Those were the words that preceded the showing of the New Visions 2016 student films at the Montclair Film Festival. Groups of friends and families amassed at the Clairidge Cinema to watch Montclair State University students’ work.
In the lobby, parents’ faces were glowing in anticipation to watch the fruits of their children’s labor and tuition money on the big screen. In the theater, they laughed, cried and pensively watched the art pieces.
Wil Exavier, whose award-winning short film, “Victim,” was included in the showcase, prides himself on the recognition from the Montclair Film Festival. Despite admitting the challenge of writing a screenplay, audience response was the force that pushed Exavier while in production.
“I love reactions,” he said. “I love going to the movies with people to see how they feel in comparison to how I feel.”
Exavier’s short was one of two dramas that night. Gerhard Patterson’s “Two Dead Men” also made its debut at the 7 p.m. showing. During his interview, Patterson noted that casting was one of the difficulties he faced while filming.
Meanwhile, Bryan Scuteri suffered through the tedious process of stop-motion animation for “Superdad.”
At the same time, other artists, like Alexander Winchell, discovered the cultural differences in filmmaking while shooting his film, “Runaway,” in China. “There were a lot of hands on deck, creatively,” Winchell said of his collaborative project with the Shanghai Theater Company.
A recent Montclair State graduate, Winchell is working on another project that he described as a film noir coming-of-age story set at the Jersey Shore. However, he’s not the only one who was able to turn their passion into a career.
After filming “Mic Dreams,” a documentary about New Jersey-based rapper Freddy Stone, 2015 graduate Sam Balaban found work as a video editor and photographer for the hip-hop-centric music magazine, The Fader.
Peter Chapman also showcased his experimental film, “The Strings of Things,” which was one of his first projects as an Montclair State student after four years of professional freelance work.
Similarly, rising graduates like Brittney Briggs, director of the satirically sacrilegious “Making It to Mass,” are already building their portfolios by working on web content, music videos and other short films.
Despite student films’ notorious reputation for being insufferable, the students’ shorts received glowing reviews from attendees.
“I definitely liked it more than I thought I would,” one audience member said. “I see a lot of promise in these shorts.”
That night, the audience watched wondrously at the stunning visuals of Nick Capra’s “Lux.” At the same time, they laughed at the bizarre humor of Jabri Rios-Rhodes’ western/comedy hybrid, “Fistful of Candy.”
Regardless of genre, these nine film students were given the opportunity to share their narratives beyond the Montclair State campus. Each film evoked a visceral reaction from the audience or perhaps encouraged them to look introspectively and take a much deeper message from their work.
Many of these students’ projects and some of the New Visions 2016 films can be found on their personal Vimeo accounts. Especially for young filmmakers who are just getting started in the industry, a share and some support could take their creations even farther than Montclair.