By Natalie Cioffari
From Sept. 22 to the 25, the Film and Television Master of Arts program, otherwise known as FTMA, held their third annual film festival. This year’s theme was “Expanding The Scope.” The FTMA program is one of the few film schools in Conn.
“When we started building this festival, our goal was to celebrate two things. On the micro level, it was to celebrate and honor the hard work and talent of our student filmmakers. On the macro level, it was to honor film and television as a medium,” said Co-program Director of FTMA and Executive Director of the film festival, professor Justin Liberman.
The event-filled weekend consisted of student film screenings and special programs that featured people like Molly Qerim, Jalen Rose and Nick DiPaolo. Special guests and honorees Rebecca Miller and Dominic Chianese took part in exclusive Q&A’s with Liberman.
Thursday evening kicked off the film festival at the Avon Theatre Film Center in Stamford, Conn. with a VIP screening of Rebecca Miller’s “Maggie’s Plan,” starring Ethan Hawke and Greta Gerwig. This film followed with the Opening Night Awards Gala, where Rebecca Miller was presented with the 2016 FTMA Film Festival Joanne Woodward Award for Excellence.
“We designed [this award]to honor a bold and daring artist that represents the core principles of the FTMA program,” said Liberman. “Rebecca Miller is not only one of the most important voices in contemporary cinema, but she is also one of the kindest and emotionally active filmmakers ever.”
The Opening Night Awards Gala also included presenting jury prizes to student filmmakers. The award winners for Best Picture were Le’Qentez Brown, Chay-Anna Crumble and Matt Prota with “The Tragedy of Chance.” For Best Producer, Gina Delisa with “A Long, Long Time” and “Macon City Breakdown.” For Best Director, Alicia Knittel with “Scopathesia” and Isabelle Eyre with “Live Free or Meet Cute” for Best Screenwriter.
“[This event] created a real sense of excitement for both our student filmmakers and the general public that came out for the festival,” said Liberman.
The FTMA Film Festival continued with student screenplay readings on Friday, Sept. 23 in the Martire’s Main Theatre. Three FTMA graduates, Matt Prota, Elisha Root and Mike Smith, had selected pieces of their work read on stage for the first time with actors and actresses. All three graduates could agree that hearing their screenplays on stage for the first time was a very beneficial moment.
“It’s been a lot of hard work, pain and labor,” said Root. “It was really good hearing it out loud, other than my own personal voice in my mind.”
The night ended with screenings of “Louie” and “Inside Amy Schumer: 12 Angry Men” to prepare for the arrival of comedian Nick DiPaolo. This event was held in the Martire Forum, where comedians Mike Geary and Oscar Murphy took the stage and prepared the audience for the arrival of DiPaolo.
DiPaolo brought numerous jokes to the floor revolving around subjects such as Breaking Bad, insomnia, the Kardashians and made light of controversial topics.
“He comes into a hostile territory, the college campus, and he still makes people laugh. That is what being a comedian is all about,” said FTMA graduate Sean Whelan.
Saturday was jammed packed with events and speakers from morning to evening. The day started with a Roberto Rossellini retrospective with a screening of “Journey to Italy,” starring Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders. This event was hosted and moderated by professor of Communication and Media Arts, Dr. Sidney Gottlieb.
“It’s a film, like so many others, that is basically trying to tell us more about what it is to be a human being and to address some of the problems we all face as individuals,” he said. “It educates us as well as entertains us.”
Whether or not everyone enjoyed the movie, students reacted well to Dr. Gottlieb’s comments.
“Gottlieb’s enthusiasm for the movie was very refreshing,” said junior Shawn Lee.
Following Gottlieb’s event was the annual SCMA barbeque on the Martire patio where students were able to interact with one another.
Events at the barbeque included games of ping-pong and corn hole, which were played with the faculty and staff of the School of Communications and Media Arts.
After students, faculty and staff enjoyed food and company, they went back inside the Martire building for the event On Air with ESPN’S Molly Qerim.
This was co-sponsored by the School of Sports Communications and Media and moderated by 2005 graduate of Sacred Heart, Terrence Williams.
Qerim, a sports anchor and moderator for ESPN’s “First Take,” spoke to the audience about the importance of internships and work ethic.
She also gave advice to students, especially involving the real-world work force.
“People will value you and want to work with you if you can take constructive criticism,” said Qerim to the audience. “Put your head down and run with the ball.”
Qerim also hosted a mock “First Take” with two random audience members. She was also more than willing to answer any questions from students and guests.
Saturday ended with a showing of the FTMA student’s thesis films in the Martire Forum.
All of the films that won awards were shown, as well as “The Wrath of Jeff,” written and directed by Connor Ring, and produced by Rudy Udhe. Other films shown included, “Second Chances,” written by Mike Smith, directed by Ryan Cotrupi, and produced by Rudy Udhe and “Outside the Pit,” directed by Dan Quinn and produced by Isabelle Eyre.
The closing ceremony was held Sunday afternoon in the Martire’s main theatre, where Dominic Chianese was presented with the 2016 FTMA Film Festival Maverick Award.
Before his Q&A, clips were shown of his previous roles, such as “The Sopranos” and “The Godfather II.”
“You made me cry in front of everyone,” said Chianese to Liberman and the audience.
Chianese talked about his early life as an entertainer, as well as how he finally got his roles in his most popular movies.
He greeted guests, faculty and students after his event, and was open to questions, as well as pictures.
Overall, the FTMA students and faculty were extremely proud of how the events turned out and they hope to continue this tradition in the years to come.
“The cinema is a constant in so many of our lives, whether we turn to it for escapism or to learn valuable life lesson, cinematic storytelling is truly universal and for Sacred Heart to host this four-day celebration of the form is a real thrill,” said Liberman.