Short-filmmaking students receive the ultimate critique
Columbia College teamed up with the Chicago Film Critics Association Feb. 8 to screen student-made short-film finalists to determine the winner at the Muvico Theatres, 9701 Bryn Mawr Ave. Rosemont, Ill.
The winning entry was honored the following night at the CFCA 24th annual awards show, at the same location, in which the winner received a $5,000 cash prie along with carrying the title ‘Emerging Filmmaker Award.’ The event featured large Hollywood names in attendance, like actress Jane Lynch and actor Paul Sorvino.
Columbia students submitted a total of 47 films to the CFCA critics and 11 were selected as finalists, which were screened on Feb. 8.
The films ranged in genre from documentary to animated and thrillers to experimental. The winning selection was “Play Date,” a non-dialogue animated film by director and 2012 alumnus Mike Wytrykus.
“Play Date” told the story of a boy named Jack and a girl named Jill on a playground. While Jack is a daydreamer and wants to be left alone as he pretends to be a cowboy, Jill pretends she is a princess, looking for Jack to be her rescuer as she pursues Jack in several make-believe scenarios that pay homage to classic western, sci-fi and adventure genres.
Wytrykus was humbled and a bit astonished that his film took the grand prize as he took the microphone and gave his acceptance speech to the crowd.
“I’m a little surprised because honestly there were some really great films here tonight and this is just fantastic,” he said. “I want to thank Columbia’s film and animation department along with our fantastic crew — everybody contributed and it really was no one person’s idea.”
Second place runner up was “The Treehouse” directed by 2012 alumnus A.J. Sheeran and Sam Shapson. Third place belonged to “Bowls of Water” directed by 2012 alumna Andrea C. Pabon.
Adam Fendelman, a CFCA association member, explained the process and criteria of how the finalists were selected.
“The criteria was they had to be original films under 10 minutes and had to be submitted using Columbia College’s resources,” he said. “The way we voted was we got a stack and watched the films individually and decided which to show the group [of critics]. We then got together and judged the finalists on sound, cinematography, story and acting.”
Fendelman said he and many other critics almost instantly decided “Play Date” would be the winner upon the first viewing, still they of course viewed the other selections, and he shared what jumped out at him most.
“As a critic I like dark and twisted dramas, I typically don’t go for campy and upbeat feel-good movies but you cant help but like it because it’s cute,” he said. “It jumped out as the film that really didn’t have any weaknesses.”
Bruce Sheridan, Professor and Chair of the Film and Video Department, shared that film students were given this opportunity as he was put in contact with the Chicago Film Critics, and negotiated an arrangement.
“We will not have an exclusive arrangement on the Emerging Filmmaker Award in the future but will continue to be invited to enter as many qualified Columbia College student films as we’d like.”