For student filmmakers, having their work shown at film festivals is a mark of prestige, even though the films shown reach a limited audience ““ those in attendance. When a film is shown on TV, however, it has the potential to reach thousands in one night.
This exposure is one of the benefits of KCET’s Fine Cut Festival of Student Film series, which honors the best in short films made by Southern Californian student filmmakers. This year’s selection of 16 shorts, 7 of them from UCLA, are being broadcast on KCET, PBS’s local affiliate. The first episode of four films aired Thursday, May 6, and the series will continue with three other episodes, airing on Thursdays at 10 p.m.
According to Bohdan Zachary, KCET’s vice president of broadcast and syndication and Fine Cut’s executive producer, KCET has long provided a platform for emerging talent to show their work, and the Fine Cut series began 13 years ago as an opportunity for student filmmakers to reach a wide audience.
“We wanted to really spotlight some of the leading film schools in the world, which just happen to all be in Southern California,” he said. “So it’s a great opportunity to say look at what amazing talent we have right here.”
Before the films began showing on TV, KCET held an event at the Vista Theater on April 28 to honor the filmmakers and screened eight of the films. Director and UCLA alumna Sharon Hill won the audience favorite award for her short, “Shades of Grey.”
In picking the selection for the event, Zachary wanted to represent the different schools and a variety of genres, though choosing was difficult.
“I fell in love with all 16 films, and I’m torn every time I look at the lineup and someone asks me which is my favorite,” he said.
UCLA alumnus David Martin-Porras, who graduated in 2009 with a Master’s of Fine Arts in directing, had his film “Ida Y Vuelta” screened at the event. His film, which will air on May 13, tells the story of a mother and son placed in a revealing situation when the son’s bag is inspected by a customs official at the airport. Martin-Porras said he appreciated the opportunity the event provided to receive feedback.
“It’s always exciting to see your own movie with an audience,” he said. “I learn from each screening … the best moment is at the end when people come up to you with questions and comments. … Good or bad, I always want people to say something about my film.”
To further interact with the films, viewers who tune into the Fine Cut series will have the opportunity at the end of each episode to vote for their favorite short. The majority of this year’s selections are also available in their entirety on KCET’s website, increasing their potential audience, Zachary said.
“Collectibles,” a short film produced by UCLA alumnus Ben Harris and directed by UCLA directing student Miranda Yousef, kicked off the series on May 6. The film tells the story of a girl who receives a doll for Christmas that her parents forbid her from playing with since it is a collectible.
Harris, current manager and lecturer in the producers program at the School of Theater, Film and Television, said everyone involved was excited to see their film broadcast on TV and felt honored to be part of the KCET Fine Cut series.
“You produce these student films … and you don’t really expect it to go anywhere. So to see your film on TV is very exciting,” he said. The short’s main actress, a young girl, even came up to Los Angeles to catch the local broadcast of “Collectibles.”
“There’s a celebratory mood for all of us involved,” Harris said.
This celebratory mood extends among UCLA students who were selected for the series. Zachary received more than 100 submissions from Southern California film schools, including UCLA, USC, Loyola Marymount and CalArts. After screening each film, Zachary narrowed down the selection to the final 16, of which 7 come from UCLA. For comparison, USC has four student films in the series. Bruins have consistently been strong contributors to Fine Cut, Zachary said.
For Martin-Porras, this comes as no surprise. “UCLA is well known for creating a collaborative environment among its students. We all have to work in each other’s movies, so when one of us succeeds we all feel it as a triumph.”