The lobby outside Theater One was filled with conversation and laughter as friends, family and guests gathered for the red carpet portion of the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) Student Film Festival, November 30.
The festival is produced by the BMCC Video Production Club. The competitive event occurs twice each year near the end of the fall and spring semesters.
Thirty-four short films by BMCC students and six by other CUNY students—ranging from documentaries to dramas to music videos, comedies and animation—were screened. Only films with BMCC students as producer, director, screenwriter or main talent (acting, music or dance) were eligible for the competition.
The festival also recognized one filmmaker as a "Rising Star" with the Michael Vincent Rosen-Pipitone Special Recognition Award, named after a BMCC student who died unexpectedly in 2013. Pitpitone’s parents were special guests at the event, as they have been every year since the festival’s inception in 2014.
The judges included director and producer Nicolas Panoutsopoulos, whose credits include the award-winning short film Blackberries; director and producer Caroline Mariko Stucky, an independent filmmaker whose most recent project is Starfish, and Jayson Simba, star of the film Soft In the Head, named one of the Top 20 Films of 2014 by Richard Brody at The New Yorker.
A foothold in the industry
“The festival was founded by students in the Video Production Club who wanted to have a more official and prominent event to showcase their work,” said BMCC Media Arts and Technology Professor Anastassios Rigopoulos. All the films were shorts, and ranged in length from 11 seconds to nearly 20 minutes. All but one of the festival winners students are either Video Arts and Technology or Animation and Motion Graphics majors. Many of the students hope to eventually find jobs in New York City’s thriving film, media or animation sector. The film industry alone employs more than 170,000 in New York City, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The Media Arts and Technology department at BMCC helps students get a foothold in the industry by providing them with necessary tools not only to further their education, but also to find work in a media-related field.
“There are jobs in animation that our student population may not even know about. I have some talented students and we’re excited to see what they’re doing,” said Animation and Motion Graphics Professor Jamal Sullivan.
Animation and Motion Graphics major Bruno Bergallo, who won the Best Sound Award, wrote and animated his film, Penny and Taco—the story of a clueless creature that lacks emotions, goes looking for food and finds Taco, a living diamond who is scared of everything.
BMCC has offered him a starting point for the career he’s always dreamed of pursuing, he says, adding his professors have provided him with skills to be a successful artist. “In five years, I see myself with a bachelor’s degree in advertising and pursuing my dream to be an art director,” he said.
Video Arts Technology major Shana Nelson took home the festival’s Rising Star Award for her film, The Thing Called the News—a satirical look at the television news business.
Nelson says she wrote the script as the protests and violence erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017.
Nelson hopes to have a career in film.
“In five years I see myself being a successful director and living in Los Angeles, about to be nominated for an Oscar, Emmy or a Grammy,” she said.
Festival Award Winners
Best Narrative Film: The Coming Storm, Misael Chum (Video Arts and Technology major)
Best Director: An American Experience, Greg Wright(Animation and Motion Graphics)
Best Performance: The Beast from Dark Below, Hector Bosquez (Video Arts and Technology) and Sharif Byer (Liberal Arts)
Best Cinematography: Vision, Nurlan Baidaliev (Video Arts and Technology)
Best Editing: Allucinatus, Cliff Brathwaite (Video Arts and Technology)
Best Screenplay: Blind, Nanako Senda (Video Arts and Technology)
Best Documentary: The Making of Dickhead, Nelli Toth (Video Arts and Technology)
Best Sound: Penny and Taco, Bruno Bergallo (Animation and Motion Graphics )
Best Animation: The Last Flower, Trevor Vecilla (Animation and Motion Graphics)
Best Experimental, Music Video: Be Yourself, Concetta D’Angelo (Video Arts and Technology)
The Michael Vincent Rosen-Pipitone Rising Star Award: Shana Nelson (Video Arts and Technology)