Bringing the Red Carpet to Boston: Showcase celebrating student auteurs will screen at Emerson after LA premiere

by Beacon Staff • September 29, 2011

strongBlake Campbell, Beacon Correspondent/strong

For the past 11 years, Emerson student filmmakers have been given the Hollywood treatment at Emerson’s annual Los Angeles Showcase — an event that features the best of the school’s cinematic talent.

“It was kind of like being on the red carpet,” said 2010 Emerson graduate Sean Hanley in a phone interview. Hanley’s experimental documentary emHindsight /emwas selected for the 2011 LA Showcase. “I met a lot of people there. I got to talk to some industry professionals that gave me advice.”

Tonight, the Emerson College Alumni Association presents a screening of the films from the 2011 LA Showcase from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Paramount Center’s Bright Family Screening Room. Following the screenings, there will be a Qamp;A session for students interested in submitting their work for consideration in the 2012 LA Showcase.

Started in 2000, the annual event selects outstanding Emerson student films for screening. This year’s batch of films premiered at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood last spring and gave student filmmakers a unique and exciting opportunity to gain exposure and make valuable connections in the industry.

According to Jim Lane, executive director of Emerson’s Los Angeles Center, films must display technical advancement and a mature sensibility to be selected for the LA Showcase.

“There’s a tremendous amount of passion for the work,” Lane said in a phone interview. “[The filmmakers] set the bar very high for themselves and the films.” This work ethic is evident in everything from the meticulous makeup in Alexander Yan’s emOf the Fog/em to the stunning wide shots of Kevin Mastman’s emThe Cadet Experience/em.

This year’s showcase features eight short films by Emerson filmmakers, an eclectic mix that ranges from the shocking horror in emOf the Fog/em to more subtle works, like Alex Peacher’s melancholy short Iemn Loving Memory/em and Hanley’s emHindsight/em. The varied bill highlights the diversity of Emerson’s creative capabilities.

“I think that’s kind of the idea, to push people to play with ideas,” said 2011 Emerson graduate Rene Dongo in an interview with the Beacon. Dongo’s music video for hip-hop artist Catch-Wreck’s song “Fight Back” offers an aggressive critique of police brutality, using imagery of pigs and frying bacon to symbolize the downfall of corrupt law enforcement.

Experimental imagery and metaphor also feature in Matthew Hashiguchi’s documentary emThe Greatest Bar/em. Shot in black and white, the film follows a DJ in a Boston nightclub and his ironic relationship with the club-goers: Although he stays in his booth, isolated from the crowd, the DJ is responsible for keeping the energy high and the people satisfied. The film finds a unique voice through its meditation on the power of human choice.

The event also presents awards to social champions and vanguards. This year, 2011 graduate Andrew Vella won the Take Action Hollywood! Award, which goes to the student who most powerfully explores a current social issue, for emHull Wind/em. The film pushes for wind power by examining Hull, Massachusetts, a small coastal town that depends on windmills as a source of electricity.

Jessica Schoen, a 2011 Emerson graduate, took home the Dr. Marsha Robbins-Wils Women in Film Production Award this year for emProm Date/em, her bachelor of arts capstone film at Emerson.  emProm Date/em is a musical featuring a touching, simple story of misplaced love and teenage emotions.

The accolades and distinctions that this celebration offers provides extra incentive for students to submit their work. While dreams of red carpets and shelves full of awards aren’t usually the motivation for making their work, the filmmakers benefit from the exposure and recognition.

“Because the LA Showcase exists, it provides another level of aspiration for the students. It gives them even more to work towards,” said Marie Colabelli, a professor of production management at Emerson’s Los Angeles Center who has worked with students selected for the showcase. “They’re fulfilling a goal as a filmmaker.”

strongThe LA Showcase screens tonight at 7 p.m. in the Bright Family Screening Room in the Paramount Center. The event is free for Emerson students./strong

emCampbell can be reached at blake_campbell@emerson.edu./em