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4-4-16 Connections, Story Important at SONscreen
The annual film festival showcases student projects, and challenges filmmakers.
By Kimberly Luste Maran
More than 100 student and professional filmmakers, professors, and movie enthusiasts gathered on March 31- April 2 in Chantilly, Virginia, for the annual SONscreen Film Festival. This festival, which debuted in 2002, gives young Christian filmmakers the occassion to share their work, network with others, gain exposure, and learn through presentations and workshops, panel discussions, and nightly film screenings.
“SONscreen provides the opportunity to celebrate the creativity and diversity that these young Christian filmmakers represent,” says Julio Muñoz, SONscreen Festival director and associate director of communication for the North American Division. “We want them to grow artistically, and to understand the important role their films can play in sharing hope and creating an inclusive community in our world.”
At this year’s festival, 34 student films were screened. In all, 14 awards were distributed. Two films garnered two awards each: “Mary & Montgomery” received the Best Original Screenplay award, Emily Mastrapa, and the Dramatic Short Honorable Mention award, Matt Webster, (Southern Adventist University); “Hamilton County K-9,” received the Audience Choice and Best Documentary Short awards, Richard Morgan (SAU); and “The Exquisite Outdoors” received three awards—top honor Best in Festival, the Best Cinematography award, Erik Edstrom, and the Best Dramatic Short award, Grant Pardew (Walla Walla University).
“I was not expecting to win for Best Original Screenplay,” says Mastrapa. “It was encouraging to see that people both understood and liked it enough to give me an award. . . . People were able to see my voice through my film, and I think that's amazing.”
SONscreen also presented the first ever Vision Award to Dr. Wil Alexander, “A Certain Kind of Light” documentary subject, for contributions he has made to the medical field in the area of total patient care.
Other festival highlights include the Thursday keynote presentation by Jeff Sheets, director of the Laycock Center for Creativity and Collaboration at Brigham Young University, the Friday screening of the award-winning Loma Linda University Health film “A Certain Kind of Light,” and the Sabbath presentation by Dan Jackson, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America. Jackson encouraged attendees to “keep a balance in your minds, but don’t be afraid to push back the boundaries.” After concluding his presentation with this advice, “By God’s grace do for the church and the community what is needed, do not be afraid,” Jackson answered questions and took comments from students and professors alike.
Rajeev Sigamoney, program coordinator for film and TV at Pacific Union College, brings students to SONscreen each year. “I’ve been coming to SONscreen for almost 10 years,” he says. “One reason is so that my students get to show their work and see other student work, and make connections. Some of the connections to other filmmakers who I interacted with in the past are some of the most meaningful relationships I’ve enjoyed with other filmmakers and the [film] community. I want my students and former students to get a piece of that.”
Sigamoney hopes the students take away what he always looks forward to: “More than anything, it is great just seeing other people’s work. And connecting with peers and friends—seeing the arc of people’s lives and relationships.” And he adds, “Professionally, I’m always looking for people I’d want to work with. Knowing what’s out there in our community can be helpful in the future when working on projects.”
Mastrapa agrees. “SONscreen is a great festival. You're surrounded by people who have the same values as you and are your age. It’s a wonderful place to make friends and meet possible future collaborators. It was encouraging to hear some church leaders, including Dan Jackson, speak about young adults working in the media.”
This is the third SONscreen for David Mancao, a fourth year film production major from SAU. Mancao produced “The Inventors” with fellow student and director John Butler. Mancao describes the film as a story that addresses self-worth and identity, a meaningful topic for Mancao who, bullied as a child, turned to TV and films for relief. “The films and TV shows I watched as a kid showed me what confidence is,” says Mancao. “Being a broken person who got bullied a lot, the characters gave me hope.” Mancao hopes to create stories that will one day “give hope to a kid, guy or girl, who’s gotten bullied, or needs a little extra push when they are feeling down.”
Leading With Authenticity
More memorable events came from the Friday screening “A Certain Kind of Light” and Q&A with producer Dr. Carla Gober-Park and film subject 94-year-old Alexander. During the Q&A, when asked if there was anything he’d like to change in the film, Alexander joked, “I’d clean up my kitchen a little bit more; and I’d wear more clothes in the Jacuzzi.”
Zach Gray, a professor from SAU, striving to link the documentary’s message with storytelling through film, asked, “How do we get the connection with others, not just those who work in healthcare?”
Alexander’s reply: “Every patient, every person, is spiritual, that is, made in the image of God. . . . Every person is looking for meaning and purpose in life. . . . and Millennials are asking “When will I get there?’”
“You need to have genuineness, authenticity,” says Gober-Park.
Excited to have experienced SONscreen, she adds, “You all are so inspiring. I see a genuineness in your films. I hope you aren’t all aiming for Hollywood and Universal. Those are words I heard [this weekend] and that’s fine, but our institutions need you. We are facing a gap here, where older people don’t fully understand the value of film and aren’t funding it as much as they’re going to be funding it in five years from now, and especially 10 years from now. So just hold on, help us all understand how valuable it is, because we really need people [in film] who are committed to helping our institutions grow.”
Visit http://www.SONscreen.com/new-page/ for the listing of official selections shown at the 2016 SONscreen Film Festival.
SONscreen Film Festival Winners
We congratulate the winners from this year's SONscreen Film Festival, held in Chantilly, Va., March 31 - April 2! There were many excellent films presented.
- Best in Festival: “The Exquisite Outdoors” | Grant Pardew | Walla Walla University
- Audience Choice: “Hamilton County K-9” | Richard Morgan | Southern Adventist University
- Jury Selection: “Sittin' Pretty” | Sidney Tooley | Southern Adventist University
- Best Original Screenplay: Emily Mastrapa | "Mary & Montgomery” | Southern Adventist University
- Best Cinematography: Erik Edstrom| “The Exquisite Outdoors” | Walla Walla University
- Best Sound Design: Chris Vance, Ben Josse, and Zach Josse | “Link” | Pacific Union College
- Best Dramatic Short: “The Exquisite Outdoors” | Grant Pardew | Walla Walla University
- Dramatic Short Honorable Mention: “Mary & Montgomery” | Matt Webster | Southern Adventist University
- Best Documentary Short: “Hamilton County K-9” | Richard Morgan | Southern Adventist University
- Documentary Short Honorable Mention: “AKA" | Jourdain Smith | Andrews University
- Best Animated Short: “Nameless” | Jason Dull | Southern Adventist University
- Animated Short Honorable Mention: “Restricted Rhythm" | Kevin Freeman | Southern Adventist University
- Best High School Short: “The Bible Worker” | Cory Shim | Spencerville Adventist Academy
- High School Short Honorable Mention: “The Indians Revenge” | Jonathan Wendt | Georgia Cumberland Academy