers begin to navigate film festivals,” Hennigan said. “It’s the world we live in as indie filmmakers; it’s the backbone.”

Addington, who in addition to leading the Oxford Film Festival and serving as president of the Mississippi Film Alliance is a filmmaker herself, welcomes the collaboration with the UM Film Festival and the opportunity to sit on Saturday’s panel.

“I’m excited to be a part of it and to talk about the importance of film festivals, for so many different reasons, particularly for networking and getting audience feedback,” Addington said.

This collaboration will continue during the Oxford Film Festival next February with a special showcase of Ole Miss alumni films curated and presented by the UM Film Festival. The Oxford Film Festival will also offer a special student VIP pass for the first time, and top finishers in the UM Film Festival will receive waivers to the OFF.

Overall, the two festivals working together serves to support a broader goal of increasing Oxford’s appeal to filmmakers.

“We want to create a destination for filmmakers not only to get a great education, but to be part of the growing film community of the Mid-South,” Witt said.